St. Mark’s pulls away from Lake Forest for 37-7 victory

MILL CREEK — For two quarters, Lake Forest High was playing a pretty foolproof kind of defense against St. Mark’s.

Lake and its ball-control attack simply kept the ball out of the hands of St. Mark’s offense.

But Lake Forest couldn’t keep it up in the second half and St. Mark’s reeled off 31 unanswered points to pull away to a 37-7 victory in nonconference football on Friday night.

Junior fullback Dominic Catalano scored St. Mark’s first four touchdowns but Lake (0-2) also lent a helping hand in the home team’s big second half.

St. Mark’s (2-0) scored 16 of its points off a fumble, a blocked punt and a snap over the punter’s head in the final two quarters. Lake, which knocked off St. Mark’s by a point last season, led 7-6 at halftime on Friday.

“We played hard and we played some good football,” said Lake coach Freddie Johnson. “We have a young team and they showed that they could play.

“We wanted to establish the run game, eat the clock and keep the ball out of their hands. And we did that in the first half.  … Then they scored two touchdowns in like a minute and this young group, their heads just dropped.”

“They were playing better football than us,” said St. Mark’s coach John Wilson. “I thought, defensively, we just weren’t tough enough. We weren’t physical enough. I think that changed a little bit (in the second half).”

St. Mark’s took a 14-7 lead on Catalano’s second touchdown run of the night, a 31-yarder with 1:32 left in the third quarter.

Then disaster struck for Lake on the next play from scrimmage when it fumbled at its own 17. Two plays later, Catalano scored his third TD of the night as the St. Mark’s advantage ballooned to 21-7 with 42 seconds remaining in the third period.

With 8:43 left in the game, Catalano (7 carries-108 yards) scored his fourth touchdown, this time using a stiff arm to get away from a tackler before finishing off a 41-yard scoring run that made it 28-7.

But St. Mark’s wasn’t done. Lineman Aran Porte picked up a blocked punt and returned it for a TD before the high punt snap gave St. Mark’s a safety with 5:03 on the clock.

Lake Forest dominated the first half in terms of time of possession. Lake ran 33 plays from scrimmage in the first half to just 10 for St. Mark’s.

But it took Lake until the end of the second quarter to finally put some points on the scoreboard.

Junior fullback Elle Harden scored on a four-yard run with just 10 seconds left before intermission. And when Cameron Lewis booted the PAT kick, Lake owned a 7-6 lead.

The touchdown capped a marathon 18-play, 80-yard march that ate up 10:05 of the second quarter. Since Lake didn’t have any timeouts remaining on Harden’s third-down run, the half might have ended if St. Mark’s had stopped him short of the goal line.

St. Mark’s took a 6-0 lead early in the second half with a 93-yard drive of its own. That drive took just five plays, however, with Catalano scoring on a 24-yard run.

The snap on the PAT attempt was fumbled with Lake eventually tackling kicker Chris Ludman to limit St. Mark’s to just a 6-0 advantage.

Lake outgained St. Mark’s 141 yards to 84 in the first half and held a 9-3 edge in first downs.

Lake missed a chance to score in the first quarter when a botched punt gave it the ball at St. Mark’s 11. But that drive stalled at the seven on a fourth-down incompletion.

Still, Johnson came away encouraged by what he saw in the first half on Friday night. Lake Forest plays at Dover on Friday night.

“They’re going to get it together,” Johnson said about his players. “This is a young bunch of sophomores and juniors that are playing varsity football for the first time and they’re going to get it together.”

“You’ve got to take your hat off to Freddie and his team,” said Wilson. “They’re just young kids but they were flying off the ball. They were making the plays on those drives that extended them.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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