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Home cooking for St. Frances, finally

Panthers play their first game in Maryland this year
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GAMBRILLS, MARYLAND – St. Frances still has not played a home game in 2022 but at least the Panthers got an opportunity to play in their home state, Friday night, as they visited Arundel High School and planted a 50-0 loss on the host Wildcats, the No. 14 team in the Baltimore area.

Shunned by the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA), the Panthers conference for all other sports, four years ago, St. Frances has had a hard time finding local schools willing to schedule the nationally ranked powerhouse. Last year, Franklin High of Baltimore County took on the challenge unsuccessfully, and this year Arundel accepted the request from SFA, when Middletown (DE) opted to pull out of a contest with the Panthers.

“It was awesome,” Arundel Coach Jack Walsh told the Baltimore Banner. “We scheduled this in April or May. It’s all about giving the kids the opportunity to play the best, top three, whatever you want to argue, team in the country. It’s something our kids don’t normally get here. We wanted to give that experience to them.

“It was cool. They’re really good. No doubt. Our kids know (St. Frances players are) getting recruited by the top Division I schools all over the country and we’re not, so yelling at our kids and for lack of a better word, challenging our kids’ manhood and those sorts of things, just isn’t necessary.”

For the undefeated Panthers (6-0), who have traveled to Hawaii and nearly everywhere in between in search of top national caliber competition, it was business as usual in between the lines.

Quarterback Michael Van Buren connected with Ryan Manning for three first half touchdown passes, Kyree Benton returned a punt 73 yards for a score and Nicholas Harris scored on an 11-yard run to stake St. Frances to a 36-0 first half lead.

St. Frances, playing mostly reserves with a running clock, tacked on 14 more points in the second half. Mekhi Butler picked up a blocked punt and returned it 30-yards for a touchdown and Jaelyn Burke scored on a 40-yard run.

This was St. Frances’ first game since they topped Kahuku, 22-15, in Hawaii on Oct. 1. Next weekend they will travel to Connecticut to face St. Thomas More. The Panthers will then host Clarkson North from Canada prior to its big finale, on Nov. 18th, against IMG Academy (FL) at the University of Maryland.