The season's opening game between O'Bryant and Cathedral was like a family affair. Players from the schools, which are 2 miles apart, "all hang out together," said O'Bryant coach Kevin Gadson. "They all have the same friends."
After O'Bryant defeated the Panthers, 30-0, yesterday at Madison Park, the teams came together again, this time for a moment of prayer for a fallen friend. Last June, former O'Bryant standout Jonathan Joseph collapsed and died on a basketball court of congenital heart failure at age 17.
Players from both sides shared embraces and tears after meeting at midfield.
O'Bryant quarterback Josh Carrington, who called "J.J." his best friend, cherished the gesture shown by Panthers coach Mike Pittman and his team.
"I'm happy that we did it," Carrington said after the prayer. "It showed a lot of class from Cathedral."
The moment capped a busy morning for the senior, who completed 4 of 8 passes for 62 yards and two touchdowns.
His first touchdown pass put the Tigers ahead. On the team's second drive, following an interception by Julius White, Carrington connected with Jonathan Cardoso for a 12-yard strike.
O'Bryant and Cathedral feature spread offenses, but only the Tigers were able to move the ball. Carrington noted that first-year coach Gadson runs a similar offense to the one used by former coach Jeff Venter. Gadson, a former West Roxbury assistant, joined the Tigers in 2003 and served as an assistant to Venter during Venter's four years as coach.
"He put his own little twist to [the offense]," the quarterback said of Gadson, who likes to get the ball in the hands of even more players.
One of those players, David Maloney, got a second chance after he failed to hang onto what would have been a 25-yard touchdown pass. Carrington went to him again on the next play, this time completing the pass for the score. Cardoso rushed for the 2-point conversion and a 14-0 lead.
O'Bryant's defense got even stronger in the second half. White intercepted Cathedral quarterback Kevin Marsielle for the second time, returning this one 30 yards for a touchdown.
The next play from scrimmage also went wrong for the Panthers. A fumble at the line led to Maloney's second touchdown, a 33-yard return.
Senior linebacker Isaiah Hector capped the scoring in the fourth quarter with a 12-yard sack for a safety.
The veteran Tigers dominated the inexperienced Cathedral squad, which registered minus-27 yards from scrimmage.
"I think [their youth] kind of showed today," said Gadson, whose team dressed 13 seniors against the Panthers. "Hopefully, [senior leadership] will carry us the rest of the year."
One thing that will carry O'Bryant throughout the season is the memory of Joseph. "We will play the whole year in his honor," Gadson said.
Asked if the win was the ideal result for his first game in charge, Gadson answered, "With J.J. in our spirit, any win would have been ideal."