Our Lady of Mercy is turning into a team nobody wants to play. The Bobcats (6-4, 4-2) capped off the regular season with a commanding 42-28 road win over the Holy Innocents Golden Bears (3-7, 1-5) to clinch a spot in the ratings-based playoffs.
“Looking at how the power ratings finished, we probably needed that win to get in,” said Mercy coach Jamie Aull, noting that Strong Rock Christian’s upset win over Mt. Vernon Presbyterian shook up the standings. “I think if we dropped that game, we might have missed out.”
Holy Innocents opened the scoring, but it would be the Mercy ground game that ruled the day with 401 yards rushing. Taj Dodson knotted the game at 7-7 with a 13-yard run, and Caleb Pressley scorched them with a 90-yard touchdown to take the lead. The Bears responded with their own big burst for a 55-yard score, but Pressley put the Bobcats back in front 21-14 at the half with a 2-yard run.
Holy Innocents tied the score again to start the third. Mercy took the lead back on their biggest passing play, Javon Henderson hooking up with Cameron Browning for a 32-yard touchdown pass for a 28-21 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Pressley extended the lead with a 20-yard touchdown. After Holy Innocents climbed back within a score, Pressley put them away with another 20-yard touchdown, his fourth touchdown of the game. With his late-season surge, he became the school’s single-season rushing record holder.
“He’s performed well for us all year,” said Aull. “He set the school record, and he just keeps adding to it. He’s been really good for us all year.”
Pressley racked up a remarkable school-record 268 yards and 4 touchdowns on 29 carries. Dodson added 54 yards and a score on 6 attempts. Henderson added 97 yards passing and 43 rushing. Browning caught 2 passes for 85 yards and a touchdown and added a 33-yard run.
Justin Smith paced the defense with 12 tackles, followed by Dodson with 10. Colin Schmitz posted 7 tackles. Jalen Moore tallied 8 tackles and a sack. Jerrell Smith added another sack.
A brutal regular season wasn’t enough to keep the Bobcats from going to dancing. The win over Holy Innocents sealed up a spot in the playoffs for the first time since 2013. They will face a familiar foe in the Mt. Vernon Presbyterian Mustangs (6-4, 2-4) on the road at 2 p.m. Friday afternoon. In mid-October, the squads squared off with the Bobcats scoring a 35-31 shootout victory.
The Mustangs’ spread offense is balanced between run and pass with dual-threat quarterback Reginald Burnette leading the way.
“He can throw it pretty well,” said Aull. “We had a tough time getting him on the ground last time.”
The spread attack will put pressure on the Bobcat defense.
“They force you to make tackles in space and get people on the ground.”
The bottom line is the Bobcats will call on their toughness to win and advance.
“We’re going to have to win the game up front on both sides of the ball,” he said. “If we can establish our physicality on offense, we’ll be okay.”
The winner of the game will travel to face Mt. Paran Christian in round two.