By John Knebels
Special to The C Pilgrims Unit Study S&T
Sometimes a team loses a game and still manages to make a good impression.
That’s precisely what North Catholic did last Saturday afternoon at Frankford High School.
Facing a Cardinal O’Hara team that was physically bigger and healthier, North Catholic remained more than respectable in a 23-6 defeat.
It was the kind of loss that leaves coaches both pleased and disappointed, but in this case, it was more of the former than the latter.
“I said to the kids that this was probably the first time I ever lost a game but didn’t feel like I had just gotten kicked in the stomach,” said sixth-year coach Chalie Szydlik. “O’Hara is a very strong football team. They’re a force to handle. They are excellent on both sides of the ball. We knew coming in we would have our hands full, and we did.”
That’s mostly because the Lions possess arguably the most explosive offensive player in the Catholic League. Senior Corey Brown, who has already committed to play running back at Ohio State University next fall, usually leaves his opponents battered, bruised and sometimes, thanks to his penchant for escaping tackles, embarrassed.
That didn’t happen against the Falcons.
After gouging the Lions’ first two foes for a composite 271 yards and five touchdowns on 38 carries, Brown managed “only” 101 yards rushing. He also added five catches for 55 yards and a touchdown.
But at halftime, Brown was sitting on 30 yards rushing – his lowest output in two seasons. North’s ability to prevent Brown from appearing superhuman was reflected in a 10-0 deficit heading into the third quarter.
“You have to give North credit,” said Brown. “They’re a good football team. In order to come out on top, we wanted to wear them down.”
O’Hara (3-0 record overall) did precisely that. Because of injuries to star senior tailback Eugene Byrd and maturing sophomore backfield mate Taishan Tucker, North Catholic (1-2) was unable to sustain any consistent ball control. Adding to the Falcons’ struggle to execute key receptions that would have provided long gains, the domino effect proved lethal, as it allowed more opportunities for Brown and his offensive line to physically wear down the willing-but-fatigued Falcons.
By the time North Catholic had severed O’Hara’s shutout bid in style – a magnificent 87-yard scoring strike from junior quarterback Anthony Reid to classmate Dave Sherman with 10:45 left in regulation – the Lions had already built a commanding 17-0 lead.
“We were still in the game at that point, and I know that every player still believed we would find a way to win,” said Szydlik. “We have a good group of kids who love to compete.”
Down 17-6, the Falcons were unable to pry away a turnover despite their defensive effort. When O’Hara’s increasingly impressive junior quarterback Ryan Laughlin answered North’s touchdown with a 23-yard scoring strike to Brown with 5:27 remaining, it was evident that the Class AAA Falcons would have to be satisfied with the knowledge that they gained respect from one of the Class AAAA’s elite squads.
“We wanted to win the game,” said North wide receiver/defensive back Julian Huggins, a team captain along with Rob Butler, Stephan Singleton and Ray Reusher. “We had some plays that we could have made. We played hard, but we weren’t happy just because of that. We expected more.”
Szydlik is not surprised that Huggins hadn’t been looking for a moral victory.
“He’s a very steady player and gives a great effort on both sides of the ball,” said Szydlik. “When we need to shut somebody down, he’s the guy we put on him.”
John Knebels can be reached at email@example.com.
In a time of crisis CatholicPhilly.com keeps the information flowing
During the current coronavirus crisis, you can help CatholicPhilly.com deliver the kind of news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live ― every day.
Budgets are tight at this time, and CatholicPhilly's is no different than those of most families. We make sure your donation in any amount will go a long way toward continuing our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community.
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103