By Dylan Butler
James Coleman just rushed for three touchdowns, helping lead Christ the King to a 33-28 victory against Cardinal Hayes. But that doesn’t change his postgame responsibilities as the running back left Maritime College in the Bronx Friday night.
“That’s a sophomore’s job, to take the water,” he said. “That’s how it is. It doesn’t change.”
Coleman was a star last year and “without a doubt he was the most dominant force on the freshman level,” Christ the King Coach Chris Higgins said.
The Royals are trying to bring Coleman along slowly — he scored a touchdown two weeks ago, two more last week — but Friday night was the 6-foot-2, 194-pound back’s best game on the varsity level. He had nine carries for 95 yards, including a 64-yard explosion up the middle that put Christ the King (5-1, 5-0 CHSFL AA-A) in front 33-22 with 10:25 left in the fourth quarter.
“He’s a weapon, but I have a lot of weapons,” Higgins said. “He’s young and I don’t want to put anything on his back. Right now everything is on Terrel [Hunt’s] back. Is he a dynamic player and at some points he can break away? Yeah. But I don’t try to put too much on him.”
Coleman helped take some of the pressure off Hunt’s shoulders Friday night as Cardinal Hayes constantly pressured the Syracuse-bound quarterback.
“He started doing it, Darrius Pritchett [11 carries for 71 yards] started doing it,” Hunt said. “That helped a lot. Three touchdowns is big time.”
Hunt still got his, rushing for 146 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries and throwing for 89 yards on 7-of-11 completions, but the Cardinals made it difficult.
“I think we did as good as we could,” Hayes Coach C.J. O’Neil said. “I think if we had another week to practice against him, we’d do a little better, I hope, but he’s a tremendous athlete. There’s nothing you can do about it. When he gets into space, he’s going to make plays.”
Christ the King took advantage of Hayes’ mistakes and took control of the game in the third quarter. A 45-yard run by Pritchett set up Coleman’s 1-yard TD to break a 14-all tie with 9:18 left in the third quarter. Using a short field because of a bad snap on Jonell Garcia’s attempted punt, the elusive Hunt scrambled for a 30-yard touchdown run and the Royals extended their lead to 27-14 with 6:11 left in the third quarter.
Despite trailing 33-22 early in the fourth quarter, Cardinal Hayes (2-4, 2-3) wouldn’t fold. Donald Thomas (11 carries for 97 yards) scored on a 36-yard run with 3:21 left in the fourth quarter to cut the Cardinals deficit to 33-28.
With 1:03 left and no time-outs, Cardinal Hayes had one last chance to steal a win, beginning its final drive at its own 46-yard line. The Cardinals got as close as the Christ the King 30-yard line on a pass from Ryan Camilo (7-of-23 for 108 yards) to Corey Lucas. But Hayes wasn’t able to get off another play as the Royals breathed a collective sigh of relief.
“That was nerve-wracking,” Hunt said. “I had three picks in my hands and dropped them. I was upset, but we just kept on going.”
And so does Coleman, right onto the Christ the King bus with a pair of empty water jugs. In case he forgets his place in the Royals universe, there’s plenty who remind him.
“He’s still a sophomore,” Hunt said. “He’s going to have a lot on his shoulders when he’s a senior. We just treat him as a sophomore. He’s not above any other sophomore on the team.”