By Jason Maholy
Brother Rice head coach Brian Badke had five words for John Bean after the senior quarterback, with the Crusaders down by two to arch-rival Marist with less than five minutes to play, threw an interception near the RedHawks goal line.
“We need one more shot,” Badke told him.
Bean got that shot – thanks to a hard-hitting and determined defense – and plunged into the end zone from 1 yard out with 1:47 to go to lift Rice to a 20-16, comeback victory over Marist at home on opening night.
The RedHawks fought to the end, executing a hook-and-ladder play for a 50-yard gain on 4th-and-11 from their own 34, but the Crusaders 'D' held strong and sacked dynamic quarterback Mike Markett on Marist's final play to seal the win.
“This is something you dream about as a kid,” Bean said. “For it to actually happen, it's something else.”
Marist led 16-7 with 4:18 left in the third after a Markett touchdown pass of 13 yards to Jadon Thompson, but Rice closed the gap to two on a 2-yard run by Bean with 42 ticks left in the third.
Bean ran for a game-high 118 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries, and completed 15-of-21 passes for 170 yards, and was intercepted twice. His 288 combined passing and rushing yards accounted for all but 40 of what the Crusaders gained.
But Bean credited the Rice defense for the victory, and though he certainly did his part, he had a point. The Crusaders bent but didn't break – allowing 310 yards to what is expected to be a high-powered RedHawks offense, but made big stops in crucial situations. They also got the ball back for Bean and the offense when Jalen Rheams recovered a botched handoff at the Marist 13 yard line with 3:45 left.
The RedHawks' untimely mistake gave Bean the chance to redeem himself after tossing his second pick of the game. Marist safety Kendric Nowling made a nice play on a Bean ball and intercepted the pass inside the Marist 5 with 4:45 remaining.
“Kendric made a great pay on that,” he said. “I knew I had to deal with some adversity. I'm not just going to put my head down, I'm going to move forward.”
One minute later, Rice had the ball again. Two minutes after that, Bean scored the go-ahead touchdown to the delight of hundreds of raucous Crusaders fans at a packed stadium.
“I owe this game to the defense, they stuck through it and all props to them,” Bean said. “We needed the ball back from the defense.
“I messed up, that's what it was, but I knew my defense was going to have my back. Our slogan here is 'Pick me up,' one person messes up another person is going to pick me up, and that's what they did, indeed.
“There's no way we were not scoring.”
Badke was confident the Crusaders would score again if they got the ball back. The only question was “who's going to run with the rock,” he said.
He turned to who seemed to be the obvious choice.
“John's a winner, and these guys are competitors,” Badke said of his team. “They will will you to win. They are a great group to coach and I'm honored to be their head coach.”
The Crusaders defense sacked Markett twice and intercepted him once, and consistently disrupted his timing with pressure up front. He completed 12-of-23 passes for 162 yards, and tossed a 13-yard touchdown pass to Jadon Thompson. He added 16 carries for 92 yards, and his 22-yard touchdown run with 9:24 to go in the second made the score 7-6 in favor of Rice.
Badke, in his fifth-year at Rice, called the defense “probably the best” in his time with the Crusaders.
“I've been talking about our defense,” he said. “They're old school, they want to hit you, and you get up and they want to hit you again.
Badke singled out Rheams for the senior defensive end's effort, which included the fumble recovery, four solo tackles, half a sack and a knocked-down pass.
“He's a worker, one of top five guys in the offseason who was there every day,” Badke said. “He puts his work in and he competes, and he doesn't say a word. I was extremely proud of him.”
Badke said the Crusaders have put last year's disappointing 2-7 finish behind them. With 15 returning starters and depth on both sides of the ball, they have reason for optimism.
“We've moved forward, we've learned from that experience,” he said. “These guys don't like losing – they never did (lose), until last year.”
Marist had a chance for one final drive, and had the ball at the Rice 16-yard line after a perfect hook-and-ladder that netted 50 yards on what was potentially the RedHawks' final play. Junior wideout Jadon Thompson caught a Markett pass about eight yards beyond the line of scrimmage on the left side, and lateraled the ball to his senior counterpart Billy Skalitzky, who was cutting across the middle and took the ball up the left sideline and nearly all the way to paydirt.
Badke said the gadget play was “a great call.”
“Honestly, I was thinking the were going to do something, they're going to get the ball to Skalitzky, and they did and it was a great play.” he said. “But they didn't score and that's all I care about.
“It was a great game. This is a rivalry, this is what it's all about. These guys wanted this one, and they want more, too.”