John Knebels

Run the ball effectively and good things happen. It’s a football mandate that is repeated time and again, and for good reason.

It’s accurate.

In the PIAA state quarterfinal round this past weekend, three Catholic League teams – St. Joseph’s Prep, Archbishop Wood, and Conwell-Egan – patiently kept handing the ball to their running backs. The result? All three teams advanced to this weekend’s semifinals.

Here’s how …

  • Prep runs up 49 points in rout over unbeaten team

Junior Marques Mason scored a career-high four touchdowns and sophomore Kolbe Burrell added two more as St. Joseph’s Prep overwhelmed previously unbeaten Parkland, 49-14, in a PIAA Class 6A clash Saturday, Nov. 25 at Bethlehem Stadium.

The Hawks (12-0) have now won 26 straight over a two-year period. Their next opponent (13-1 Coatesville, 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 1 at Downingtown West High School) will be a major challenge.

“I think they’re a great team all around, so we just need to prepare to play our best game of the year, just like we’ve been doing week by week,” said senior wide receiver Brandon Sanders. “Our only goal is to get better. We all have confidence in each other that we are able to get the job done no matter who is on the field. It all falls on us.”

While Mason (10 carries, 61 yards, three rushing touchdowns, one kickoff return TD) and Burrell (88 yards on 10 hauls) were both increasing their team-high touchdown total to 12, Sanders was the main cog in the passing game.

Sanders caught four passes for 104 yards and a 26-yard touchdown pass from senior Marquez McCray (9 for 14, 190 yards, two touchdowns), who also found sophomore Albert Rightly for a 46-yard scoring strike that ended the scoring with a quarter still to be played.

“I think that we all realize and it started to click that at this point we are playing just for one more week with each other,” said Sanders. “I think our brotherhood and family aspect allows us to look at the guy next to us and say, ‘I don’t want this to end.’ It’s amazing what we can do when we all play with such great love for each other and we trust that we’re all going to get our jobs done.”

Despite gaudy numbers, Mason wasn’t overly pleased with his individual performance.

“Stat-wise, yes, this performance is up there, but overall play, no,” said Mason. “I dropped a pass. I missed a few holes. Even from a game like this there is room for improvement.”

In the end, the Hawks’ few miscues did not matter on the scoreboard.

“We were just clicking and doing the little things right, which led to big plays,” said Mason. “Offense, defense, and special teams all came together and played a great game.”

  • Archbishop Wood cruises to 8th straight win

In a Class 5A battle Saturday at Northern Lehigh Valley, Archbishop Wood had no problem with Wyoming Valley West in a 41-14 rout.

Senior Nasir Peoples corralled 173 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries as the Vikings (10-2) won their eighth straight and established a semifinal date with 14-1 Unionville 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 1 at Northeast High School, Philadelphia.

“We prepared all week for this game,” said senior Albert Glasgow. “We knew everything they were going to do from watching film and going over it on practice. Also, we knew they were a big team, so we knew we had to be technically sound and fire off low.

“The defense also played great. Wyoming Valley West was a team that was going to try to run the ball and get three or four yards a play. Our defense prevented that and got their offense off of the field, which was huge for us.”

Wood’s offensive line of Glasgow, junior Connor Bishop, senior Tommy Walsh, junior Luke Stengel, and junior Brett Gross basically did anything it wanted.

Benefitting most from their prowess were senior Adrian Lambert (54 yards rushing and two touchdowns) and junior Chris Blackstone (three carries for 52 yards). Junior quarterback Jack Colyar found senior tight end Kyle Pitts for a 37-yard scoring connection.

“I thought we prepared really well for this week,” said Colyar. “Coach (Steve) Devlin always says every battle is won before it’s fought because of preparation, and we were really ready for the game. We just went out and executed and things took care of themselves.”

Wood senior Eric Bauer concurred.

“I’d say the thing that really helped us do so well today was our preparation,” said Bauer. “We watched a lot of film and figured out their scheme. We did a really good job of recognizing the sets and following the tendencies of what plays they ran out of those formations.”

Devlin likes what he has been seeing on a weekly basis.

“We are playing at a high level with a ton of intensity,” said Devlin. “We are executing on both sides of the ball.”

  • Getting hot at the right time, Conwell-Egan keeps rolling

In a Class 3A contest, Conwell-Egan stunned previously undefeated Palisades, 34-17, last Saturday at Northeast High School. Palisades entered the game 14-0 while the Eagles were “only” 6-6.

Now Palisades is 14-1 and Conwell-Egan is 7-6, winners of three straight, and six of its last nine.

As he has been throughout the season, junior Patrick Garwo was virtually unstoppable. The Catholic League Blue Division Most Valuable Player carried 30 times for 276 yards and three touchdowns, increasing his season total to 1,838 yards and 27 scores. Freshman Dajaun Harris added 97 yards and two touchdowns on 12 rushes.

Providing many of the blocks were senior linemen Gino Turchi and Quameer Francis.

“We just put all the pieces together,” said Turchi. “A lot of adversity surfaced against us, and we took that in stride and kept going. We took all the cards we were dealt and made them work, and that’s all we can really do.”

Francis said the disparity in penalties (the Eagles were flagged almost three times more often than their foe) provided an obstacle.

“The penalties took their toll on us a bit, but we played through it,” said Francis. “We knew that there would be mistakes, but we also knew that we couldn’t let those mistakes and penalties stop how we play.”

Garwo recognizes that the Eagles’ next challenge will be their toughest of the season. At 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 2 at West Chester Rustin High School, the Eagles will face a Middletown High School team that is 13-0 and has outscored its two tournament opponents by a composite 84-0.

“We have to fix a lot of things for next week,” said Garwo. “We feel ready. We are ignoring the noise and focusing on Middletown and getting better every day.”

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John Knebels can be reached at Jknebels@gmail.com or on Twitter @johnknebels.