By John Knebels
Special to The CS&T
PLYMOUTH MEETING – From the reaction of the fans on both sides of the rain-drenched stands at Plymouth-Whitemarsh High School Sept. 26, one could have mistaken the just-completed football contest as the Catholic League championship.
In truth, it was just an early-season boxing match between two elite Catholic League AAAA spanision foes who spar as much on the gridiron as they do through the fans who trade verbal assaults – not all of them impressive – with one another.
But as non-playoff battles go, this spanision AAAA confrontation was a classic. Trailing since the midway point of the first quarter, St. Joseph’s Prep used a late touchdown pass and a defensive stand in the final seconds to beat La Salle College High School, 24-17. Both teams are now 3-1 overall.
“That was some game,” said Prep coach Gil Brooks, visibly animated with a hint of emotional fatigue. “It went back and forth. We got the job done.”
This was one of the rare times in recent memory when La Salle entered the contest as an arguably slight favorite over their private school nemesis. The Explorers’ high-powered aerial assault under the guidance of senior quarterback Drew Loughery and top-shelf receiver Sam Feleccia figured to be a major challenge for the Prep’s defensive secondary.
But La Salle, despite an outstanding contribution from sophomore Tim Wade (157 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries), was unable to withstand the efforts of the Prep’s defensive front.
After being baffled by Loughery’s ability to chew through their defense with a precisely-orchestrated scoring drive on the opening possession that ate almost half of the clock in the first quarter, the Hawks regained their composure and only surrendered one touchdown and field goal the rest of the way.
With his team trailing 17-6 as the final seconds ticked away in the first half, senior Steve O’Hara intercepted a pass and jaunted 50 yards to the La Salle 11. Three plays later, sophomore Skyler Mornhinweg threw a short pass to sophomore back Desmon Peoples, who adroitly sidestepped two tackle attempts before leaning into the end zone to cut the Prep’s deficit to 17-12.
As the rain continued to fall, the Prep seemed destined to lose to La Salle for the third straight time dating back to last season until a an eight-yard sack by O’Hara and a shanked punt gave the Hawks great field position at La Salle’s 41-yard line with 3:09 remaining in the fourth quarter.
After moving to La Salle’s 18, Mornhinweg lifted a perfect heave to the right side of the end zone, and when senior Bobby D’Orazio emerged through traffic with the ball, the Hawks led for the first time at 18-17, setting off a boisterous celebration from their soaked fans.
A late insurance touchdown by the Prep increased its advantage to 24-17, and the defense did the rest, although the Explorers’ never-say-die offense tested the Prep’s resolve when they drove to the Hawks’ 11-yard line before succumbing to a wave of sack-seeking defensive linemen.
Classy in defeat, Feleccia said not to read too much into the supposed animosity between the two prestigious schools.
“I don’t dislike them,” he said. “They’re a great bunch of players. Tonight we just didn’t make the plays we had to make.”
Feleccia said he would welcome a rematch in the postseason.
“That would be great,” he said. “But I still would have rather found a way to win tonight, too.”
In other Catholic League action Sept 25-26:
Cardinal O’Hara 39, Monsignor Bonner 20 – Corey Brown rushed for 122 yards and Dan O’Hara added 91 for the victorious Lions (3-0 overall, 1-0 league). Both players scored a pair of touchdowns for the Lions, who have outscored the opposition by 103-32 during their three-game winning streak. Sophomore John McGilligan caught three passes for 85 yards and a touchdown for the Friars (2-2, 1-1).
Father Judge 38, Archbishop Ryan 6 – The Crusaders (4-0, 1-0) remained undefeated behind Curt Wortham’s 115 yards and three touchdowns, which gave him eight scores for the season. Brian Murphy provided the Raiders (0-4, 0-1) their lone touchdown.
In AA action:
West Catholic 42, Archbishop Carroll 7 – Joshua Mathis was a one-man wrecking crew. The 5-foot, 5-inch, 140-pound junior only carried eight times, but he was able to accrue 161 yards and five touchdowns to help the Burrs (3-1, 1-0) recover from a tough 16-14 loss to La Salle the previous week. Carroll Quarterback Chris Shuster only threw two passes. He led the Patriots (1-3, 0-1) with 132 yards rushing on 10 carries. Bryant Moritz accounted for Carroll’s only touchdown.
Bishop McDevitt 44, Kennedy-Kenrick 6 – The Lancers (4-0, 1-0) remained red-hot thanks to five different players scoring touchdowns – three by Gary Postell, who now has six for the season and has scored in each of McDevitt’s four triumphs. Sean Bryson, Matt Conroy and Drew Siegfried also found the end zone. For the Wolverines (1-3, 0-1), Tim Young (six catches for 62 yards) caught a touchdown pass from freshman Jamel Stinson.
Conwell-Egan 28, Cardinal Dougherty 7 – The AAA Eagles (2-2) received big rushing performances from Anthony Singlar (164 yards, two touchdowns) and Kerry McAnany (93 yards, one TD) and a spirited performance on defense to snap AA Cardinal Dougherty’s three-game winning streak. Despite the setback, sophomore Nick Newman collected three receptions for 71 yards and a touchdown for the previously undefeated Cardinals (3-1).
John Knebels can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.