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Archbishop Ryan races to 3-0 with win over Lansdale Catholic

BENSALEM >> As the team bus slowly pulled away from steaming Bensalem High School Saturday afternoon, the Archbishop Ryan Raiders sang in celebration, belting out a loud rendition of ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’ by Twisted Sister.

It was a unified group, very much the same way they were throughout their Philadelphia Catholic League non-division battle with rival Lansdale Catholic. Not missing a beat, everything was performed in unison.

Nothing exemplified it better than Mike Minniti’s 76-yard touchdown run that firmly put this one in the Raiders’ control.

“I broke free. The linemen set up the great blocks, I had a huge cutback, and (fellow running back) Jason Jefferson sealed the deal for me,” Minniti said. “The receivers — Dylan Cariss especially — sealed it on the sidelines and I was just off to the races.”

The Raiders ran away to a 35-0 victory over the Crusaders, improving their unbeaten mark to 3-0 on the season.

“When we play together,” Minniti said, “we’re unstoppable.”

There was certainly no stopping Minniti on Saturday. The 5-foot-10, 170-pound junior found creases and cracks and exploited them for a whopping 117 yards and a pair of scores.

After a three-yard touchdown run by backfield mate Jaye McNeil (10-77) opened the scoring late in the first quarter, Ryan scored on all three of its possessions in the second.

Back-to-back touchdown runs by Minniti — a 12-yarder followed by the one for 76 — broke the game open, and then Bill Palmer made a nice grab in the end zone, hauling in a nine-yard pass from quarterback Matt Romano on a crossing pattern to make it a 28-0 lead at the break.

“We were getting that momentum, everyone was pushing, and our linemen were driving guys back,” Minniti said. “Plus, this is probably the best defense that we’ve had since I’ve been here.”

The Raiders kept crashing the pocket all afternoon, making it difficult for Crusader quarterback Michael Basilii to set up and throw.

Basilii did orchestrate a second-quarter drive for the Crusaders, threatening to even things up at seven apiece, but LC would ultimately turn the ball over on downs at the Ryan 32. Basilii completed eight of 18 passes for the Crusaders (0-2) for 69 yards and also added 56 yards rushing on 18 carries.

“It’s a good experience. They’re a real good team,” Basilii said of Ryan, a 5A power in the PCL Red Division. Class 3A LC starts its Blue Division schedule next week.

“We played well in the first quarter,” Basilii said of the Crusaders, who nearly held Ryan scoreless in that frame. “We just gotta play like that all four quarters. We can win some games if we play like that.”

The Crusaders also had a decent drive in the fourth quarter, but were stopped at the 21, turning it over on downs.

Again the Ryan defense stiffened.

“We’re a lot more athletic (than in years past), a lot tougher, and we play hard,” said Minniti, a defensive back on that side of the ball.

Ryan capped the scoring on the first play of the fourth quarter, a 19-yard touchdown run by Jefferson (8-84) making it 35-0 and enforcing the mercy rule and a running clock.

Ryan gets its Red Division schedule going next week with a home game against Father Judge at Northeast High School on Saturday while LC begins play in the Blue Division, hosting Bonner-Prendie Saturday night at Wissahickon.

“I look at Ryan and they’re certainly one of the better teams that we’re gonna play,” Crusaders coach Tom Kirk said. “It’s a great test for us. I like the way we started. We’re disappointed that we gave up some big plays — our goal was to keep this thing close, keep the clock running, but unfortunately it got away from us.

“But I couldn’t be more proud of our kids. This was about getting our guys ready for next Saturday.”

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