Philadelphia Catholic League PIAA 6A & 5A State Playoff Contenders:
St. Joseph’s Prep and Archbishop Wood
True story of a phone call late Friday night.
Caller: “St. Joseph’s Prep just came back to beat Coatesville, 53-49.”
Receiver: “Seriously? I didn’t even know high school basketball even started yet. And what’s the big deal anyway? It’s just a non-league game, right?”
Caller: “No! I’m talking about the Prep’s football team. They were losing, 28-10, in the third quarter of the state semifinals and scored 44 points in the second half to win.”
Caller: “I swear.”
Receiver: “Oh my God.”
Undoubtedly, phone calls and social media electrified the local area after the Hawks defeated the shell-shocked Red Raiders at Downingtown West High School and advanced to Saturday’s 6 PM PIAA Class 6A championship against undefeated Pine Richland (15-0) at Hershey Park Stadium in Hershey, PA.
“There was no panic,” said Prep coach Gabe Infante. “The trust in the coaching staff and the players is part of the culture. Part of our chemistry is to trust one another.”
Coatesville scored 21 points in the second quarter and led 21-10 at halftime. They scored 14 more in both the third and fourth quarters. Considering that the Hawks had surrendered a miserly 64 points in the previous 10 games, the SJP defense was not looking forward to watching game film later in the week.
“It definitely wasn’t how we expected to play,” said senior All-Catholic linebacker Phil O’Connor. “But it’s good because we can learn from it and try to fix our mistakes for this week’s game.”
Senior quarterback Marquez McCray provided six touchdowns – four on the ground and two through the air on passes to senior James Cherry and junior Marques Mason. Sophomore Kolbe Burrell gained 127 yards and scored on a 44-yard touchdown run. Mason added 70 yards on 18 carries.
After falling behind 28-10 with 10 minutes left in the third quarter, the Prep offense went haywire. A 16-yard TD run by McCray and two-point conversion toss to senior Brandon Sanders made it 28-18. A huge 72-yard interception return by senior Dawson DeIuliis set up McCray’s 18-yard scoring strike to Cherry, and it was suddenly 28-25.
Coatesville answered with a long touchdown pass, but, undaunted, the defending champ Hawks (13-0, 27 straight wins) scored four consecutive TDs to move ahead by a surreal 53-35.
“Our offense was clicking in the second half,” said O’Connor. “We knew we just needed one stop on defense so our offense could get us back in it. We believed we were going to get it.”
McCray was asked how he could possibly top the Coatesville win after he accounted for six touchdowns on his own.
“Win this game and be 28-0 as a starter and a two-time state champ,” he said.
Yep. That would do it.
SJP's #10 Phil O'Connor and #75 Ryan Bryce - PSD File Photo by Brandon Stivers
SJP Hawks will play in the PIAA 6A state championship on Saturday, Dec. 10th in Hershey, PA - PSD Photo by Mike Gray
#14 QB Marquez McCray hands the ball off to #24 RB Kolbe Burrell - PSD Photo by Mike Gray
Archbishop Wood Wallops Unionville to Reach State Final
Archbishop Wood had no problem with Unionville, winning by a misleadingly “close” 49-28 in the Class 5A semifinal Friday night at Northeast High. The Vikings (11-2), winners of nine straight, will try to defend last year’s state championship when they meet Gateway in the state final 7 PM Friday at Hershey Park Stadium.
As he has done so often, senior Nasir Peoples spearheaded the offense with 144 yards and three touchdowns on 23 carries. The start running back has been unstoppable all season, especially over the past five games, during which he has accrued 783 yards and 14 of his 26 touchdowns.
Wood will play Gateway in the PIAA 5A State Final on Friday, Dec. 9th in Hershey, PA - PSD Photo by Mike Gray
The Vikings celebrate after defeating Unionville in the 5A State Semifinal - PSD Photo by Mike Gray
“We did a great job executing and coming out fast,” said Peoples. “For this week, we have to stay focused and come out ready to play and be prepared.”
Junior quarterback Jack Colyar, junior Chris Blackstone (7 rushes for 35 yards), and Adrian Lambert (5 for 45) each scored a rushing touchdown. Senior defensive end Bill Shaeffer returned a fumble for another score.
“I was backside on the play and I was just running to make the tackle and one of our defensive tackles punched the ball out and it rolled right to me, so I just picked it up and ran,” said Shaeffer. “Honestly, I did the easy part, but our defense is always flying around running to the ball to make plays because we know good things can happen.”
Wood’s next foe Gateway, from Monroeville, is 14-1 and is known mostly for its offensive prowess, but the Gators’ defense is also susceptible to allowing plentiful points.
“We are going to play our hearts out and leave it on the field,” said Colyar.
(John Knebels can be reached at Jknebels@gmail.com or on Twitter @johnknebels.)