MARPLE >> Stephon Brown had to fish his hands through the collar of his jersey and under his shoulder pads to dig out what he was looking for: a set of dog tags.
But not just any dog tags. These, he got from Cardinal O’Hara coach B.J. Hogan. The second-year coach has made a habit of giving them to deserving players whose work in a particular week has translated from practice to game.
“It’s something to wear around the locker room, the weight room, to show you put it all together,” said Brown, an O’Hara two-way lineman. “It says the week, the team we played, and what we got it for. And you have to earn it. It’s not something you just get.”
Through six weeks of the season, through six victories, nothing has been handed to Cardinal O’Hara, including Friday night’s 28-0 shutout of Lansdale Catholic.
The 6-0 Lions, who lead the Catholic League’s Blue Division, got three touchdowns from Justin Santilla. They also picked up 103 yards rushing from Myles Henderson, and stellar play on the defensive line by Brown and Penn State commit Des Holmes.
The game turned for the Lions early in the fourth quarter, when Holmes broke free and blocked a Lansdale Catholic punt. Brown pounced on the ball at the 6-yard line. Three plays later, Lions quarterback Tommy O’Hara found Santilla for a nine-yard passing touchdown, turning a two-score game into a cozy 21-0 lead.
The punt block was just one of the big plays turned in by Cardinal O’Hara’s big guys, Holmes (6-6, 320) and Brown (6-1, 325). Their roles extend beyond their size, though. The teammates, who often go against one another in practice, have been working together on improving their hand techniques in order to fight through opposing offensive linemen, and better their pass protection on the other side of the ball.
“We’re seniors. We’ve had bad years, so we’re trying to push each other,” Holmes said. “We have one big goal: win a championship.”
Prior to Holmes’ punt block, the game was within reach for Lansdale Catholic (1-5). The Crusaders, who trailed 14-0 at halftime, nearly cashed in before intermission. But a would-be 30-yard passing touchdown from Michael Basilii to Bob Bausman was called back on an ineligible receiver downfield penalty.
After that Lansdale Catholic drive, Hogan called a timeout and issued a challenge to his team.
“We had a softness issue,” Hogan said.
The word “soft” stuck with the linemen.
“Soft is the worst thing you can hear,” said Brown, who had two quarterback sacks and three tackles for loss.
Added Holmes: “You see how big we are? When you hear that word, it flips a switch. You see the switch got flipped. I’m not trying to sound cocky, but that’s what happened.”
Santilla and O’Hara connected in the first quarter on a 21-yard touchdown to give the Lions a 7-0 edge. On Lansdale’s ensuing possession, Santilla snatched an interception and returned it 32 yards for his second touchdown. When he and O’Hara linked up again in the fourth quarter, it put the Lions ahead comfortably.
O’Hara added a security score later in the fourth on a 2-yard lunge over the goal line with less than six minutes to play.
“Major quarterback, major receiver. Nothing else to say about them. They’re great,” Holmes said.
So … what’s left to be said about Cardinal O’Hara’s top two linemen?
“We’re just out here trying to win games,” Brown said, grinning.