FLUSH — Rock Creek had a new stadium on Friday night. And after its game with St. Marys, the Mustangs had a new outlook on the season.
Yes, the Mustangs lost 30-18 to St. Marys to start the season off at 0-3, but things are finally starting to come together, starting to click like never before.
And although the schedule will get even tougher the next few weeks, there was plenty to look forward to.
“I was proud of the guys, I thought we improved,” Rock Creek coach Mike Beam said. “I never thought I’d feel better about being 0-3, but this was a big improvement over last week, and the first week. Some things clicked, we still had too many mistakes, but we knew there would be growing pains.
“If the guys keep buying in and working hard, it’ll happen. It’s not going to happen over night.”
The game itself had swings of momentum left and right, and featured a Mustangs team that just wouldn’t quit.
The Bears had their first drive of the game end on a Philip Johnson fumble at the Rock Creek 5-yard line. After a three-and-out from the Mustangs, Johnson finished off the Bears’ second drive with a 5-yard touchdown run.
The Mustangs found the immediate answer with a 91-yard kick return touchdown from Nate Berard, and Rock Creek trailed 8-6 after the first quarter.
St. Marys would rule the second quarter though, putting up 14 unanswered points with touchdowns from Johnson of 22 and 20 yards. The Mustangs, meanwhile, didn’t get a first down until their final possession of the first half.
And they ended one possession with an 8-yard loss on a fake punt, resulting in a one-play, 20-yard touchdown drive by St. Marys.
By the end of the third quarter, St. Marys looked to put the game to rest with a 4-yard touchdown run from Tyler Walsh to go ahead 30-6. But Rock Creek would show its fight in the fourth quarter.
Quarterback Alex Feldkamp, yet to run for positive yardage all game long, took off on a 31-yard scamper early in the fourth period. A few plays later, he weaved through traffic for a 16-yard touchdown run with 8:24 to play, cutting the Mustangs’ deficit down to 30-12.
With 2:39 to play, Feldkamp aired it out with a 53-yard touchdown pass to Carson Becker, who snagged the ball between a pair of St. Marys defenders and scurried into the end zone to cut the lead down to 30-18.
Rock Creek had a chance to stop the Bears on third and 6 with less than a minute to play, but Johnson gained 6 yards on a sweep and the Bears kneeled down to end the game.
Beam said Johnson, who rushed 36 times for 265 yards and three touchdowns, was a bear to deal with on the outside runs.
“He’s awful tough, especially when you have two sophomores over there,” he said. “But they grew up, and that’s what happens when they play in a game like this.”
After being held to 14 yards of total offense in the first half, Rock Creek managed to finish with 156 yards of offense after a much more productive second half. And the Mustangs defense slowed a St. Marys offense that looked unstoppable in the first half.
“St. Marys is a good football team, one of the best they’ve had in awhile,” Beam said. “I thought our defense really played well, especially in the second half.”
The Mustangs also got to show off their shiny new stadium upgrades on Friday, which included brand new bleachers on both the home and visiting sides, and a wider press box with more space.
Despite the loss, Beam said it was worth celebrating the re-opening of the stadium.
“It’s pretty nice, it was a long-time coming,” he said. “We don’t have to be embarrassed any longer with hosting big events here. I’m pleased with the way it turned out.”