Kinkaid Week: Mavericks face the Falcons, lose 38-28

Senior+running+back+Robert+Riser+evades+the+Falcons+as+he+makes+a+dash+for+the+end+zone.

Isabella Diaz-Mira

Senior running back Robert Riser evades the Falcons as he makes a dash for the end zone.

After a roller-coaster season capped by an electrifying week of school-spirited events and the Upper School pep rally, the Maverick football team headed to Rice Stadium for the Kinkaid Week finale: the annual matchup against their decades-long rival—the Kinkaid Falcons.

On Friday, Oct. 28, the Mavericks lost to the Falcons 38-28, marking their 10th consecutive loss. The Mavs finished the season 7–3.

“It’s a storied rivalry that’s got a lot of history on both sides. For the past couple of years, the good history has been on their side,” head coach Kevin Veltri said. “If anything, each loss just adds a little fuel to the fire. Everyone wants to be remembered as the team that broke the streak and finally beat Kinkaid.”

During the week leading up to the game, Maverick students and faculty supported the team by showing their school spirit through events like Dress like Kinkaid Day, the ‘Roaring Mavs’ Homecoming dance and an Upper School pep rally. The SJS Spirit Club played a key role in organizing these events.

“We didn’t even realize how much work we were doing because it was so much fun,” Spirit Club captain Evie Vu said. “Planning the decorations, getting the student body involved—it was just a blast.”

With so much energy and school spirit surrounding the Kinkaid game, the players tried to remain calm and keep everything normal, from the way they practiced to the way they played the game.

“We didn’t do anything outside-the-box,” Veltri said. “Practice stayed exactly the same.”

Despite the team’s attempt at normalcy, several unexpected issues arose. Star sophomore running back Cole Allen suffered an injury the week before during a victory over Episcopal School of Dallas and was unable to play against Kinkaid.

Even without one of their most dynamic playmakers, Veltri firmly believed that the team had a strong chance of winning.

“Our guys are resilient, and it’s always the next man up who just has to shoulder the burden.”

When school let out around 3:30 p.m., Buffalo Speedway was flooded due to severe rains. (Dawson Chang)

They say, when it rains it pours, and so it was for the second unanticipated problem: a flash flood.

Just a few hours before the game, major streets around St. John’s and Rice University, including Buffalo Speedway and Weslayan, were flooded due to sudden and severe rains.

In the end, the rain quickly receded, and, in spite of these unexpected issues, the team arrived at Rice Stadium with plenty of time before kickoff.

“As soon as we got there, we told the boys ‘take a couple of minutes, soak it all in and then roll up your sleeves. We gotta get to work,’” Veltri said.

As the team warmed up, Veltri reiterated their plans to combat Kinkaid’s wildcat offense caused by several injuries to the Falcons’ quarterback.

“There’s not going to be a quarterback; they’re just going to directly snap it to the running back and then run right or run left,” Veltri said. “All they’ll do is run the ball.”

At 7 p.m., the Mavs started the game with a bang as junior quarterback Stephen Gill scored a Lamar Jackson-esque rushing touchdown less than two minutes into the game.

But the Falcons answered with 17 unanswered points.

With just three seconds left before halftime, Gill hurled a touchdown pass to senior running back Robert Riser, and the Mavs headed into the locker room down only 17-14.

During halftime, junior Nico Del Frate, who runs the sports analysis TikTok account “Elite Takes” with nearly 500k followers, hoped to see more screen passes and improved run defense in the second half.

Junior quarterback Stephen Gill dodges one of the Falcons as he looks to make a pass. (Isabella Diaz-Mira)

“If we make these adjustments, we should be able to win the game,” Del Frate said.

The second half began well for the Falcons, who returned the second-half kickoff for a touchdown. Later, Kinkaid senior running back Micah Bell, a DI Notre Dame commit, gashed the Maverick defense with two rushing touchdowns.

The Mavericks would score two touchdowns late in the game to tighten up the score. Gill had a hand in all four touchdowns, but the Mavericks came up short, 38-28.

Del Frate identified a couple of reasons for the defeat, chiefly the inability of the Mavs’ defense to stop the running game. Several unforced errors, including a botched snap and a special team slip-up, proved too much to overcome.

“If we had just avoided those uncharacteristic mistakes, I think we would have won,” Del Frate said.

Despite the loss, Veltri emphasizes that they still had a great year and that he takes pride in every aspect of the team.

“The leadership from the captains has been on display throughout the year. They’ve been able to just really keep the guys on a level pace and able to reset and move onto the next week,” Veltri said. “They’ve also done a great job of bringing the group together—it’s a locker room that really enjoys being friends with each other.”

All they’ll do is run the ball.”

— Kevin Veltri

Gill also appreciates the captains for everything they’ve done this season.

“We have some of the best captains I’ve ever seen—four awesome leaders and great athletes all around.”

Veltri also praised the team for its strong skill set and continued development.

“Our offensive line is young, but they’ve been coming along really nicely. We’ve also got a great set of receivers,” Veltri said. “Stephen [Gill] played well throwing the ball around this year; Barrett Mossman on the defensive side made a ton of tackles; Dean Davis on the D line and then Pierce and Blake and Flynt as well—it’s just been exciting to see all of their growth this year.”

This year’s squad is also the first that Veltri developed over the past four years.

“While I loved John Purdue and Gus and Skaribas and that whole crew last year, this is the first group that has been with me every single year,” Veltri said. “It’s been great to see their growth from being 14-year-old freshmen to being full-on men.”

Additional reporting by Ella Piper Claffy.