Archbishop Wood and Archbishop Ryan square off in Catholic League football action last year. (Photo by John Knebels)

If the first weekend of non-league high school football is an accurate indicator, several Catholic League teams might prove to be juggernauts.

Of the league’s 10-2 record (that includes a Catholic vs. Catholic non-league tilt), the arguable “game of the week” was La Salle’s 15-9 victory over Imhotep, a program that lost in last year’s PIAA Class 4A state championship.

“It’s very important to start off the season with a win,” said La Salle senior quarterback Jack Machita. “It felt good beating them this year and getting revenge from losing to them last year.”

Machita was ecstatic to once again be fully healthy. After losing all but two games last year because of a broken right thumb on his throwing hand, Machita completed 10 of 17 passes for 56 yards and a game-winning, 15-yard touchdown toss to junior Tim Mehlmann midway through the fourth quarter. He also rushed for 40 yards.

While erasing a 12-3 halftime deficit, the Explorers held Imhotep to 74 yards rushing. With Imhotep driving and facing a must-make fourth down inside the final two minutes, La Salle senior Ryan Savage broke through and tripped Imhotep’s quarterback before he could run.

“Personally, it was great to be out there competing with my teammates again,” said Machita. “Right now, we are looking forward to our next opponent (at North Penn, 7 PM Friday) and we are taking it week by week.”

In other action:

It took Roman Catholic until the final game of last season to capture a victory. In the first quarter of their game at Pope John Paul II, it appeared that last year’s disappointment had unfortunately followed the Cahillites. Roman trailed by 26-0 and didn’t show much of an early pulse.

Then came one of best comebacks in school history. The Cahillites outscored PJP by 47-20 the rest of the way for an epic 47-46 victory.

Roman quarterback Jayden Pope enjoyed a momentous first-ever varsity start. The junior completed 14 of 28 passes for 295 yards and four touchdowns — three to senior Malachi Harris (8 catches, 172 yards) and another to sophomore Elijah Steward.

“For my first varsity start, to do such a thing with my brothers, it was just awesome,” said Pope. “We have been working since the beginning of the year and we knew we were going to just outwork them.”

Harris and senior Ahmir Adams intercepted passes for the Cahillites, whose running game included key contributions from juniors Daquan Robinson (7 carries, 56 yards, touchdown), Shemar Ellis (7-55), and Pope (4-43).

With the game on the line inside the final two minutes, Roman’s defense utilized two sacks and two incompletions to clinch the storied rally.

“Coach told us we were going to overcome adversity, and that’s what we did,” said Harris. “We never gave up. We played to the last whistle. That’s how we were successful in the end.”

Lansdale Catholic rode the strong legs of senior Danny Dutkiewicz to a 44-42 win over Father Judge, a rare victory for a Blue Division squad over one from the Red Division. Picking up where he left off after a first-team All-Catholic campaign as a workhorse junior, Dutkiewicz carried 19 times and amassed 184 yards and three touchdowns.

Junior quarterback Jeron Phillips was outstanding, with 15 of 19 completions for 333 yards and three touchdowns. Junior Jimmy Casey (3 catches, 108 yards, touchdown) and senior Evan Hannings (3-107, TD) reached the century mark. Junior Andrew Fredrickson intercepted a pass.

“This win is really gonna help,” said Dutkiewicz. “LC football is back.”

In defeat, Father Judge junior quarterback Aidan Dooley completed 13 of 17 passes for 334 yards and three scores; he also rushed for 55 yards and a touchdown. Senior Dan Foy hauled in five passes for 100 yards. Senior Shane McGovern caught four for 85.

Conwell-Egan toppled Martin Luther King, 24-14, as junior Sincere Thomas gained 159 yards and scored a touchdown on only 11 carries. The Eagles rushed for 290 yards and averaged seven yards per carry.

“It was a key win for us to start off the year,” said senior Chris Majors, who joined junior Sean Reilly with key interceptions. “We have a lot to prove. We have to really stay focused and work together as a team.”

Archbishop Carroll doubled Haverford High, 14-7, as senior quarterback Russell Minor-Shaw threw for 162 yards and a game-deciding, 41-yard touchdown pass to junior Brennan Robinson midway through the final stanza. Minor-Shaw added 51 yards and a touchdown on the ground.

On defense, juniors Malachi Hansen and Albert Marshall each had one interception. Senior Tyler Aston forged a game-clinching sack on Haverford’s final possession.

Senior Lonnie Rice was a one-man wrecking crew in Bishop McDevitt’s 35-21 win over Central. The quarterback carried the ball 18 times and finished with 182 yards and four touchdowns. He also helped account for the other Lancer score, a scoring strike to sophomore Emmanuel Sia (3 catches, 86 yards), who accounted for almost half of Rice’s 160 passing yards on 11 completions.

West Catholic was twice as productive as School of the Future. The Burrs’ 48-24 triumph was fueled by a number of standouts, particularly senior Nelson Mandela Mensah, who contributed three touchdowns by three different methods — a rush, a reception and an interception return.

Senior quarterback Zaire Hart-Hawkins (13 of 18, 205 yards, touchdown passes to Mensah, senior Justino Griggs, and senior Julio DaSilva), sophomore Marcel Jackson (two TD rushes) and senior Carl Smith (5 catches, 100 yards) sparked the offense.

Neumann-Goretti stopped Bloomsburg, 22-7, behind backfield heroics. The Saints accumulated 321 yards and three touchdowns on 47 carries. Senior Malik Griffin (127 yards, TD on 16 carries), junior Tysheem Johnson (16 for 137) and junior Sincere Hall (8 for 59, TD) helped the Saints win the time-of-possession battle.

Archbishop Wood outlasted Pope John XXIII, 42-30. A torrid running display — 378 yards on 51 hauls — was highlighted by senior Ryan DiVergilis (19 carries for 128 yards and three touchdowns; five catches for 28 yards), junior Cardel Pigford (14-129) and junior Kaelin Costello (6-84).

Bonner-Prendergast stopped Upper Darby, 21-9, behind senior Charles Ingram (12 carries, 53 yards, touchdown). Senior Ian Edwards and junior Ibrahima Diallo snared interceptions.

Archbishop Ryan dropped a 42-12 decision to Downingtown East, despite senior Julian Jones’ 68 yards rushing and senior Justin Collier’s seven catches for 49 yards and a touchdown.


Contact John Knebels at on Twitter @johnknebels.