By Laura Amato
Christ the King senior running back Siddiq Muhammad saw the ball fall out of his hands and had to bite back a groan.
He has battled fumble issues all season and turning the ball over on the Royals’ first play of the night was not exactly how he had hoped to start the final game of the regular season Saturday night.
So, as Muhammad jogged back to the sidelines after the turnover, he promised himself something. He wouldn’t turn the ball over again—and he didn’t.
Instead, he settled into a rhythm in the backfield and the end zone, leading Christ the King’s football team to a 41-7 victory over Fordham Prep.
“I was holding it high and tight, but it was one of those plays where it was a good hit to the ball and it just came out,” Muhammad said. “So I came back to the sideline, kept calm and we did our thing and got back in the game.”
Muhammad racked up a whopping 128 rushing yards in the first half, sparking a Royals (7-1) offense that hit its stride in the waning minutes of the second half.
Fordham Prep seemed to seize a bit of momentum midway through the second quarter when Matt Conlon recovered a Demetrius Wilson fumble and returned it 35 yards for a Rams touchdown, but Christ the King responded on its ensuing drive with a 12-yard touchdown run by Aron Sanabria.
“I noticed this week, compared to last week, there was more of an urgency,” said Christ the King coach Jason Brown. “My main issue with these guys is they’re trying to do a lot of short plays. We’ve got a lot of talent and we’ve got to bring it early and stay consistent with it.”
And then Muhammad went to work.
The Marshall commit ripped off a 60-yard touchdown sprint, breaking through the Fordham Prep defensive line with ease, and notching his first touchdown of the night with 1:21 left in the first half. He followed up just moments later with a three-yard touchdown run on the final play of the second quarter, giving the Royals a 20-point cushion and erasing memories of that early-game fumble.
“I saw green,” Muhammad said. “And my coach told me when you see green, just take it. So that’s what I did.
From there on out, the Royals simply settled into their lead and their defense. Christ the King picked off Fordham Prep quarterback Matt Valecce on back-to-back passes in the opening minutes of the third and forced an incomplete pass in the end zone late in the quarter.
“We were able to get a lot of pressure on him,” Brown said. “We have very good athletes back there and he had to make some quick decisions and it got him in trouble.”
The Royals padded their lead with a pair of second-half touchdowns—including an 80-yard fumble recovery and return by Nicholas Hunter—but Christ the King isn’t satisfied with this win. The squad will face Xavier in the first round of the CHSFL playoffs—a rematch of last year’s title game—and the Royals aren’t willing to settle for anything less than a championship.
“Everybody was like you’re getting lucky and stuff and then we worked hard and now we’re on,” Muhammad said. “And we’re going to continue to win every time we work hard.”