CUMBERLAND — Terrell McGraw threw for four touchdowns, ran for a fifth and piled up 284 yards of offense as the Bishop Walsh Spartans put a difficult week behind them by beating John Paul the Great (Va.) 55-24 Saturday afternoon at Brother Stephen F. Paul Spartan Stadium.
McGraw, the area’s leader in all-purpose yardage with a 198.6 yards per game, passed for 220 yards and ran for another 64. Those numbers could have been even higher if not for three sacks that erased 27 yards from his rushing total.
The Spartans had a possible major distraction looming over them all week after Bishop Walsh dismissed Head Coach Geno Taylor last Saturday following a win over the Virginia Lions.
Two BW seniors let everyone in attendance know how much it affected them on the Spartans’ very first play. With the ball at the 35-yard line after the opening kickoff, McGraw play faked, rolled to his left and lofted a pass to Liam Rhodes, who was 20 yards behind the secondary, for a 65-yard touchdown right out of the gates.
“We were a little worried at the beginning of the week over what we might get at practice,” said co-interim head coach Mike Allen. “That went away when we came out for practice and saw that the kids were getting ready as if nothing had changed.”
With the Spartans only having one loss, Allen was determined to have as little change as possible going forward with the team.
“The system is already in place,” he said. “The coaches know what to do. The players know what to do. One of the first things I said when this all occurred is that I wasn’t touching anything, and that won’t change for next week either.
“Hopefully, the outcome stays the same,” Allen added, laughing.
Rhodes and McGraw provided the second touchdown as well, this time on third-and-40 at midfield. Rhodes jumped right in front of a waiting defender and kept on going past the defense to make it 14-0 with 6:38 left.
Rhodes also caught a 25-yard touchdown in the third quarter to finish with three catches, three touchdowns and 140 receiving yards.
Spartan senior Billy Conroy scored with 45 seconds left in the first quarter to give Bishop Walsh a 22-0 lead. Conroy ran for two more touchdowns, an 8-yard run in the second and a 7-yard run in the third, and had a team-high 77 yards on the ground.
After the Wolves put together a six-play drive that ended in a Zak Perrods one-yard touchdown, the Spartans needed only 1:35 to add another touchdown. McGraw picked up a first down with a 14-yard run then threw a 25-yard pass to Quincy Redmon to extend the lead to 28-8.
Redmon caught three passes for 81 yards and provided even more senior leadership for Bishop Walsh.
“What happened this week was hard on everyone,” said Allen. “It was hardest on the players, though, but they refused to let themselves be distracted. You can give a lot of credit to the seniors for keeping everything together.”
John Paul scored its second touchdown with just under five minutes to play before halftime, and Conroy scored on his 8-yard run with 2:06 left as the Spartans led 36-16 at halftime.
In the third quarter, Conroy scored from seven yards out and Rhodes caught his third TD from McGraw.
McGraw added his running touchdown early in the fourth quarter after switching from quarterback to running back to accommodate more substitutions.
McGraw took the ball on a sweep to the visitor’s sideline before reversing his field to come back toward his bench and cutting up past a group of Wolves’ defenders to cover 52 yards.
McGraw accounted for 63 percent of the Spartans’ 453 yards and outgained the entire pack of Wolves 284-277.
John Paul added a score with 32 seconds remaining to bring the final score to 55-24.
The Spartans (8-1) can tie the school record for most wins in a season when it visits Randolph-Macon (Va.) on Saturday at 1 p.m. John Paul the Great (2-7) finishes the season at home on Saturday against Bishop Ireton.
Chris Appel is a sportswriter for the Times-News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org