By Jeremy Jacob, Sports Editor
Missouri Military Academy believes it’s starting to click.
The Colonels lost 30-26 at home on Thursday night to Agape Boarding School following a week they had to cancel a home game against Knob Noster because of injuries, but they scored four touchdowns in a competitive game against the Rhinos.
Quarterback Gabriel Canonico had a mixed bag sort of game, running for three of the touchdowns that totaled around 187 yards but throwing three interceptions to account for most of the team’s four turnovers. MMA owned a 20-8 lead deep into the fourth quarter prior to a wild fourth quarter that saw three lead changes.
Head coach Robert Rosenbaum said many of the Colonels had to recover from injuries in the two weeks since their 36-0 Week 2 home loss to Paris and were still not at 100 percent Thursday. He said Agape did a nice job with his running game as the Rhinos didn’t have to throw the ball all that much, even employing a wildcat-style offense with running back Caleb Newell taking snaps. This presented problems when players had to come out hence rearrange the depth chart.
“We’re playing ironman football,” Rosenbaum said. “Last week, we had to forfeit a game because we only had 12 kids. This week, we had 15 and two of them are still on the mend. We had to put some kids in some spots that had never played there. One kid that we put in at defensive end, he had never played there. As soon as they recognized that, they took advantage of it and it took him a minute to get adjusted to it.”
Rosenbaum said lineman Seydina Diop was “all heart” as he was hurt during the game but refused to be taken off the field. Diop is usually a defensive end but was forced to move to the inside line, ranking up nine tackles regardless.
After a scoreless first quarter, Canonico bounced back from his first interception in the second quarter by completing a 28-yard pass play to Daniel Johnson. Johnson resembled a wrecking ball, carrying several Rhinos as he fought for more yards. He did just that when he gave MMA an 8-0 lead.
Isaiah Huntington returned an 80-yard kickoff for a touchdown to even the halftime score at 8. Johnson’s work in the trenches helped draw attention from Canonico’s running ability, Rosenbaum said. The senior captain stretched his legs for a 75-yard touchdown down the left sideline for a 14-8 lead and then made a 77-yard trek down the same sideline for a 20-8 MMA lead with 1:51 left in the third quarter .
“He’s definitely the leader on the team as far as drive and motivation and the boys really play hard for him,” Rosenbaum said. “Johnson was having good carries, but the thing that I noticed was anytime we put Johnson in motion or something, it seemed like it pulled one or two of them out of the box. That put us at an advantage inside, and we took advantage of it.”
Agape held the ball for 13 plays in a drive that began the fourth quarter, capping it with a two-yard run by quarterback Craig Abrahamson for a 20-16 game.
It was from this point that the Rhinos took their first lead as Canonico threw his second interception down the middle of the field. Jimmy Theriault returned it to give Agape yet another short field that it used for a 22-yard touchdown pass to Huntington for a 22-20 game.
“That pass play that I called got intercepted, when we were up still, that was on me,” Rosenbaum said. “I didn’t really want to call that, but it was wide open. We just got too much pressure in a breakdown on the line. That right there, I should’ve just pounded the ball and kept running.”
The Rhinos appeared ready to score again after recovering an onside kick, but Luke Wolf forced a fumble that gave the Colonels another chance to grab the momentum. Rosenbaum said the positional shifting meant the team had a new center that started the previous day, which led to several snaps that skimmed the turf. This did not deter Canonico from running it in from 35 yards out for a 26-22 MMA lead with 2:39 left in the game.
Newell had the last big run of the game, though, as he weaved around the MMA defense for a 60-yard touchdown that ended up being the game-winner after Canonico threw one last interception.
Rosenbaum said it is easy to look at all the interceptions and use them to explain the loss, but there is more to the story. The Colonels had several chances to score early in the game but dropped several passes, including one in the second half that turned into a lost fumble. There was also a time that Trae Griffiths, who also had an interception, caught a 45-yard pass that brought the Colonels in the red zone only for the first half clock to run out before they could score.
“To his defense, we had three guys wide open early in the game that should have been touchdowns,” Rosenbaum said. “Those guys got to catch them balls. Win or lose, it’s a team effort.”
After not having a summer camp with an inexperienced roster, Rosenbaum likes what he’s seeing from his team nowadays.
“We had a little bit of lull in our pursuit and effort but no quit,” Rosenbaum said. “I told the kids two nights ago, when we had practice, I said, ‘Hey, this is one of the first practices that we had that was one of the better practices that we’ve had since I’ve been here.’ It really feels like we’re starting to click, and in reality, we’re probably ready for our first game now.”
MMA holds off district foe Fatima 2-1, wins third straight
The Colonels are stringing together the victories.
Five days after defeating Elsberry 3-1 at home, Missouri Military Academy defeats district opponent Fatima 2-1 on Monday at home. Kellan Mugisha and Gorka Yarte scored goals before halftime, and goalkeeper Diego Pineda held off the Comets.
Head coach Eliot Goodwin said Pineda made some “phenomenal” saves and had defensive support from Ethan Hersh and Avin Hernandez. He said the Colonels needed the defense to step up against a team like Fatima.
“They are a tough district opponent with some quick and technical players,” Goodwin said. “We knew it was always going to be a battle. (Pineda has) really stepped up for us this year and has made some big saves in key moments for us.”
Goodwin said Mugisha put MMA ahead with a finish in the bottom left corner of the net after a “good build up play” by Marco Afane. Yarte went to the bottom left corner for his goal.
MMA (5-2) plays in the Moberly Invitational on Friday and Saturday.
Powell medals for MMA at Fulton Invitational
Missouri Military Academy’s Bryson Powell didn’t finish under 18 minutes Saturday like he has this season but came home with hardware.
Powell ran to a 13th-place time of 18:15.87 in the 5,000-meter race to give MMA a medalist.
Malachi Imrie was the next best finisher in the varsity race, taking 102nd place with a time of 22:07.08.
Kamil Sanchez had the middle school’s best time in the 3,200-meter race with a 33rd-place mark of 14:18.71. Joshua Miller was not far behind in 36th place with a time of 14:29.02.