JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Tim Krause and his players can kick back and have a low-stress weekend. No scoreboards to watch for Bishop Kenny. No mathematical calculations for the Crusaders to pore over.
BK started the game at Episcopal with a monumental eight-minute-plus scoring drive and then rode an opportunistic and aggressive defense to a 35-14 victory Friday night in the News4Jax Game of the Week.
The Crusaders (7-2) entered the final weekend of the regular season in the third at-large RPI slot in Region I of Class 5A. As four at-large teams make the playoff field in each region in 5A, the victory should solidify BK’s spot in the postseason, which is scheduled to be announced Sunday.
The opening 14-play drive, which included a pair of fourth-down conversions, set the tone. With wet and windy conditions, and more driving rain expected later in the game, getting ahead early was important to Krause.
“Especially with the weather, we thought we’d have to start off strong,” Krause said. “I’ve been involved with Bishop Kenny football for a long time and that was probably one of the best offensive drives I’ve seen to start a game.
“Not having to scoreboard watch is good. Can enjoy Saturday a little bit. Still a little stressful figuring out how we’ve got to prepare and what we have to do.”
Right after the opening drive, which was capped by the first of quarterback James Resar’s two touchdown runs, the defense took control. Episcopal’s fourth play of the game headed the other way, as linebacker Baylor Newsom read the pass, picked off the ball and raced 50 yards for the score.
“Hopefully, it put us in the playoffs,” said Newsom, who added a pair of scoring runs on offense and two tackles for loss and a forced fumble on defense. “I took a little look at the receiver, saw where he was, felt where I was, watched the quarterback’s eyes and took it to the house. I dropped a pick-six a couple of weeks ago. This time, being able to grab it and take it home, it felt great.”
That began a nightmarish first half for the Eagles (6-4). Their opening possessions went: Pick six, fumble on the first play, three-and-out, three-and-out, fumble on the first play, over on downs, interception by Christopher Crews, halftime and then over on downs again to start the second half.
Episcopal had minus-9 rushing yards and two first downs in the first half. It wasn’t until more than 31 minutes were gone in the game that the Eagles crossed into Crusaders territory.
To top it off, Episcopal failed three times on fourth downs, getting a motion penalty all three times to stretch fourth-and-short into a longer distance.
“Turnovers, and it wasn’t even the weather. Fumbles. Interceptions,” Eagles coach Marcus Wells said. “Stuff we’ve just got to fix. We had to play a clean game to be in it, and we just weren’t.”
It wasn’t until late in the game that Episcopal’s offense got in a gear a bit. With the Eagles passing more after trailing 28-0 at the half, quarterback Joseph Wiesner threw for 206 of his 242 yards in the second half.
Parker Chappell hauled in seven passes for 129 yards, while Corey Scott added seven catches for 96 yards. Ershod Jasey and Kirk Reed tacked on second-half scoring runs.
But even as the Eagles tried to draw closer, Newsom put them away. After rushing for a score in the first half, the senior tacked on a 58-yard touchdown run at the start of the fourth quarter.
That cemented a sometimes contentious game, in which the postgame handshake line was scrapped.
The outcome allows Krause and company to rest a little easier. However, there will be some anxious moments for Wells and Episcopal, which has lost three of the past four.
The Eagles entered the game fifth in the Region 1-3A RPI rankings, which is crucial as 3A only takes six teams per region for postseason play. Episcopal was .001 ahead of Crescent City — which finished regular-season play — and .015 ahead of seventh-place Pensacola Catholic.
But the Eagles did get some welcome news an hour after their game ended, as Pensacola Catholic was routed by Fort Walton Beach Choctawhatchee.
Still, Wells would rather have put away a playoff spot on the field without having to wait and see.
“It’s going to be a long weekend for us,” Wells said. “Pensacola Catholic losing would be good for us. We’ll see if we’ve done enough.”
Bishop Kenny 35, Episcopal 14
Bishop Kenny, 14, 14, 0, 7 —35
Episcopal, 0, 0, 7, 7 — 14
BK – James Resar 5 run (Ethan Eddins kick)
BK – Baylor Newsom 50 INT return (Eddins kick)
BK – Resar 8 run (Eddins kick)
BK – Newsom 2 run (Eddins kick)
E – Ershod Jasey 13 run (William Wright kick)
BK – Newsom 58 run (Eddins kick)
E – Kirk Reed 5 run (Wright kick)
Category: BK — E
First downs: 12 — 14
Rushes-yards: 27-148 — 20-42
Passing: 130 — 242
Comp-Att-Int: 12-21-1 — 17-37-2
Fumbles-lost: 0-0 — 3-2
Penalties-Yards: 12-120 — 10-61
RUSHING — BK: Newsom 4-64, Brad Miller 9-41, Andrew Tabor 7-38, Resar 5-7, Team 2-(-2). E: Reed 9-29, Jasey 7-28, Lawson Perry 1-2, Corey Scott 1-(-4), Team 1-(-4), Joseph Wiesner 1-(-9).
PASSING — BK: Resar 12-21-1-130. E: Wiesner 17-37-2-242.
RECEIVING — BK: Jayden Harris 4-63, Jackson Burnett 3-24, Tabor 4-22, Michael Leonard 1-21. E: Parker Chappell 7-129, Scott 7-96, Reed 2-12, Cole Pennington 1-5.