On the Trail
PIAA CLASS AAA FINAL
Cathedral Prep (Erie) 24, Wood 14
(At HersheyPark Stadium)
On a night with not even a hint of wind, Lord only know why a team with a ridiculously high-powered offense would win the toss and then defer. But that was what happened and Wood roared downfield to kick CP right in the teeth. The seven-play, 80-yard drive featured five first downs and the last four came in succession; the TD was a 32-yard burst by jr. FB Josh Messina. Though Wood, within five plays, gave up a tying score, as coverage was completely blown on a 59-yard TD pass (no one was near the receiver), the offense again was successful in imposing its will after jr. Jarrett McClenton set a good tone with a 29-yard kickoff return. Soon, sr. TB Andrew Guckin was racing that same distance, putting the ball at CP's 25, and it was impossible not to think, "OK, the score will be 14-7 momentarily." Then came a call you'll see, oh, maybe once a decade. Star C Fran Walsh was flagged for lifting the ball off the turf as he prepared for the play. Say what? You kiddin' me? A call like THAT in a state championship game? If nothing else, the guy who made the call -- the head linesman -- should have made sure a colleague got word to Walsh that he was doing something that could result in a penalty, if continued. Again and again in games, receivers will come up to the line of scrimmage and officials will say "move up a little" or "move back a little" to make sure everyone is correctly positioned before the snap takes place. A regular procedure penalty followed and then a decent run by McClenton was mostly wiped out by holding (he did receive credit for one yard). Another procedure call followed two plays later -- four flags in five plays! -- and the drive petered out. Sr. K Nick Visco was unable to hit a 41-yard, field-goal attempt. CP, thanks to its wonderful sr. QB, Damion Terry, who's bound for Michigan State (tall and smooth; delivers rockets in effortless fashion) and more coverage struggles, owned a 24-7 lead by halftime. That was when Wood sr. Chase Nicolosi, a basketball/baseball player, provided some nifty entertainment. He was plucked out of the stands and pitted against a CP rooter (a shirtless one, at that) for a contest involving punting and passing accuracy. Chase crushed the kid and celebrated in outrageous fashion, even pulling a Tebow. It was a great show and helped to pump some life back into Wood's stunned/semi-subdued fans. The Ramblers again rolled downfield to start the third quarter, but with the ball on the 26 Terry threw straight incompletions (one came close to being a TD, honestly) and a 43-yard field goal was NOT added. Using 12 runs among 13 plays, the Vikings moved within 24-14. No. 12 was a 28-yard burst by Guckin, who then reached payturf from the 5. Next came another huge call, one that everyone told me later was completely botched. (I was on the field. Almost all other reporters were in the press box with access to TV replays. Huck, meanwhile, was home, also watching PCN's telecast. He confirmed the call was ridiculous.) Terry lofted a long one down the left sideline. The receiver juggled and bobbled and juggled and bobbled -- for an instant, at least to my naked eye, he appeared to be trying to control the ball against his BACK -- and then, somehow, he was credited with a catch. CP did not convert that gimme into a score, but did receive 42 free yards in field position. The Vikings wound up with the ball at their 27 and slapped together a bits-and-pieces drive. A 14-yard, left-side swing pass from frosh QB Tom Garlick to Messina gave Wood first and 10 at CP's 33. Guckin ran for three. Messina added four. Guckin managed two. But on a left-side power play, Messina was held to no gain and things weren't looking too promising. Wait, yes they were! Well, two plays later, they were. The ball popped loose on a CP run, thanks to a hit by sr. S John Berthcsi, and sr. DE-DT Shane Neher made the recovery at the 33. One big problem: Not one of the refs made a signal. They all looked at each other again and again, discussed things briefly and then finally came to a group decision . . . Wood's ball!! Six minutes and 25 seconds remained. Right before a fourth-and-three play, coach Steve Devlin had to burn Wood's last timeout upon noticing that 12 players were on the field. That occurred at 4:58 and would have made things very difficult had the offense come through. On the fourth down play, Garlick hit sr. TE Nick Arcidiacono in the left-side seam for a 5-yard pickup. Garlick then rolled right and had to dump the ball under heavy pressure. A screen left to Guckin did not succeed. Back to the right. Sr. WR Chris Rahill appeared to be running an out, then circled away from that and jetted toward the end zone. He collided with a defender as the ball arrived and the ball was tipped upward. The CP guy came down with it. Talk about a punch to the gut. Or even to the area right below that. Ouch! CP logged two first downs while maintaining possession the rest of the way. Guckin finished with 30 carries for 178 yards, and that effort left him five short of 2,000 for the season. An operation to have his appendix removed caused him to miss the first two games. If not for that, he likely would have finished with 2,300. Outrageous. Messina turned 17 chances into 124 yards while also making four catches for 40. In addition, he posted a team-leading seven tackles, so this young man turned in a whale of an effort. Garlick went 5-for-12 for 40 yards. He didn't throw his first pass until 10:03 remained in the second quarter and though it was correctly directed, it was too high for the receiver, Rahill. After the series ended, Garlick came to the sideline and paced back and forth. Ten yards this way. Fifteen that way. Can only imagine how much his mind was in overdrive. When Wood got the ball back, Messina unfurled a 9-yard run and the next call was perfect! A swing pass to Messina. It picked up 13 yards and no doubt gave Garlick much relief. If the pass had failed, the Vikings would have needed only one yard on the third down play . . . Jr. DB Damon "DJ" Brinkley was next in tackles with five while Guckin, Berthcsi and soph DB Justin Rubin notched four apiece. In the second half, Berthcsi did a great job along the sideline to keep the Vikings motivated. Several times, he also turned toward the stands and implored the kids to provide more noise. There was quite a sight an hour before gametime. The instant the gates opened, CP's students came RUNNING through the stands for 60-70 yards to set up shop. Those who ran the fastest got to occupy the rows closest to the field. Soon, they were chanting, "Where's your fans?! Where's your fans?!" Wood's arrived little by little. AD Joe Sette said there were 11 buses for regular students and one more for cheerleaders and that just under 1,000 tickets were sold at the school. Cyber attention went to Neher, who deided to play football this year after waving bye-bye to the sport after ninth grade. He's a basketball player and the son of former Dougherty star Mike Neher, who later was a Catholic League ref. He made important contributions, expressed great thoughts on how much Wood football has come to mean to him, and provides yet another example of why respectable overall athletes should not limit themselves. Except for the selection of all-star teams, this wraps up my 42nd season of covering high school football (35 at Daily News). Thanks to the Wood guys for providing so many special moments and best of luck going forward to all seniors. Also thanks to the guy who kept stats and/or provided website reports all fall: Ed "Huck" Palmer, Thomas "Hockey Puck/Nutman" McKenna, Amauro Austin, Jon "Duck" Gray, Mark "Frog" Carfagno, Joe Turkos, Keith Hines, Big Willie McGonigle, Dan Spinelli, Paul Schneider, Tyreek "Reek" Wanamaker, Ed Morrone, John Knebels and Tom Waring. You're the best, guys!
PIAA CLASS AA SEMIFINAL
Wyomissing 35, Imhotep 13
(At Germantown Super Site)
In baseball, someone who hits .333 is bound for the Hall of Fame. In an important football weekend, going 1-for-3 does nothing but provide disappointment. Wood will be going to Hershey to compete for a state title (in AAA), but the season is over for La Salle (AAAA) and Imhotep (AA). Rather surprising, right? Huck, Puck and Big Willie all picked Our Squads to win, so they took a beating, also. Imhotep had sliced and diced everyone in its path through 14 games, and a win today would have enabled the Panthers to claim the all-time city record for triumphs in one season. Alas, as coach Albie Crosby said afterward, "We threw a stinker out there." The Panthers' offense posted only a few truly big plays and the defense had trouble dealing with the Spartans' old school wing-T, complete with lots of misdirection and effective ballhandling. Also, Wyomissing was able to throw some curveballs. Oops, better make that some deep balls. Wyomissing is in the process of slapping together an Only in the Pub moment. Check this out: Just last week, a quarterback named Corey Unger regained eligibility. He'd transferred from Fleetwood to Wyomissing two weeks after the end of the 2011 season, having already racked up 4,000-plus career passing yards. Fleetwood refused to sign the approval papers and Unger was sidelined for one calendar year. He made a spot appearance last week in a quarterfinal and had a major impact in this one. Wyomissing's QB starter was Joe Cacchione. But midway through the second quarter, with Imhotep ahead, 7-6, Unger took over at QB and made a two-TD impact by halftime. First he hit sr. WR Gerald Burns for a 46-yard TD. On the next series, he completed a 50-yard bomb TO Cacchione and that placed the ball at the 3. Sr. HB Alex Anzalone, a true stud who's bound for Notre Dame to play linebacker, charged into the end zone from there and the score was 21-7. One thing that must be noted: immediately before the TD pass to Burns, sr. RB Brandon Gonzalez appeared to lose possession before hitting the ground. Sr. LB Brandon Chatmon made the recovery for 'Tep, but the refs ruled that no fumble had officially taken place. What a momentum swing! One second, it appeared the Panthers would have the ball at roughly midfield with a chance to extend their lead. The next, they were trailing and, as it turned out, reeling. Crosby showed major brass early in the third quarter and the move paid off handsomely. On fourth and 11 from Wyomissing's 44, Imhotep eschewed a punt in favor of a wildcat formation run for jr. Deandre Scott. Touchdown! Scott zipped toward the right, got a great block from sr. handyman Eerin "EY" Young and easily reached the end zone. But that would be it. Imhotep notched just two first downs the rest of the way and they came at so-called garbage time with the score already at 35-13. Sr. RB David Williams carried 22 times for 140 yards and one TD, a 50-yarder. His only other run of more than nine yards was a 26-yarder as Wyomissing mostly did a good job of making early contact and coming at him with two-three cleanup guys. While Anzalone settled for six stops, LB William Kroppe and DL Jerico Reyes totaled nine and eight (with two sacks), respectively. Tellingly, Imhotep never did post a three-and-out. Sr. CB Najee Goode led the Panthers with nine tackles. Jr. LB Steve Denby racked up seven (all in the second half) and three of those were made behind the line. Jr. LB Randell Hunter had six stops while jr. DB Quadeem Starks and Chatmon managed five apiece. Thanks again for the tackle-keeping hustle, Huck! Imhotep finished the season with 651 points for an average of 43.4. Some very important players on both sides of the ball were seniors, of course, but the Panthers' starting lineup featured mostly underclassmen so it's doubtful these guys are going away any time soon. Congrats on a great season, one and all, and best of luck going forward!
PIAA CLASS AAAA SEMIFINAL
Coatesville 42, La Salle 35
(At Downingtown West)
If ever a football factoid deserves an asterisk . . . Now's the time. Forty-two points are the most allowed by the Explorers since a non-league game early in the 2008 season (47 to Malvern) and though Coatesville is very explosive and well-coached, one has to think the yield would not have been as high if not for the loss of one, two, three major players due to injury. During a 6 1/2-minute span over the late-first/early-second quarters, La Salle lost sr. S Sean Coleman (left ankle), sr. DT Tom Spiteri (left knee) and sr. LB Mike Eife (left ankle) for the rest of the evening. You know the ol' saying: Injuries are part of the game. True, but when they come in such rapid fashion, and involve production/leadership stalwarts such as these three guys, the effect cannot be minimized. Eife was actually the first to go down, after a shot to the upper chest (while trying to catch a pass) forced him to lose his breath, but he was able to make it back onto the field. Eife's second injury occurred right before Coatesville took a 14-7 lead 8:57 prior to halftime. The offense went nowhere (a pair of drops didn't help) and C-ville again posted a scoring drive. At 21-7 and with a certain aura present along La Salle's sideline, one couldn't help but think, "Is this game about to go off the deep end?" Hardly. The Explorers fashioned a great drive as sr. QB Chris Kane went 3-for-3 for 58 yards (the capper was a 41-yarder to soph RB Jordan Meachum), then runs by soph handyman Jimmy Herron (eight yards), Meachum (one) and Kane (three, right-side keeper behind sr. T Patrick Hoffman (Navy) got the ball into the end zone. Just three plays later, La Salle scored again as jr. DE Ryan Coonahan zipped 27 yards on an interception return. Just before the snap, star jr. ILB Zaire Franklin scrambled to his right and took a spot on the line of scrimmage. He exploded right toward sr. QB Emmett Hunt and was right in his face as the ball was tossed. So, just like that, it was 21-21. And it wouldn't be the Explorers' only quick burst of scores. We flash ahead to the early portion of the fourth quarter. As it did for much of the evening, Coatesville powered straight ahead for a 5-yard score, making it 42-21 with 10:07 left. If ever a team could have been expected to perform an el foldo . . . No way. The Explorer drove 76 yards in seven plays and Meachum provided the final 46 on a reception of a pass from Kane. An onside kick was tried, but did not work. After a three-and-out and fair catch of a punt by jr. Mike Koller, the Explorers set sail from their 16. This drive did not succeed, but on Coatesville's second subsequent play the ball popped loose and sr. DL Andrew Carlone was only too thrilled to pounce on it. Again Kane posted a string of three completions -- 16 to Herron, 13 to Meachum, 6 to sr. RB Jared Herrmann -- and that placed the ball at the 3. Again the right side was chosen for a power running play and Meachum lugged the rock to payturf. Sr. Ryan Winslow (Pitt) hit the PAT and with 4:38 left the Explorers were within seven. C-ville also recovered this onside kick. Franklin and sr. DB Andrew Eidenshink (1-yard loss) made big stops, then a pass fell incomplete. At 2:48, Herron steamed for a 41-yard punt return and -- oh, my goodness -- did THIS stretch run have a chance to be vintage. A 15-yard run by Meachum and a 10-yard burst by same helped to put the ball at the 19. One problem: on the play right before the 10-yarder, Herron dropped what almost certainly would have been a TD reception. He was running a pattern along the right sideline when he used a quick sidestep to free himself maybe eight yards into the field of play. No one was really nearby. If the play had succeeded, coach Drew Gordon was going to tell his son, Brett, the offensive coordinator, to go for two points and the lead. There were four plays after the so-surprising drop by Herron, who all year was the definition of clutch and productive in assorted roles: the 10-yard catch by Meachum, a pass for sr. TE Jon Naji that was a little too high, a drop by Naji on an over-the-middle flip and an interception. In La Salle's previous two games, Kane had not been sacked. And in this contest, he'd been felled just once. The protection broke down, however, and Kane was being pretzeled toward the ground as he released the ball. As he mentioned later, Kane saw that Herron was open on the play. Alas, his body was too off-balance as he released the ball and the play had no prayer. As the Coatesville kid, Devonte Suber, raced 86 yards for a TD that was wiped out by a penalty, Kane was in agony on the turf. He then limped to the sideline and his injury . . . You got it. Something on the left side (though not serious). Thanks to Drew Gordon, Coleman, Spiteri and Kane for the class they showed during what had to be difficult post-game interviews. Red eyes were everywhere and the seniors, with some underclassmen mixed in, engaged in a hugfest in the moments right after Gordon spoke with the team. Huck and Frog were also on site and the former provided defensive statistics. Franklin numbered nine tackles with a TFL among 'em. Sr. DB Dad Poquie was right behind with eight (also one TFL). Coonahan added two TFLs to his pick-six while Koller and jr. DB Steve Hudak made six stops apiece and 10 were halved by sr. DB Chris Rocco and sr. LB Trent Simmons. Tellingly -- Hunt was smooth, mobile and perceptive -- the Explorers notched just one sack and it went to Eife. Kottmeyer Stadium is a great facility. The sidelines are tight, but that's OK because that means the fans are closer to the action. Also, the stands seem to be angled steeply, so that also makes for a more intimate atmosphere. The crowd was overflowing. Rain appeared maybe midway through the third quarter and remained the rest of the way. It was never brutally hard, but did have its pain-in-the-butt moments and likely caused a drop or two. Kane finished 18-for-40 for 265 yards. Herron (5-95) and Meachum (3-64) were his top targets. Coleman had to settle for one catch before his injury and it resulted in a 1-yard loss. Pretty amazing that the offense was able to (mostly) remain on course without the likes of Coleman and Eife. Best of luck going forward to all senior Explorers. This program oozes class every season and this year was no exception. Thanks to the players/coaches for their time and cooperation.
PIAA CLASS AAAA QUARTERFINAL
La Salle 28, Parkland 7
The Explorers' leading ground-gainer was sr. DE Jon Naji. Right behind were jr. DE Ryan Coonahan and sr. DL David Losier. "Hmm," you're saying. "How the heck can defensive players be leading ground-gainers?" When we're talking about the opposite direction! In a performance that was truly amazing, especially in light of the fact that this was a state quarterfinal, and not some non-league contest against a very poor opponent, La Salle's defense dumped Parkland for losses on 17 plays! The breakdown was 11 sacks and six regular TFLs, and those 17 plays cost the upstaters a total of 90 yards, according to Huck. Naji recorded five sacks for 24 yards. Coonahan notched two apiece of sacks and TFLs for 22 yards. Losier racked up his 22 yards thanks to three sacks. Sr. DT Tom Spiteri had one apiece for six yards, sr. LB Mike Eife managed two TFLs for six and sr. S Sean Coleman got the whole thing started with a 10-yard TFL on the Trojans' second play. In a development that will hardly come as a surprise, Coleman played a large overall role. He logged eight tackles (seven solos), turned five catches into 120 yards and two TDs (of 29 and 33 yards), made numerous fair catches to save the Explorers all kinds of yardage and after Parkland tried an onside kick with 3:41 left, did you really have to look to see which guy made the recovery? Why, of course! Sean Coleman! La Salle's first score came midway through the first quarter after Coleman's 32-yard snag put the ball on the 1 and Eife, the FB, powered in. All three plays on Parkland's next series resulted in losses (TFL for Eife, sacks for Naji and Losier) and La Salle's possession began 39 yards from the end zone. On play No. 4, Coleman eased down the middle of the field and sr. QB Chris Kane delivered a strike for a 29-yard score. The halftime count was 21-0 and TD No. 3 was scored by soph handyman Jimmy Herron on a 5-yard run out of the wild'splorer formation. Herron also ripped off gains of 20 and 13 on that drive and Kane completed passes for 22 yards to sr. RB Jared Herrmann and 13 to sr. TE Andrew Halton. Score No. 4? Close to a not-so-instant replay of No. 2. This was the 33-yarder to Coleman, who freed himself from the slot position. Coleman had a 16-yard run on a speed sweep to get that drive rollin'. The one big downer of the day occurred early in the third quarter as jr. G David Geppert departed with an injury. He'd been out for a while and this was his first game back. All the best, David. Hang in there. Also back in action today was sr. CB Chris Rocco, and his contributions included two pass bustups. Parkland finally got rolling midway through the fourth quarter -- against La Salle's starters, at that -- and tallied on a 4-yard keeper by sr. QB Tim Baranek. The Trojans had one more possession and they almost REALLY enjoyed it. When they called time with 9.9 seconds remaining on their own 17, lots of folks no doubt were muttering, "Say what? You're down by 21 points and you're calling time with this little time remaining?" Not sure what was said along that sideline, but it was probably something along the lines of, "This will be our last play of the season. And for the seniors, the last of your career. Let's make it a good one." Sr. Jarel Elder took a handoff, steamed up the middle and . . . oh, my goodness . . . it appeared he was going to SCORE! But along the right sideline, in the southeast corner of the field, Elder was caught by sr. DB Dad Poquie at the 5 and the game was over. The run covered 74 yards. Phew! La Salle will meet Coatesville in a semifinal. At the field, there was talk that the game could be played on Friday night instead of Saturday. And it appears that's what's going to happen. Several websites are listing the game for Friday night, 7 o'clock, at Downingtown West. Could be a classic!
PIAA CLASS AAA QUARTERFINAL
Wood 35, Interboro 7
The talk all week indicated Wood might be able to frolic. THAT didn't quite happen, but the Vikings did own a 35-0 lead by halftime and those numbers assured the final 24 minutes would be played with a running clock. When you're a decided underdog, it's not a good idea to allow the opening kickoff to be returned for a touchdown. But that was exactly what happened. Wood's deep guys were standing at about the 10 when the kickoff landed 10-15 yards away and bounced a couple times. Soph Jarrett McClenton picked up the rock on the 19, headed forward for a short while, then broke it to the left side. I didn't get a good look at the latter part of McClenton's mad dash, but I was kind of surprised he was never pushed out of bounds. I guess pursuers did NOT have decent angles on him and/or he is very, very fast. Anyway, the 81-yard adventure made it 6-0 and sr. Nick Visco added his seven-millionth career PAT (seems like that many, anyway). Wood registered a three-and-out (jr. DB DJ Brinkley had a TFL), then scored twice on its next possession. A 42-yard TD by sr. TB Andrew Guckin was erased by a hold. On the very next play, he took a swing pass down to the 7 and then, after a procedure call, scored from the 12 on a short-side sweep. Interboro did nada on its next chance, as well, as jr. DB Kendall Singleton (TFL) and sr. DE Nick Arcidiacono (sack) recorded matching 7-yard stops behind the line. See ya! Guckin raced for an immediate 42-yard score. The next drive did not pan out as Visco could not connect on a 26-yard field goal. Tears were not exactly shed along Wood's sideline because no one expected Interboro to use that messup as a building block for a great comeback. Soon, the score went to 28-0 as sr. FB Tyler Smith cleared the up-the-middle way for Guckin on a 35-yard scoring run. That play came right after sr. DT Fran Walsh recovered a fumble. On the Vikings' last drive of the half, capped by Guckin from the 2, frosh QB Tom Garlick passed 4-for-7 for 70 yards. At times, he'd been a shade hesitant to throw the ball, but on this drive his brass was more evident. Mostly starters (no Guckin, however) were still on the field as the third quarter began, but pizzazz was lacking and Interboro avoided further torching. The Bucs did not begin to truly move until Wood inserted second-line defenders, and a score came with 6:43 left in the fourth quarter on a right-corner fade to some dude who looked like a high school version of Harold Carmichael. (Google him, young bucks.) Interboro pounced upon a bobbled squib kickoff and had visions of again lighting up the board. No chance. The QB was dropped for losses on three consecutive plays thanks to soph LB Nafeez Carter-Brown, jr. DE Chris Gary and soph DB Justin Rubin. Cyber attention went to sr. T George Griffin, who's being stalked by numerous I-AAs. (Just thought of this: Wonder if he's related to Mike Griffin, a first team Daily News All-City center for Dougherty in '79? . . . Answer, as received Saturday morning: Yes, he is. Mike is George's uncle. His dad, George, also played for Dougherty and a brother, Patrick, played for Northeast. Mike's son, Shane, a soph is the long-snapper for Abington.) Griffin's playmates were Walsh at C, srs. Chris O'Connor and Diego Racanco at G, and soph Ryan Bates at T. Archie, sr. Shane Neher and sr. Matt Barrett were among the TEs. Wood's semifinal foe will be Allentown Central Catholic, and that game will take place Friday, 7 p.m., at Bethlehem's Banko Field. Speaking of the late '70s, I had a great halftime talk with Bill Cook, a football/baseball star for Lincoln ('78). He earned first team All-City honors at DE (also played TE) and was a third-team outfielder. He then played football at Arizona, spent some time as a West Catholic assistant and has long been involved in coaching assorted youth sports in Wood's area. Great to see you, Bill!
Northeast 14, Central 12
The only way to start this report, and to do so with joy, is to spread the news that Northeast's star player, sr. WR-LB David Pulliam, is doing great. Yes, he's sore, but assorted tests at Einstein Hospital showed that no damage resulted from a second quarter collision with sr. DB Harold Alexander that caused David to be lifted onto a gurney and wheeled off the field on Central's side. The Viking most affected by the troubling scene was another guy named Pulliam, jr. DT Anthony, and, yes, he's David's brother. After interviewing Anthony, I asked for his cell number and said I'd like to call him later to check on David's status. That call was placed just before 6:30, but Anthony was unable to answer. No wonder. At almost that exact instant, David, who'd experienced numbness in his arms while laying on the field, was being released and the family was beginning its journey back home! He called back almost immediately -- while I was confirming with someone at Einstein that David had been released -- and short conversations took place with James Pulliam, the guys' father, and David himself, and their comments were added to the Daily News story. Thanks to the Pulliams for their help and best wishes to David as he gets back into the flow! Also to Harold, whose dad, Harold, is a former Pub basketball coach. Harold Jr. was viewed briefly on the sideline in the second half wearing a cervical collar . . . Though this game had some decent moments along the way, it did not become truly gripping until the fourth quarter. Central, owning a 12-8 lead, opted to go for it on fourth-and-three five yards short of midfield. The play was a rush for sr. RB Jesse Gillis, who was held to one yard by sr. DT Sadek Robinson. Northeast's first two plays netted a total of just one yard and a group of Northeast rooters began chanting, "Throw the ball! Throw the ball!" Just like that, zoom, the next play went for 24 yards! Ah, but it wasn't a pass. It was a sweep right by jr. RB Shimeek Carter. Carter added eight yards on a toss left two plays later, getting the ball to the 15, then sr. FB Malik Adams and Carter went for four apiece. Then, following a TV timeout, came some trouble in the form of a procedure penalty. And more trouble in the form of a 6-yard loss for Carter, who was double-swarmed by jr. DB Wesley De La Rosa and jr. LB Brian Moseley. Finally, the guys in the Throw a Pass Club got their wish. Sr. Devon Dillard (5-8, 170), the smallest TE in world history (smile), ran a post-corner toward Northeast's sideline (scoreboard end of field) and the toss from sr. QB Daquan Bohannan was perfect. The best thing for Northeast was, there'd be no need to make the conversion because Central had failed on two. With the fans continuing to roar on every play, Central started its response drive on the 32. After a 4-yard run by Gillis, jr. handyman Walter Pegues was given the ball on five straight plays and the last one, an 8-yarder, placed the rock at Northeast's 44 with 1:26 remaining. The momentum would not be sustained. On fourth down, the ball was just five yards closer to Northeast's end zone and the play-call was a pass to Pegues from jr. QB Jon Henderson. Pegues was being covered by Carter. The two battled for the ball at the 17 and an incompletion resulted. Ballgame. Well, after some kneeldowns. Just from the newspapering standpoint, it would have been better if that catch had been made because then everyone would have REALLY witnessed late-game drama. Central had not kicked a field goal or even a PAT all season. So the Lancers probably would have gone for six. We'll never know . . . The game was not exactly lively to start. Through the first 20 minutes, just TWO plays went for as many as 10 yards. The second was a 15-yard pickup by Bohannan on a flushed-out, left-side gallop and that placed the ball at the 7. Then, on fourth-and-goal from the 1, David Pulliam moved into the backfield and powered into the end zone. Next he made a key block at the corner as Carter converted a conversion sweep. Central responded by getting its Magic Man (Pegues) more involved. He caught passes of 12 and 22 yards and the latter placed the ball at the 1 (D. Pulliam and Alexander were hurt on the 12-yarder). Gillis took it in from there. On the first play of the third quarter, Pegues lined as the wildcat snap-taker and zipped for a 41-yard TD. This was the final game for head ref Tom McClain (52-year career, 49 at the high school level) and the coolest thing was that he got to work with his son, Kevin, the line judge. At one point Tom had to send Anthony Pulliam to the sideline for a cooling-off session because he was getting a little chippy right after plays. Understandable, considering how many swirling emotions Anthony was experiencing. Imagine, you're running around a football field while your brother, immobilized on a gurney, has just been transported to the hospital. Anthony did get back onto the field for Central's last drive and contributed a tackle. Earlier, he'd made three behind the line. Northeast's offensive line featured jr. C Dan Mushat, sr. Gs Bernard "We Have a Problem" Houston and Brendan Mixson, and sr. Ts Robinson and Jerome Brown. Jr. E William Okrafo-Smart and sr. LB Shahir Gates made a lot of plays on defense. Happy Day After Thanksgiving to all! (I'm writing this Friday morning -- smile). Also best wishes to Tom McClain, who will remain the scene thanks to his duties as a coordinator of officials and D-12 officer. It was always fun to see him in action.
Prep Charter 46, Furness 12
What was probably the best TD of the night didn't count. Late in the fourth quarter, PC frosh Quadir Strothers fielded a punt on his 25, fought off several "sure" tackles early in the process, kept fighting and fancy-stepping and then, zoom, took off for a 75-yard TD. Alas, the wonderful moment was lost to a flurry of flags. But just three snaps later, glee returned to the PC sideline as sr. RB Jovan Matthews motored 61 yards for the Huskies' final score. Man, what happened to Furness? Admittedly, Pub Silver is not exactly filled with powerhouse squads, but the Falcons did win that division. They then were waxed by Northeast, 44-0, and their final three contests yielded losses by 36-0 to West Philly and 49-16 to University City in addition to this one. Luckily for coach Anthony Pastore, who does a great job each season, the Falcons' roster is filled with underclassmen. Though PC soph QB Vion Dolo did not leave the South Philly Super Site with a tired right arm, he did notch four TD passes. In how many attempts? Only five. He connected with jr. WRs John Graham and Ronald Stokes for two TDs apiece. The distances were 25 and 32 for Graham, and 35 and 31 for Stokes. The 32-yarder was Graham's coolest because he caught the fade still on the field of play, but tight to the sideline, and he had to do a nifty tiptoe job to make sure he stayed in bounds while getting into the end zone. He did and the officials got it right. Stokes' coolest was the 35-yarder. He caught an underneath pass at maybe the 20 and navigated his way from there for six points. Matthews, one of those little, low-center-of-gravity guys with much determination, turned 15 carries into 154 yards and two TDs. Help came from soph Asa Manley (9-90) and sr. Anthony Wyche (10-68, TD). The path-clearers were soph C Charles Anderson, sr. G Faheem Williams, jr. G Eric Taylor, soph T Macquel Hardy and sr. T Jahbree Sullivan. Frosh Karamo Dioubate (6-4, 230) had some VERY interesting moments at TE and DE and what a future this kid appears to have. Furness scored early on a 55-yard fumble return by jr. LB Devin Nottis (he tipped a backward pass, a k a a lateral, then picked up the still-live ball and vamoosed) and on the game's last play, thanks to a 2-yard plunge by sr. FB Kyle Goldsmith. Honestly, blocking was pretty much a rumor for the Falcons. Fourteen plays lost yardage and star jr. QB Khaaliq Shuler took a beating. During one span, eight consecutive rushing plays, counting sacks, lost yardage for 3, 6, 14, 3, 11, 6 (kneel down to end the half; we won't count that one), 10 and 1 yards. Shuler was victimized on six of those plays, five times as the QB and once as a tailback. After Goldsmith ended the bad streak with a 2-yard pickup to the left side, five of the next nine rushing plays also lost yardage and one of the "gains" was a gift because the ball jetted forward on the ground (hit by Taylor, recovery jr. LB Timothy Scott) for four yards. Matthews, described as a rover (DE/S/OLB) by assistant Rob Ford, was involved in five of those 13 backward plays we just discussed. Anderson, Dioubate and sr. DB Eddie Thomas were in on two apiece. Best wishes go out to Furness soph Michael White, who suffered a broken arm on the first scrimmage play. The legendary Mark "Frog" Carfagno was up in the booth, handling PA announcer duties. Niiiiice. Todd Jones, star LB for St. Joseph's Prep, watched the proceedings with two of his best buddies, Sharief Williams and Martese Murphy. Sharief begged to be mentioned in this report and/or to have his picture taken about 27 total times (ha ha).
Mastery North 34, Gratz 26
The third time wasn’t the charm for Gratz. In fact, it brought harm. This was meeting No. 3 of the season for the Bulldogs and MN, and those who figured the former would sweep the series were mistaken. If you were thinking of catching this tilt but then decided against it, feel free to mutter, “Damn, I’m a knucklehead.” ‘Cause you missed a goody. The teams combined for 698 scrimmage yards (Gratz won that battle, 369-329) and 27 plays that netted at least 10 yards and the outcome was still in doubt until the very last play, when impressive jr. DB Jermaine Norris posted his ninth pick of the season at the 3 yard line, thus wrecking Gratz’ hopes for a last-second miracle on a jump-ball play involving 6-4 sr. TE Fulani Freeman. DN ink went to sr. QB James Johnson and, man, was he impressive! He showed a strong arm, with touch and accuracy to boot, and also proved to be quite elusive on forays that followed shoulda/coulda-been sacks. True, he’s only 5-11 and he does understand he might have to play wideout in college, but any I-AA/D-II/III coach who does not check out his highlight tape is a fool. Skill plus brass AND Ivy/Patriot grades. Darn good combination. JJIII ran or passed on MN’s first 23 plays, and on 36 of 49 in all. The other 13 snaps produced rushes for sturdy jr. RB-FB Armani Fuller-Williams (73 yards). Johnson went 12-for-24 for 199 yards and one TD apiece to Norris (63 yards, game’s first play), soph WR Idris Mateen (11) and Fuller-Williams (27, got absolutely clocked shortly after making the catch but the guy didn’t wrap and he kept going). With 5 minutes left and the score tied at 26-26, the Pumas took over on their 39. Soon, Fuller-Williams provided a GIGANTIC play when he controlled a bad snap on a would-be punt and rumbled for 17 yards. How many were needed? Sixteen. Clutch! F-W then churned for four yards on a fourth-and-2 sweep, and that placed the ball at the 17. Procedure pushed it back to the 22, but a screen-right play to sr. FB Ala Duppins produced 20 yards and then F-W tough-guyed his way into the end zone on a right-side, off-tackle play that he had to bounce outside. Duppins added a conversion snag. MN’s line featured jr. C Mark Davis, soph G Tarvis Mobley, sr. G Marquise Meachum, sr. T Rashawn Burton and soph T Dante Simms. Meachum and sr. LB Christopher Batts were the most persistent hitters on defense. For Gratz, sr. Davone Cornish passed 11-for-20 for 111 yards and a 16-yard score to jr. WR Nydair Rouse. That occurred with 5:32 left and created the 26-26 tie. Jr. RB Daqwan Freeman (Fulani’s bro) turned 13 rushes into 192 yards and three TDs. His best was a 94-yarder on which he shook off an early “sure” tackler and put a SERIOUS move on another guy as he passed through the line of scrimmage. Sr. C Scott "Eric's My Dad" Ervin, jr. G Raekwon Bynes and sr. T Amir Neely were doing major grunt work. Sr. DE Saeed Sheard notched a sack and two TFLs. (He and Batts were named the game’s best defensive players while F-W and Cornish took offensive laurels. Johnson and D. Freeman were the overall MVPs/MOPs.) This wasn’t the first time teams met thrice in one season. In 2009, in fact, West Catholic beat McDevitt three times in a four-week period! Nuts, right? I’m not positive whether this was the first Tuesday game in (at least “modern”) city history. That’ll take some digging. I’ll be baaaaack . . . And here I am, four minutes later (ha ha). Edison played Boys' Latin on a Tuesday in the '09 season. And, lest we forget (which I did, momentarily), last year's MN-SG game was ALSO played on a Tuesday.
CLASS AAAA CITY TITLE
La Salle 37, Frankford 20
Though this game was not remotely as close as the score would indicate, don't assume it was Cakewalk City. In fact, the early lead could/should have been established by Frankford and who knows where that development could have led us? On the game's third play, soph DE Shareef Miller (6-4, 195, worlds of potential) deflected a pass and jr. OLB Marquise Poston reeled in an interception. On the first play, jr. TE Wydell "Woo" Compton made a spectacular, one-handed catch for a 28-yard gain and Frankford had the ball at the 15. Jr. RB Quinton Ellis zipped to the 6, then was stopped for no gain by sr. DL Tom Spiteri. A procedure call further hurt the momentum and then sr. DB Dad Poquie made a leaping interception in the right corner of the end zone on a fade pass that sr. QB Tim DiGiorgio left a wee bit short. Soph RB Jordan Meachum immediately experienced an outta-here moment, zooming 72 yards to the Pioneers' 8. A TFL by Miller helped to frustrate La Salle, but sr. Ryan Winslow salvaged the possession with a 27-yard field goal. Frankford again had good moments on drive No. 2, advancing the ball to the 18. On third and four, sr. DB Sean Coleman and sr. LB Mike Eife combined for a 2-yard TFL, then sr. DE Jon Naji pressured DiGiorgio into an incompletion. La Salle added two TDs in rapid fashion -- 77-yard pass from sr. QB Chris Kane to soph handyman Jimmy Herron, 15-yard run by Meachum (right after Coleman's 39-yard punt return) -- and it was starting to not look pretty. Just to be sure, La Salle added scores on its next three possessions -- passes to Coleman and Naji, 1-yard run by backup RB Nick Buckley -- and the 37-0 halftime count assured the final 24 minutes would feature the running clock. Frankford's three possessions after Meachum's TDs were marked by three-and-outs. Naji highlighted the second one with a TFL and sack. As Bok had done in the first game, Frankford got rolling against backups. DiGiorgio passed for 170 of his 250 yards after halftime and enjoyed streaks of five and four consecutive completions. TDs went to jr. WR Rene Herrera (62 yards) and sr. TE-WR Denzel Turbeville (5) and Ellis ran 47 yards for a score. Turbeville's TD came with 3:30 left and almost made it a two-score game at 37-20. John Steinmetz, the Explorers' defensive coordinator, even felt the need to wave some starters back onto the field when Frankford got the ball back at 1:47. Pressure again returned to Timmy D's world. Eife broke through to drop him for four yards. Spiteri then crumpled him for six. A third-and-20 pass to Turbeville could net just seven yards and an incompletion ended it. As most remember, the Explorers fell to Washington in the first AAAA CT tilt in '08, but have since rung up four in a row. Thanks to Huck for hanging around for this one, as well. La Salle's tackling leader with five was jr. LB Zaire Franklin with five. A half-sack was included in that total. Poquie added four stops to his INT. Jr. DT Kadar Jones paced Frankford with five stops (three for losses) and a force/recover fumble combo. No one else had more than three. Three other DN stat-keepers, Amauro Austin, Mark "Frog" Carfagno and Keith Hines, were also on hand, and I convinced those guys to pose with Huck for a photo. The Puckster was somewhere on the basketball trail; he helps out at Holy Family. La Salle and Wood will be idle this week while Imhotep stays busy with a Thanksgiving Eve tilt against Boys' Latin. The state quarterfinals will be played the weekend of Nov. 30-Dec. 1. Best of luck to all three squads!
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Brother James Rieck, a long-time La Salle administrative/mentoring stalwart and photo-taking presence on the football sidelines. Brother James passed at 10 o'clock Saturday night due to injuries suffered in a recent fall. RIP, Brother James. You were treasured by all.
During the game, the Explorers wore decals with BJR on the back of their helmets.
CLASS AAA CITY TITLE
Wood 49, Bok 28
While the overall kudos must be heaped upon Wood, winner of five consecutive City Titles, please understand why this report is going to begin with detailed praise for a member of the losing squad. Say hello to Antoine Whitney, Bok's scintillating sr. handyman. All he did was account for 329 all-purpose yards. He ran 13 times for 87 and one TD. Caught six passes for 138 and another score. Returned six kickoffs for 87. And scampered 17 yards after notching his sixth pick of the season. Wow! Admittedly, the accomplishment must be accompanied by an asterisk because roughly half of Whitney's yards came against second-line players over the final 20-or-so minutes. Yet, that means he was still terrific vs. front-line performers. Whitney always was a wideout this season, but a week ago, as the Wildcats surprised 10-0 Gratz for the Pub AAA crown, he starred at halfback while filling in for sr. RB Larry Pelzer (school suspension). Today, those two guys shared main-RB duties as Pelzer finished 21-93 with a score . . . OK, back to normal procedure, as in highlighting the winning squad "first" (smile). Wood had its own shining light in the person of jr. ILB Josh Messina. Before sitting down shortly into the third quarter, he rang up a whopping 14 tackles. Eight were solos and four produced losses (three TFLs, one sack). Oh, and just to show variety, he also forced a fumble, picked off a pass and, while on the other side of the line of scrimmage, ran for a 9-yard score and added a same-distance reception. Also making a significant contribution was soph RB-KR Jarrett McClenton. In a three-touch span, he ch-chinged his way to 217 yards! Ran for 69 yards to the 9 (caught by jr. DB Rasul Jackson), motored 56 yards for a TD right after sr. DL Fran Walsh recovered a fumble, and added another score on a 92-yard kickoff return after Bok broke the shutout 1:26 before halftime on Pelzer's 3-yard run. After barely passing in recent games, the Vikings completely switched gears to start this one. Frosh Tom Garlick went 4-for-7 on the first drive and the capper was a 3-yard, roll-right toss to sr. WR Chris Rahill. Messina posted his INT four plays later and the Vikes were shortly at it again. Garlick went 2-for-2 on this march and sr. RB Andrew Guckin scored from the 1. Turnovers on back-to-back plays -- recovery by Wood jr. DB DJ Brinkley; pick by Whitney -- highlighted/lowlighted (whichever way you look at those kinds of things) the early moments of the second quarter. A combo sack by Messina and jr. DE Chris Gary gave the ball back to Wood and Messina followed McClenton's 69-yard burst with his 9-yard TD. The last part of the half featured the Pelzer run/McClenton KO return six-pointers. Sr. FB Tyler Smith and sr. HB Nick Singlar represented Backup Nation with TD runs in the third and Bok had all kinds of fun in the fourth thanks to Whitney (7 run), Whitney again (51 pass from jr. QB Michael Riley) and sr. FB Vittorio "Vito" Goggins. Riley (run) and sr. TE Dylan Edmonds-Carty (catch) added conversions. Sr. Trequan Walton recovered an onside kick between the Whitney scores. Defensive stats were handled by Huck. For Wood, sr. DB John Berthcsi recorded eight stops (three solos) and soph LB Nolan Murt led the backups with 10. All four of Walsh's stops were made behind the line (one sack). For Bok, jr. LBs Naim Dykes (seven) and Naasir Granberry (six) were the tackling leaders and each collected a TFL. Amazingly, Bok outgained Wood, 360-313, in part because it ran 21 more plays, 61-40. Coach Steve Devlin's squads have stormed to a 240-48 scoring advantage in these five consecutive CT victories. The combined score at halftime has been 191-20. Brandon Peoples, star FB for the '11 state champs, was a sideline witness. He even stayed around for the La Salle game and occupied a spot on the Explorers' sideline. Also on hand was John Shulby, the Vikings' biggest fan and best buddy of '11 TE headliner Colin Thompson, who's now at Florida. I happened to have a POTW T-shirt in the car and figured John would be a worthy recipient. It was size L, so start wolfing down those Tastykakes, John! (smile)
CLASS AA CITY TITLE
Imhotep 40, West Catholic 8
There's one sure way to avoid having to wonder how your team might react to being involved in a tight game for the first time all season. Storm to yet another one-sided victory! If you saw THIS coming, congrats on having great perception. This was surprising to yours truly mostly because it's very uncommon for a quality program to go down without putting up much of a fight, especially with so much on the line. But that was what happened. The Burrs became demoralized somewhat early and that created an interesting situation. They have a decent amount of two-way players, so that meant the mood wasn't great on both sides of the ball. Meanwhile, Imhotep is almost completely a two-platoon operation, so fresh, motivated guys were everywhere and, man, were coach Albie Crosby's troops on a mission. Cyber attention went to jr. G-DT Tyrone Barge, and he proved again and again why he's the Panthers' only full-time two-wayer. When his blocking wasn't helping sr. TB David Williams rush 22 times for 191 yards and two TDs, his sturdy presence on the DL was assuring that West would experience only occasional rushing success. In the first three quarters, Barge registered one sack and two TFLs while notching three other stops close to the line of scrimmage. Then, shortly into the fourth, with the Panthers already in big-time command at 33-8, he got to experience a play he'll talk about for the rest of his life. Jr. LB Randell Hunter burst through the line and enveloped soph QB Antwain McCollum for what turned out to be a 16-yard loss. When the ball popped losse, Barge fashioned a perfect scoop-job on West's 40 and rumbled 60 yards for a touchdown. Usain Bolt has no worries about losing a match race against Ty, but then again, Bolt can't claim to be a major part of a city championship football team, now can he? (smile) West's problems were evident from the very beginning. After sr. TB-WR-KR Eerin Young returned the opening kickoff 15 yards to Imhotep's 39, the Panthers prepared to run their first play and West coach Brian Fluck called time. Say what? That happened because Fluck noticed (before the refs had a chance to) that the Burrs had 12 players on the field. The Panthers drove 61 yards in 15 plays and got the score on a 10-yard pass from soph QB Andre Dreuitt to classmate WR Denniston "DJ" Moore. Twice along the way, the Panthers received great (and perhaps inaccurate) spots on fourth-down plays. A fumble recovery by sr. DL Joshua Gibbs (strong early moments) gave West the ball on its 32 two plays into the second quarter. Soph FB Javon Kegler sparked the drive with a 34-yard burst, sr. WR Ron Womack added a leaping, 12-yard catch along the right sideline and jr. TB Greg White then ran 10 yards for a score. A trick play provided an 8-7 lead as McCollum, with a defender pressed against his body, made a soaring snag of a pass FROM White toward the left corner. Imhotep's response to being down? A scoring drive, capped by Dreuitt's 1-yard sneak. Nothing more happened for the rest of the half and I couldn't help but wonder why the juices had not been completely stirred. I'd expected a capacity crowd, or something close, figuring that all kinds of people with just an interest in city high school football would show up. That didn't happen. I mean, the crowd was OK, but it was nothing outrageous and the noise level was decent only when something noteworthy happened; it wasn't sustained. As the third quarter opened, Barge and sr. DL Brandon Chatmon combined for a TFL, then Hunter recorded a sack. Kegler did rumble for 15 yards, but that left the Burrs four yards short and a punt placed the ball on Imhotep's 31. Zoom! Williams ran 26 yards and a personal foul added 15 more. Two plays later, another PF placed the ball at 11. Williams steamed for a TD, but, oops, a hold erased it. He did score from the 3 four plays later. That made it 20-8. West got rolling and finally we had some juice. The fans on both sides got into it and one couldn't help but think, "Maybe this will still turn into a classic." There was a 24-yard pass to sr. WR Shaquille James, and that was followed two plays later by a 23-yarder to jr. WR Patrick Amara. But on the next play, McCollum lost the handle on a right-side keeper and sr. DB Najee Goode made the recovery along Imhotep's sideline. How'd this series start? With yet another 15-yard infraction against West. Soph Nasir Bonner, one of the backup TBs, reeled off gains of 13, 12 and 10 yards on consecutive plays and scored from the 4 three plays later. All we had left was only a hint of drama. And soon we'd have none. West's next series was a three-and-out as pass breakups by Hunter and jr. LB Kahiree Hasan surrounded a sack by sr. LB Quinzell Lassiter. The Panthers' first play? Outta here!! Williams raced for a 63-yard TD. Barge's special moment occurred shortly thereafter. The Panthers's grunts aside from Barge were jr. C Gordon Thomas, sr. G Tevin Gadson-Jones, and jr. Ts Aaron Ruff and Taleem Muhammad (yes, four of the five guys are underclassmen). Though West also has a lot of important underclassmen, it's hard not to believe that this victory signals the beginning of a wonderful era at 'Tep. The Panthers will be locked into AA next season, as well, but the classifications will change for 2014. By then maybe Imhotep will be large enough to bump upward to AAA and go head to head with Wood? This is the first time since 1999 that West's season is over before Thanksgiving and the 32-point loss its worst since a 47-0 setback vs. Penn Wood on TG in 2001. Thirteen days earlier, the Burrs had fallen to McDevitt, 35-0, for the ol' Catholic Blue title. Meanwhile, check out what website legend Jon "Duck" Gray wrote in one of his 2008 reports: my stomach tells me that the Pub’s best hope for long-term success could be in Northwest Philadelphia. That's where Imhotep is located (not far from La Salle University). Assistant Eric Richardson let me know about this nugget shortly after the game ended. Wise man, that Duck! (smile)
University City 40, Edison 0
Well, we could have had a legendary scenario today, but the PIAA wouldn't give its approval, according to Pub sports czar Robert Coleman. First because of Hurricane Sandy fallout (West Philly) and then because of the ever-popular bus miseries (U. City), Edison's games of the previous two weeks weren't played. This one was scheduled to be played AT West and at around 10:30 a.m. this idea hit me: Let's play two! Nope, not two full games. Two half-games. Crazy, you say? Guess what? In 1967, the Pub championship was decided by two half-games after Edison, Central and Bartram finished in a three-way tie. Here's the recap . . .
PUBLIC AAAA FINAL
Frankford 30, Washington 16
In my early years of covering Pub football, starting with the ’76 season, it was almost a surprise when Frankford did NOT win the championship. The Pioneers did so or always came close. The tides have shifted in recent times and Washington has earned that always-a-pretty-good-shot-at-it distinction. Beyond that, the Eagles have become pretty adept at winning title games against opponents to which they’d lost during the regular season. So, what happened today and into tonight? (The game started at 4 p.m.) Drama was removed quite early as Frankford stormed to a 23-0 lead. I can’t provide tangible ins and outs because I didn’t arrive until shortly before halftime, having covered the La Salle-Prep Cath AAAA final at Plymouth-Whitemarsh. That one required overtime and close to 15 minutes were wasted just trying to get out of the parking lot (ugh). As for first half specifics, Frankford scored on a 32-yard pass from sr. QB Tim DiGiorgio to jr. WR Brandon Jack, a safety (ball centered through end zone), a 64-yard scamper by jr. RB Damion Samuels and a 12-yard return of a midair fumble by jr. OLB Marquise Poston (hit by jr. DT Kadar Jones). Washington did get on the board thanks to a 48-yard pass from sr. QB Dave Gavrilov to sr. WR Shaquon Allen, so at least the first 24 minutes were not completely one-sided. Honestly, not a whole happened in the third quarter – the ball stayed, literally, between the 30s until the very last moments -- and that made for tough viewing because La Salle-Prep had been so entertaining. On the next-to-last play, Gavrilov hit sr. FB-WR Joshua “Texas” Macauley for a 22-yard pickup to the 25 and an offside call kept the ball moving forward. The momentum continued as Gavrilov connected with jr. WR Rasheed Black for 15 more yards. Following an incompletion, Gavrilov hooked up with Allen for a 10-yard score and jr. RB Ken Everage added the conversion run. OK, heeeerrrre we goooooo!. The spread is down to seven and things could get interesting. Frankford’s first two plays were runs by jr. Quinton Ellis and they produced just two yards and one, respectively. The stops were made by soph LB Shawn Henderson and then soph DT Dawayne Young. The Eagles then gave up a 37-yard, left-side fade to sr. WR Denzel Turbeville before stiffening. Henderson and jr. DT Zaire Hollerway combined to post a 3-yard TFL on second down. Frankford’s left-footed punter, jr. Prince Cooper, lofted a 40-yarder to the 1 and the ball remained out of the end zone due to great hustle by Poston. Ninety-nine yards for a potential tie or lead. Would they be earned? Nope. Only three of ‘em. On third down from the 4, Gavrilov tried a right-side curl to sr. WR Rene Villafane. Sensing the Eagles would go with that play at some point, Poston had eased out little by little while telling jr. CB Anthony Wright-Downing, who attends Sankofa Charter, to make sure to have his back. Boy, did that happen! Poston picked off the pass at the 10 and then collided with Villafane, causing the ball to pop loose. Next came one of those suspended-animation moments where no one was quite sure what was going to happen. Then, pffffft, Wright-Downing came racing forward, picked up the ball at the 5 and easily proceeded into the end zone. The line judge raised his hands to signal a touchdown and, of course, all Frankford folks went sufficiently berserk. Washington would get two final possessions. Each was terminated on play No. 2 by an interception. Sr. DB Renz “Rodeo” Compton went first, followed by jr. DB Christian Santiago (second of game). The most emotional moments came after the game as fill-in coach Juan Namnun gathered the Pioneers. Wait. Where was coach Will Doggett? He’d headed to his native Louisiana one day earlier to be with his gravely ill mother, known to all as Polly. While sufficiently ssshhhushing the players, Namnun told them he was going to make a cell-phone call to Doggett. He tapped the phone, the call went through and Namnun roared, "Hey, Doggett, we've got something to tell you!" . . . Pause . . . "Guess what, Doggett? You're a CHAMPION!!" It was a very emotional scene and that instant will remain with each player/coach/witness for the rest of his life. Next for Frankford will be the Peffle Bowl against La Salle – a k a the City Title – at 4 o’clock Saturday at Northeast. I’m calling it the Peffle Bowl because Bob Peffle, an alumnus, was Frankford’s long-time baseball coach while also coaching La Salle’s soccer team. After retiring from the school district as a teacher, he added school-day duties at La Salle. He’s still in charge of the soccer squad (his Explorers have advanced to the state semifinals) and assists baseball boss Joe Parisi. The state soccer final in La Salle's classification will be played Saturday at 6:30 in Hershey. Hmmmm. I'm smellin' a special moment. "Peff" heads to Northeast, flips the coin in the pregame ceremony, then rushes to Hershey! Just kidding. But that would be cool. (On a serious note, if the soccer Explorers do win Tuesday, maybe the school should push for a flip of the City Title games? Let AAAA go first at 1, followed by the Bok-Wood AAA game at 4. That way La Salle rooters with dual-sport interest could see both finals. Just a thought . . . )
CATHOLIC AAAA FINAL
La Salle 28, SJ Prep 27 (OT)
The Explorers not only own a fifth consecutive title, they're proving to be quite proficient when it comes to table turning. As in '08 and '09, La Salle conquered an opponent that had dealt it losses during the regular season. The victims those first two times were Judge and Prep, and the Hawks had the misfortune of falling again today. In heartbreaking fashion, no less. We flash right to the extra session. As most know, OT sessions in football are like baseball innings. Each team gets to "bat." La Salle won the toss and opted to go second in the session, which was held at the south end of P-W's stadium. Teams almost always chose that route, just as home teams always have an advantage in baseball. You know exactly where you stand. It didn't take long for the Hawks to dent the scoreboard. On a left-side toss, soph RB Olamide Zaccheaus sprinted in surprisingly easy fashion to the left corner for a 10-yard score and the Hawks led, 27-21. Alas, the PAT was unsuccessful as sr. DB Dad Poquie made great penetration and appeared to startle the Hawks on the heels of a snap-hold glitch. La Salle began with a flip from sr. Chris Kane to sr. WR Sean Coleman. The latter was held as he tried to free himself and that placed the ball on the 5. Kane then tried to hit soph handyman Jimmy Herron at the right hash mark. The pass was a shade low and Herron couldn't hang on, though he definitely thought he should have. The next play featured a right-to-middle slant pattern for Coleman. Bingo! If not wide open, Coleman was very much sufficiently open and the TD brought sr. K-P Ryan Winslow (Pitt) onto the field. All he had to do was hit the PAT and the Explorers would be going NUTS. One problem. A few problems, actually. "Winny" had not experienced the best afternoon due to two missed field goals (from usually-automatic distances of 22 and 34 yards) and a blocked punt. He completed a 4-for-4 outing on PATs, however, by lofting the ball inside the right upright by a distance that wasn't close enough to it to cause consternation. All of the usual emotions were instantaneously evident: complete ecstasy for the Explorers and their fans; complete devastation for Prep people. It was absolutely fitting that Kane and Coleman connected for TD No. 4 because they'd also been pitch-catch partners on the first three. What an afternoon these guys had! Kane finished 31-for-46 for 328 yards while claiming city playoff records for completions (old mark 22) and attempts (42) and tying the standard for TDs (La Salle's John Harrison in '06 and Drew Loughery in '08 also notched four). Coleman posted 14 snags for 138 yards and the four TDs. He now owns the city playoff marks for catches (old record 12) and TDs (seven guys had collected three). The first time around, Kane routinely faced pressure and tossed three interceptions. In this meeting he threw just one while being sacked just one time, as well. (There was much debate on that one. Had his arm been going forward?) Kane slapped together completions streaks of eight, seven and eight again and he struggled only in the final six minutes of regulation (1-for-7 with the pick, by sr. S Dan Sherry). Winslow's missed field goals came with 2:35 left in the first quarter (22-yarder, wide left) and with 7:59 showing in the second quarter (34-yarder, left it short). La Salle was dominating the ball to that juncture as Prep had managed just two first downs to six for the Explorers. The good defensive vibrations continued as two tackles by high-motor jr. LB Zaire Franklin helped to force another three-and-out. La Salle took over on its 41 and Kane used a left-side, loft-it-up-there-and-run-under-it play (or fade, if you prefer brevity -- smile) to produce a 44-yard gain. Kane then hit Herron for 7 yards to the 8, Sherry and sr. LB Todd Jones combined to drop sr. RB Jared Herrmann for a 1-yard loss and Kane hit Coleman for the score on a 9-yard, right-to-middle slant. La Salle regained possession six plays later as sr. DL Andrew Carlone created a free-for-all situation by deflecting a pass upward. Sr. DL David Losier bearhugged it in to notch an interception. On this 69-yard drive (all passes), Kane hit five receivers. The big plays were a leaping, left-side catch by Herron for 21 yards and a 19-yarder along the right sideline by sr. TE Andrew Halton. The TD followed immediately on a 3-yard, left-side fade to Coleman. So much for sittin' pretty at 14-0. Jawan McAllister registered the blocked punt shortly into the third quarter and the Hawks got the ball at the 23. Jr. QB Chris Martin connected with Zaccheaus for 20 yards, then runs of 2 yards by jr. RB Vincent Moffett and 1 by Martin got the ball into the end zone. Again the Hawks' defense came through, limiting La Salle to three plays. A 15-yard facemask penalty provided an immediate boost, runs of 13 and 17 yards by Martin and Zaccheaus were huge and soon, Zaccheaus was scoring on a 37-yard screen pass pretty much up the middle. La Salle's answer? A scoring drive. Seventy-six yards in 11 plays, with the capper a 20-yarder to Coleman on the first play of the fourth quarter (Herron provided a good block). Prep's answer? Came a whole lot quicker, folks. Zaccheaus gathered in the kickoff and afterburned his way to a 90-yard TD! In the waning moments of regulation, the aforementioned sack of Kane produced a turnover (hit by frosh DL Joe DuMond, recovery by sr. DE Shane Williams) at La Salle's 36 with 57.8 left. Martin kept to the left side for 13 yards. Soph RB John Reid gained 2 yards on two straight carries. The ball was toward the left hash and Martin went to his right for a keeper that no doubt was designed to place the ball in the middle for the upcoming field goal attempt by sr. Kyle Battin. La Salle coach Drew Gordon called an ice-him timeout and during that time frame, Prep coach Gabe Infante spoke with Battin in animated fashion away from the rest of the offensive players. The distance was 40 yards. Not exactly automatic for a high school kid. Especially in such a pressure situation. The kick had no chance. It was way too low . . . The teams' first meeting, if you remember, featured TWELVE turnovers. Six for each team. This one was much, much cleaner (impossible not to be, right?) and will long be remembered for its combination of great performances and the nail-biting finish. I have Franklin with 14 tackles and it's possible a couple/few were missed. He was amped even during warmups and just kept bringin' it again and again. He recorded four TFLs along with two no-gain stops and on five more plays the gain was no more than three yards. Outstanding performance! In the last nine seasons, the Prep thrice has dropped title games by one point (also 14-13 to O'Hara in '04 and 10-9 to Roman in '07). Though the overflow crowd was impressive, the number of spectators did not quite match the turnout for the teams' regular season nighttime meeting.
CLASS A DISTRICT 1-12 SUBREGIONAL (FIRST ROUND)
Comm Tech 18, Morrisville 0
A very uncommon sight was available for your viewing pleasure tonight. I mean, really, how often does a football squad slap together a 17-play drive? Usually, a team commits a turnover or runs out of gas before a drive reaches that high a play total. But after soph DB Devon Brunson made an interception on the 3 and added a 7-yard return to terminate the game's first possession, CT marked 90 yards in 17 plays on a surface (game played at Morrisville, across the river from Trenton, NJ) still muddy from recent rains. Sr. RB Diquan Gilbert got things started with runs of 16 and 11 yards and, two plays later, added a 12-yarder. Only one other play went for as many as 10 yards (also a run by Gilbert), then sr. RB Losseni "Lo-So" Karamoko finally did the paymud honors with a 6-yard sweep around the right side. The direction was hardly a surprise. Most of the plays on that drive, and many that followed, were run to the right as coach John Gossett depended heavily on the blocking skills of jr. TE Steven Kargobai, sr. T Herron "Bake" McBride and sr. G Chris Stanley. Kargobai wound up with the cyber attention due to his path-clearing and the fact he caught a pass from sr. QB Zaki Jamison for a 32-yard TD. As he admitted, his hands are not exactly golden and he even offered that one of the nicknames pinned on him by teammates is "Sir Drops a Lot." Well, in this one it could have been "Drops a Lot of Defenders on their Backsides" because his blockin' was niiiiice. Kargobai's TD catch capped the first drive of the third quarter and came on a slant. He had to slip free from a "sure" tackle, too, so it was an impressive play overall. Late in the third quarter, sr. DL Tylik Womack recovered a fumble at CT's 37 and the Phoenix embarked on a 63-yard scoring drive. This one lasted 10 plays and Gilbert capped it from the 6 with -- don't faint from shock here -- a run to the right. Gilbert (23-138) and Karamoko (17-101) combined for 40 carries and, in all, the Phoenix ran 56 plays. Sr. DB Darius Sanders also had an interception while the other fumble recovery went to sr. DE Terrance Brown. (His brother, Jordan Burney, who played varsity hoops last year for CT, is now playing football at Conwell-Egan, and he earned All-Catholic honors.) Also, the wild-and-crazy Tommy Godwin registered 2 1/2 TFLs as his twin brother, Bernard, who's injured, performed ballboy duties. Morrisville made a respectable attempt, but its possibilities were limited by the muddy field. The one Bulldog with impressive speed, Jimmy Miller, had trouble getting loose. Had a great pre-game talk with CT coach Lou Biester and mid-'70s basketball star Joe Garrett about the good, ol' days. Morrisville's field is a few blocks from the school and is set right into a neighborhood. The band marched over through the streets and that provided a nice, small-town feel. CT's opponent in the subregional final (details TBA) will be Bristol. Those teams met to open the season and CT triumphed, 38-12. Let the guarding against of overconfidence begin!
Future 16, King 6
Not a whole lot was happening through the first quarter and, shortly into the second, King fell short on a decent scoring opportunity and that placed the ball at Future's 23. And then . . . Outta here! On a sweep to the short (right) side, sr. RB Tawaun Vickers kept running and running, cutting back toward the middle of the field along the way, and the result was a 77-yard TD. He then added the conversion run and that would become important because, as the score line shows, the eventual spread was 10 points and the Firebirds were able to experience a hint of comfort down the stretch. There was no further scoring prior to halftime, but we did get to witness a cool moment. After sr. C-DL George Walley-Sephes punted for Future, the ball wound up going only 15 yards to the 34. (It was partially deflected; pretty sure by sr. LB Terrell Russell.) Anyway, the ball was laying on the ground and TWO guys -- Vickers and King QB-S Khaleel Stewart -- reached down to pick it up. And up it came with each guy still holding it; one hand apiece. Since no one blew a whistle, Stewart decided to wrestle it away and establish possession, and he managed a 5-yard gain. Future slapped together a nice drive to start the third quarter. Vickers (20 yards) and sr. FB Qaadir James (25 yards) opened it with impressive runs and sr. WR Adrian Elliott closed it with a 20-yard catch on a right-corner fade from soph QB Ronald Wade. Just three plays earlier, Russell had registered a 10-yard sack so everything did not go in completely smooth fashion. King's only score came with 8:40 left in the game as Russell returned a fumble 45 yards. The Cougars had one more possession and they did reach Future's 30. The game was almost over by that point, however, and a 5-yard sack by sr. DE Kayode Oduwaiye eliminated any drama (not that there was much). Vickers totaled 120 yards on 15 carries and James helped out with 7-53. Oduwaiye, Walley-Sephes and sr. DT Jameel Hinton were the Firebirds' most active defenders and sr. DB Khalir Blount-Hart, sitting in perfect position, COULD have had an interception if Vickers had not stepped in front of him to tip the ball (smile). Khalir playfully gave Tawaun a hard time, too. Like always, Stewart was most of King's offense. He passed 31 times (13 completions, 93 yards) and carried seven more times while the team's other 15 plays were runs by jr. RB Kalehf Harris (51 yards). Almost all of the catches were divided by sr. WR Aaron Carter (5-31), jr. WR Isaiah Perry (4-29) and sr. TE Darnell Moore (3-26). Coach John Sheroda is particularly high on Carter as a player and person and pictures him surfacing someday as a coach. Almost no one watched this tilt. Not sure what's happening at King, but the school spirit level appears to be zilch. The kids can't feel too good about the fact no one comes out to support them. I mean, the game was right on campus. No way every kid in that school hustles to McDonald's after the final bell to work part-time jobs. Oh, well . . . In the fourth quarter, a pass by Wade was incomplete. Wait. No, it wasn't. It sailed over the sideline and was caught by Sheroda. With only one (left) hand. He was holding one of the game balls in his right hand when this happened. When praised for the catch was heaped upon him, he noted with a laugh, "It was like someone threw me a beer." Damond "Smash" Warren, former coach at King and Bartram and now an administrator at Future, was in attendance. Ditto for former King basketball star Lormont Sharp, who walked up and down King's sideline in the first half to tape the proceedings (and kept busting my chops that he wasn't included on King's 35-year basketball team -- ha ha). Lormont has done some quality writing for this site. Maybe he'll decide to return? Good seeing you, 'Mont!
Germantown 22, Franklin 14
In some ways, the fact that these teams were tied at 14-14 after three quarters was rather surprising. Why? Well, Germantown dominated in terms of plays run and time of possession while Franklin notched its TDs on back-to-back touches. Da Bears scored twice in the second quarter and wideouts Delane Hart (jr.) and Darnell Baldwin (sr.) were prominent. Hart posted catches of 23 and 39 (for a TD) on an 80-yard drive and the first one gave him G-town's school record for receiving yards in a season. How far back had the mark been posted? Not very. Myles Brooker, now at St. Francis (Pa.), notched 692 in 2011. Hart's total stands at 740, but he couldn't stand too easily after the TD catch due to a kick in the shin and he had to settle for spectating the rest of the way. Thus, Baldwin, a good student who's being eyed by the likes of Villanova, Fordham and Bucknell, became more prominent. He had a 14-yard, drag-guys-along catch to set up the second score, a 1-yard burrow by jr. QB Cedric Wright 46.5 ticks prior to halftime, and his 17-yard snag, on fourth and 8 from roughly midfield, provided a big boost on what became the winning drive. Sr. RB Barry Boyd immediately ripped off a 21-yard gain to the 15, then soph RB Ishmael Dargan posted runs of seven and eight yards to get the ball to the end zone. He took the last one to the right side behind sr. TE Chris Rone (treMENDous catch of a conversion pass), sr. T Darius Hinton and sr. G Brandon Thornton. Franklin did collect two first downs on its last chance, but on fourth and 11 from its own 45, sr. WR Emmanuel Young was unable to make the catch on a ball that was thrown ever so slightly behind him. Franklin's aforementioned scores? With 7:26 left in the third quarter, sr. LB Amir Crippen picked off a pass and returned the ball 45 yards to payturf. A batted pass by sr. DT Patrick Kulp helped to limit G-town's next series to three plays and Franklin took over at the Bears' 48. See ya! Sr. RB Tyriek Coaxum ran right up the middle -- untouched, pretty sure -- for a TD. For G-town, Thornton had a TFL and sack in the early going and sr. DT Avion Plummer made two clutch tackles on a series shortly before halftime. Later, soph LB Yusef Russell forced a fumble (recovery to jr. LB Jordan Alexander, Rone had a sack, jr. DT Dontae "All Beef" Angus (6-6, 310) had a pair of TFLs and Alexander hustled for a sack on Franklin's next-to-last play. For the Electrons, sr. DB Andre "Student" Council caused numerous bruises by coming up hard to unleash hard hits. Frosh CB Brian "Stick Man" Harvey, sr. DL Bycil Elliot and No. 42 (not listed on roster) also had some nice moments. Germantown sr. FB-LB Antwain Kitt boasts a thick trunk and appears to be very strong. I heard a teammate ask him how many pounds he could bench press and he said 225. The followup question was, "How many can you squat?" Antwain told him, "Probably 450." The American flag at the south end of Germantown's field is rather tattered. Coach Mike Hawkins said the players mentioned that to him and he told them, "I brought that in from Fort McHenry." He added, "No response. Blank looks. Went right over their heads." Meanwhile, check out a photo of Tamika Henry, the mother of Germantown's Raheem Henry. She certainly came prepared for the cold weather! (smile).
NOTE ABOUT SPECIAL EFFORT
(Provided by Chris Carabello, La Salle, and Bill Avington, SJ Prep)
The Prep and La Salle to Join Forces to Assist Victims of Hurricane Sandy
St. Joseph's Prep and La Salle College High School will be joining forces off the field on Saturday to help those impacted by Hurricane Sandy. In conjunction with the Philly Football Movement, a non-profit organization dedicated to teaching young athletes what it takes to be outstanding student-athletes and outstanding members of their communities, both schools are encouraging their communities to bring the following donations to Saturday's Philadelphia Catholic League AAAA Championship:
- Ready to Eat Foods (canned soup, chili, etc.)
- Cleaning Supplies
All donations will be delivered to the Food Bank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties for families displaced and in need from the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy. Please bring your donations to the 1 p.m. game at Plymouth Whitemarsh High School Football Field. There will be a U-Haul at the front gate where students from the Prep and La Salle, as well as student-athletes who work with the Philly Football Movement, will be collecting the goods for donation.
PUBLIC AAAA SEMIFINAL
Washington 28, Central 0
When these teams met during the regular season, on a Friday afternoon at Central, the Eagles were semi-lifeless. Not so tonight under the much better lights at Northeast. (Two light standards now have every bulb in action. Nice! Maybe five-six bulbs in the other two are still out, so let's hope they get replaced, also.) The Eagles' juice was evident from the get-go and, like my afternoon game at Episcopal, there was no doubt over which team would win. Washington owned a 14-0 lead after 4 minutes, 39 seconds, thanks to sr. RB Marquis Edwards' 4-yard run and jr. RB Ken Everage's 35-yard burst up the middle. Sr. FB Joshua "Texas" Macauley set up the first score with a 51-yard snag and he tallied the third one himself with a 46-yarder just before the first quarter ended. Central did play better defense thereafter, but experienced game-long struggles on offense. Honestly, its line was roughed up by the bigger and stronger Eagles. Central ran 41 rushing plays. Sixteen resulted in losses (for 78 yards!), counting two that were caused by off-target center snaps. The Eagles' D-line included sr. E Justin Moody, jr. E Tyrone McNeil, soph T Dawayne Young and jr. T Zaire Hollerway. They pretty much lived in Central's backfield and their dominance allowed the linebackers and d-backs to make big plays as well. Sr. DB Shaquon Allen added a sack and made a hit to force a fumble (recovery to soph LB Shawn Henderson) while, on back-to-back plays in the third quarter, sr. DB Kendall Truitt notched an 11-yard sack and an interception. That set up the final TD, a 13-yard pass from Gavrilov (did not yield to sr. Al Augustine at halftime) to sr. TE Rene Villafane. Against second-liners, the Lancers get a chance at a fourth quarter TD and a 20-yard pass to jr. handyman Walter Pegues got things started. Runs of eight and six yards, respectively, by sr. RBs Hakeem Ellis (somehow, he avoided getting dropped for a loss all night) and Jesse Gillis got the ball from the 20 to the 6. On fourth down from the 8, the snap was off-kilter and jr. QB Jon Henderson was dropped at the 15 by Allen and sr. DE Shaquille Black. Central got one last chance, but a 4-yard sack by soph DB Dwight Harris helped to ruin it. At halftime, Washington's Drumline came down onto the field and put on a great performance right at the bench area. The group's captain is sr. Lawrence Mitchell and he was KILLIN' it on the quads (two large drums flanking two small ones). Long-time stat sidekick Keith Hines and Paul Schneider combined to cover the Frankford-Northeast semi and The Puckster showed up during the second half of this one after hustling back from the Bonner-Prendie/Lansdale CL AAA semi. During their conversations, Keith and Puck even made sense about one-tenth of the time. Ha, ha, ha. Among the on-field visitors after the game were former Mastbaum stars Chafie Fields and Antoine Brown. Chafie, who starred at Penn State, is related to Augustine.
Episcopal 47, Germantown Academy 0
These Churchmen deserve at least a wow! It's possible the last word in that previous sentence should be written in larger letters and bold-faced and perhaps followed by more exclamation points, but it's tough to be positive off one glance. Plus, EA has one game remaining and if something goes wrong and the dream season goes poof, most of the up-to-now dominance will be rendered meaningless. Well, not meaningless. But you get the point. The Churchmen's last game will be Saturday at archrival Haverford School. Both teams will enter at 4-0 in I-A play. Beyond seeking to win the I-A crown, EA will be trying to become the first non-Malvern I-A team since Penn Charter in 1993 to finish with a perfect record. The Churchmen, meanwhile, last went perfect in '81 at 8-0 (although the '83 squad came close at 7-0-1; the tie was against PC). Anyway . . . Those hoping for even a hint of drama experienced early disappointment. Sr. handyman Ian Strain returned the opening kickoff 30 yards to the 35 and sr. QB Adam Strouss turned a keeper into a 65-yard TD. Pretty sure he wasn't touched. EA. GA's first play produced a 9-yard TFL for sr. DL Jack Florio and sr. DE Evan Butts followed immediately with a 6-yard sack. Soon, sr. LB Teddy Ibarguen was partially blocking the punt and EA was getting possession on GA's 39. On third and fourth down, jr. LB Cliff David and jr. LB Myles Anthony made stops for no gain, but GA's offense again was unproductive and just six plays were needed to cover 56 yards. Half of 'em came on the last play, a flip from Strouss to Butts. Early second quarter? Three TDs in 4 minutes, 1 second. On just eight plays. Butts caught a 65-yarder at 10:48 on a one-play "drive." Hager pounded the kickoff into the end zone and jr. DB Terrell Smith posted an immediate interception. Strain ran for seven yards, then Strouss and Hager connected on an absolute beauty. In the strong wind, the pass appeared to be slightly overthrown. But Hager went into full-layout mode and caught the ball with maybe the last tenth of an inch of his fingertips. Outstanding! He then missed the PAT and PA announcer Joe Addona, father of sr. lineman Dom Addona, said, Hager "might have been tired from that catch." Ha, ha. (Sounding more like Merrill Reese than Dan Baker, as in a play-by-play guy instead of a PA man, he had a few more entertaining comments. After Butts recovered a fumble, Joe said, "Got a gift on that one. It was laying right there for him." Also, when GA was unsure about whether to chance things on fourth down, he came out with, "Time out by the Patriots. They want to talk about this one.") Butts had two TFLs on the next series and EA was back in the end zone at 6:47, thanks to Strouss' 2-yard run. The big play on that thrust was Strouss' 34-yard keeper off a bobbled snap. Oh, remember the 65-yarder that got things started? That one appeared to be a broken play. After taking the snap, Adam was holding out the ball, as if he was expecting someone to accept a handoff. Um, nobody was there. So he took off and frolicked. EA added one TD apiece in the third and fourth quarters, a 10-yard run by Strouss and a 2-yarder by frosh Dee Barlee. EA is a deep squad, so there was a bit of revolving-dooring going on. But the main grunts appeared to be soph C John Minicozzi, jr. G Mike Watkins (impressive at LB, especially in the tone-setting early stages), sr. G Robbie Ibarguen, sr. T Jack Florio (mentioned above for defense) and Dante Addona. Jr. Connor Longen also saw time at G (and if there were other guys in the main rotation, or if I messed this up, please fire off an email -- smile). Aside from his fumble recovery and two TD catches, Butts logged two sacks, two TFLs and two bat-downs. GA jr. QB Hayes Nolte finished 14-for-27 for 137 yards. He truly has the look, but was a shade off in this one. The wind was part of that, but I have a sense some passes just were not on target. Two of his top receivers, Lou Stevens and Joe Taylor, are seniors, but Kyle Donahue is a junior and other guys no doubt will step forward for '13. The Patriots' best defensive moments were enjoyed by sr. LB Patrick Cawley. Had a nice halftime talk with Bill Doherty, who back-in-the-day covered high school sports for the Inquirer and now heads EA's communications department. Best of luck with the new job, Bill!
CATHOLIC AAAA SEMI
SJ Prep 29, Ryan 6
(At Germantown’s Ben Johnston Memorial Stadium)
It happens every late fall. Coaches around the city are looking for another way to move the football and they realize, “Hey, we DO have a tight end.” After watching film, the Hawks noticed Ryan, in certain situations, could be vulnerable to passes toward the middle and that’s where sr. TE Dan Sherry, also a safety and the FOUR-year punter, came into play. Literally. He scored twice in the first six minutes – a 55-yarder, then a 15-yarder; passes by jr. QB Chris Martin – and the Prep, as things turned out, owned all the points it would need. Did the win come in as easy-as-pie fashion? Hardly. Truth is, very late in the third quarter the gritty Raiders were still hangin’ around and, at 22-6, it was still a two-score game. A 32-yard pass from jr. QB Mark Ostaszewski to jr. WR Bobby Romano, with a roughing-the-passer penalty tacked on, placed the ball at the 10. On third down, Ostaszewski was feeling heavy pressure and whipped the ball toward the end zone. It’s likely he was trying to avoid a sack as much as he was trying to target someone. Anyway, sr. DB Pat McCabe made a sprawling pick in the end zone. With star soph DB John Reid making his first RB appearance of the night, the Hawks collected three first downs before Romano intercepted Martin. Again the Raiders slapped together a decent drive and, on this one, they even forced the Prep to call back-to-back timeouts before a fourth-down play. An interference call placed the ball at the 12 and Ostaszewski steamed right on what had the look of an option. All of a sudden, the ball was on the turf, and McCabe was pouncing upon it. Soph RB Olamide “O” Zaccheaus gained five yards, offside yielded another five and, see ya, Zaccheaus raced for a 79-yard TD. Sherry, the recipient of philly.com attention, uncorked the night’s hardest hit while playing pass defense, added three tackles and twice dropped punts inside the 20. Thanks to jr. Rob DiSanto, who hustled downfield, one was downed at the 1. Sr. OLB Todd Jones was a terror with 14 tackles, including seven solos and four that were made behind the line. He also had a pick. Sr. DL Paul Johnson notched 10 stops and seven were solos. Soph DB Thomas Johnson made seven tackles. (Those numbers come courtesy of Puck, who watched the game from the press box – and whose babbling voice would be occasionally heard over the PA system.) Sr. DL Joe Ruskowski had a TFL and sack for Ryan and Romano notched a sack worth 15 yards. Ostaszewski, whose father, Mark, starred at RB for Ryan, experienced an exhausting evening. He was involved in 37 plays, running 20 times for 58 and passing 7-for-17 for 118. He got knocked out of action a couple times and could only witness the end-game sequence, having expended every last ounce of energy. Sr. RB Jeremiah Agrio finished with 79 yards on 24 rushes, with lots of help from a late 52-yarder. The Hawks were ON him throughout. Jr. handyman Connor Golden had an interesting night. On fake punts, he dashed for a 15-yard gain and completed a pass for seven yards. Then, right before halftime, he caught a middle screen and scrambled for a 21-yard gain to the 2. Agrio picked up one yard and Ostaszewski burrowed into the end zone with 6.8 seconds left. A Prep assistant said it was the first rushing TD allowed by the Hawks since the opener in Florida vs. Cocoa. Amazingly, Ryan ran 68 plays to Prep’s 43.
Franklin 12, Comm Tech 6
With 1,137 yards, sr. QB Michael Edwards now ranks as Franklin's one-season passing yardage leader and he earned the mark late in the second quarter with a 9-yard completion to sr. SB Bycil Elliot. That upped his total to 1,019, two better than Dwayne Lilley's 1,017 effort in '98. Just four more connections would occur, but one was certainly a doozy. With the score at 6-6, and with little more than 2 minutes remaining, and with Franklin stationed at its 10, thoughts of overtime were already dancing in folks' ahead. On third-and-15 from that location, sr. DE Terrance Brown, who'd scored CT's TD with a 62-yard interception return on the last play of the third quarter, dropped the ball on what could/should have been another pilfer. Given that second life, Edwards dropped back slightly and whipped the ball far downfield to sr. WR Emmanuel Young. The Electrons were headed toward the cemetery end of 29th Street Stadium and Young was running, basically, a shade beyond the left-side hash marks. The ball passed his right shoulder, dropped right into his hands and, zoom, soon he owned a 90-yard TD! CT's final chance at its 40. Frosh CB Brian Harvey and jr. DL Nagee Brown combined to stop sr. RB Diquan Gilbert, who was outstanding at LB, for no gain. Sr. Yusuf Young (six yards) and sr. DL Patrick Kulp (nine) recorded sacks, then Elliot and jr. LB Jymil Harmon combined to limit sr. QB Zaki Jamison to five yards on fourth down. Ballgame. With that, the cheerleaders dashed onto the field at the west end and formed two lines. After the handshake ritual, the Electrons ran/trotted up there, looped around the goalpost and came running excitedly through the lines. Cool tradition. Franklin scored its first TD with 3:50 left in the first quarter on Edwards' 6-yard draw. That drive featured a 21-yard pass to Young and a 22-yard scramble by Edwards. Brown got his score on a great play. After sensing that the Electrons would be a opting for a right-side hitch, he jumped on the route, easily picked off the pass and had no trouble reaching the end zone. Meanwhile, shortly before halftime, there were four turnovers in a five-play span and five in seven! Here we go . . . On a sack, Nagee Brown recovered a fumble. Edwards completed a 14-yard pass to Elliot. Edwards tried a slant to Young and soph S Devon Brunson intercepted. Brunson caught a pass and tried a hook-and-lateral. The toss was off target and Harmon recovered. Edwards passed incomplete. Gilbert's sack forced Edwards to fumble and sr. DL Tylik Womack recovered. On another trick play, Gilbert took a handoff and flipped back to Jamison. No go. The ball was recovered by soph DB Rafael Rodriguez. Phew!! The pregame highlight? When Franklin coach David Carter, who starred as an Electron and then played his college ball at West Virginia, pretended to be a cheerleader. The girls were getting ready for the website group pic when David walked over and said, "Hold on, Ted." He then got down in front of the girls and did a partial split. While maintaining a hard-guy look on his face, of course. This happened before the players strolled onto the field for warmups and I showed the pic to a few of them. They were cracking up and by this time David was up in the press box, supervising the fetching of yard markers, chains, pylons, etc. He yelled down, playfully, that I'd better stop showing that to people. Ha, ha, ha. Fat chance. He knew what was gonna happen. You got it. The pic is in the photo set and is even listed as a special attraction on the homepage. As if he didn't know that would happen . . . smile.
Overbrook 16, Lincoln 13
The DN story, which featured sr. FB-LB Marice Tillman, largely focused on the Panthers' recent troubles . . . namely, a fight vs. Bartram that caused a subsequent forfeit and a late loss by archrival West Philly, to Mastery North, that robbed them of a playoff spot. If 'Brook, West and MN had finished in a three-way tie, 'Brook would have advanced to the playoffs because of its wins over those two opponents. Instead, MN will appear in this week's AAA semis. If the vast disappointment had produced an uninspired performance today, people would have understood. But the Panthers played with most of the necessary gusto and wound up leaving Mayfair with a victory. The first half ended with Lincoln ahead, 7-0, thanks to sr. RB Khalil Walker's 17-yard, first-quarter run and sr. Kevin Johnson's PAT. Overbrook jr. Antonio Lynn returned the second-half kickoff 29 yards to the 44 and, zoom, jr. RB Maurice Jarmon raced 56 yards for a score. Jr. RB Nasir Collins added a conversion run. Soph DB Bassey Ukpong and sr. LB Mackean Matthews posted TFLs on the Railsplitters' next series and Lynn soon reached payturf on a 17-yard burst; conversion run to Tillman. Lincoln answered with 9:03 left on sr. Miguel Sanchez' 8-yard quarterback draw, but two subsequent possessions were unproductive. A TFL by jr. DE Anthony Marcus (he also blocked a PAT) helped to thwart the first. A sack and batted-down pass by soph DL Shafiq Taylor ruined the second. Earlier, sr. DB Yvon "Buddy" Dessus posted a pair of interceptions. Tillman had five carries for 60 yards and twice made impressive stops after recognizing middle screens. Jarmon had 91 yards on eight rushes. Jr. QB Michael Shenoster (8-61) and Lynn (10-49) also had some moments. The linemen were Taylor at C, sr. Gs Timothy McCutchen and Khalil Johnson, sr. T Khasmere Blakney (6-7, 296) and jr. T Benjamin Cameron. Sanchez, a three-year starter, passed 6-for-17 for 58 yards and was under heavy pressure throughout. Plus, his receivers dropped some passes and didn't give up their bodies on others. The biggest hitters on defense were the little guys. Sr. S Giovanni Johnson, who's listed at 140 (maybe), uncorked six tackles in the game's first few minutes and finished with 13. Sr. LB Luke Weissinger, who goes just 155 (maybe), made two big plays in the fourth quarter to give the defense a huge lift. He then made a nice snag of a slant to post a 16-yard gain. Jr. Eric Asch posted a first half interception. Overall, Lincoln's top performer was Sue Kettyle. Wait, don't tell me the Railsplitters have a female player! Nope, Sue is the mother of jr. lineman Cody Kettyle (6-4, 320) and, wow, did she exhibit game-long energy. She was in the stands, or against the fence, yelling non-stop encouragement or whistling at very high volume. If not for themselves, the Railsplitters should have found a way to win for HER.