After the Bulldogs soccer team won Friday and the cross-country team continued its strong early season results with a 2nd place finish at the Judges Classic early Saturday morning, it was the football team’s turn to take center stage on Homecoming Weekend. And they turned in a masterpiece, shutting down Paul VI’s high-powered offense on the way to a 20-7 win in front of a capacity crowd on Steuart Field. In a familiar script this season, the Bulldog defense harassed PVI’s quarterbacks all day and contained their “Mr. Everything” Dug McDaniel wherever he lined up – at quarterback, running back or receiver. The Panther defense was just as strong through the first 24 minutes and the teams went into halftime scoreless.
On the opening possession of the second half, St. Albans drove the ball to the PVI 8-yard-line before the drive stalled and a 25-yard field goal attempt sailed just wide. On the ensuing possession, the Bulldog defense forced a punt that Luke Harmon returned to the Panther 45. With Quarterback Chase Williams and running back Alex Tilton grinding out tough inside runs the Bulldogs advanced to the visitors’ 14. On second down from the right hashmark Williams faked a handoff to the right, rolled back to his left and found Tilton in the flat, who ran through a tackle at the 5 and beat two Panthers to the left pylon to give the Bulldogs a 6-0 lead with 6:15 to play in the third quarter.
PVI threatened on its next possession, driving to inside the STA 30 but Miles Harmon made a leaping interception at the goal line to end the drive and preserve the 6-0 lead. St. Albans drove the ball again on its next possession and faced 3rd and 8 from the Panther 14 to start the 4th quarter. Williams converted on a pass to Miles Harmon on the left sideline then Harmon finished the drive with a 2-yard run behind blocks from Corbet Darden, Bob Gross and a pulling Marek Jin. Williams’ two-point attempt was knocked down in the end zone to keep the score 12-0. PVI turned to McDaniel on its next drive, lining him up at quarterback in the shotgun and letting him create with his arm and his legs. He quickly moved the Panthers into scoring position and found the end zone on a 5-yard run to narrow the STA lead to 12-7 with 8:21 left. PVI forced a punt on the next possession as momentum began to swing their way. But urged on by a boisterous and loud student section, the Bulldogs defense stood tall. On what would be a defining play of the game, the Panthers turned to McDaniel on 4th and 4 from their own 45-yard line. The speedy senior took the shotgun snap and ran left to the outside with two blockers in front of him, but the STA defense held the edge and turned him back toward the 11-man pursuit that has become their identity.
Williams took over from there with grinding runs that kept the clock and the chains moving as STA tried to close out the game without giving the Panther offense a shot at last-minute heroics. After PVI had used all three of their timeouts the Bulldogs faced a 4th down from the Panther 14-yard line with 55 seconds on the clock. Conventional strategy would dictate another Williams run to drain as much time as possible off the clock before turning the ball over to the Panthers and the ever-dangerous McDaniel,. As the STA defense readied itself for one last stand Coach Martin and his staff had other ideas. Having been held to less than 40 yards through the air to that point by PVI’s defense, the coaches scrapped their playbook and drew up a new play in the timeout huddle. Out of a heavy formation to the right, Williams took the snap and faked a give to the right as Miles Harmon snuck out the backside to the left corner of the end zone. Williams threw a perfect pass and Harmon secured it with two hands as the home sideline and bleachers erupted. Williams found Luke Harmon in the back right corner to complete the two-point conversion and extend the final score to 20-7.
St. Albans finished its non-league schedule at 4-1. The Bulldogs have a bye next week before opening IAC play on Saturday, October 16 when they host Bullis at 1:30pm on Steuart Field. Defense has become the calling card of this year’s team as they have given up 45 points in their four wins and just 3 and 7 in their past two games. PVI came into the game undefeated and had put up 150 points including over 40 in each of their previous three outings. St. Albans is 8-2 in non-league games over the past two seasons (2019 and 2021) and is 4-1 against WCAC opponents. Saturday’s win avenged that lone loss to PVI in 2019.
Longtime St. Albans football, basketball and track coach Malcolm Pittman was remembered at halftime. Coach Pittman passed away April 3, 2020 of complications from Covid-19. His son Martin ’11, ex-wife Michelle Long and mother Eva Pittman-Kilpatrick were presented with a copy of the 2021 Albanian dedicated to Malcom and Martin’s senior football photo in which he is pictured with his parents. Coach Pittman was a fixture at STA for 20 years.