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Cardinal O'Hara

Calamita, O’Hara get kick out of title win

MARPLE >> It’s not often that there’s a postgame receiving line awaiting a kicker after a high school football game.

It’s even rarer that he’s the decider in a de facto championship, the one sprinting in jubilation down the field while his teammates try to catch up, the center of the mob of fans and teammates congregating in ecstasy around him.

Kevin Calamita lived that Hollywood plot, the star of his own three-act drama Friday night, in a 27-26 Cardinal O’Hara conquest of West Catholic in double-overtime. That earned O’Hara an undefeated regular season and a Catholic League Blue Division title in the most theatrical of fashions.

Act 1, with 1:06 left in regulation: Cardinal O’Hara quarterback Tommy O’Hara capped a nine-play, 63-yard drive with an 18-yard fade that wide receiver Justin Santilla rose high to snag, tying the game at 12. In steps Calamita, who comfortably booted field goals of 27 and 29 yards, for the extra point to put O’Hara ahead.

But the Burrs got off the line quickly, the timing of the snap and hold was off and Calamita popped up a dud that died like a wounded quail two yards shy of the end line.

Three West Catholic snaps later and the teams were headed to overtime.

“A lot of people were talking to me, telling me, ‘We’re going to get this back, it’s going to go to overtime, it’s going to be fine,’” Calamita said. “(Holder) Tommy (O’Hara) came over and said, ‘It was my fault on the hold, just relax, we’re going to get it back.’”

Act 2, overtime No. 1: O’Hara gets the ball first and keeps the momentum going, and Tommy O’Hara does the job with two runs, the last a two-yard dive, sailing over the pile across the line to make it 18-12. That ushers in decision time on the bench.

Coach B.J. Hogan, knowing West Catholic has converted one extra point all season, assumes the Burrs will go for two should they answer with a score. He can either put the pressure on his defense by kicking or on West by making the lead eight.

“Do you put it in your defense’s hands and do you go up seven?,” Hogan said. “I wanted to go for two and hopefully have a chance to stop them on the two-point play. That was the thinking. It was nothing about Kevin.”

So Calamita waits on the sidelines as Santilla saved the moment on a busted halfback pass that looked dead way back at the 18 before the wide out sprinted across the field to the far corner.

“First thing I looked, in my head, is if anybody’s to my left,” Santilla said. “I do it all the time, and just run back to my left, as fast as I can.”

Calil Wortham followed with a one-yard score on third down, then powered home the two-pointer. To a second overtime, tied at 20, Calamita patiently in the wings.

Act 3: West Catholic struck first in double-overtime, Da’Vion Kidd-Jackson finding Rovny Dasilva for a seven-yard score. But the O’Hara defense held on the two-pointer, Jamir Redd leading a crowd of tacklers to stuff Wortham.

Tommy O’Hara again can’t be denied, scrambling in from the four. In steps Calamita, the game on his foot.

“This is for the PCL Championship,” Calamita said. “Nothing better than this. Keep calm, it’s just like practice on Thursday, just knocking it through all the time. And that’s what I did.”

It was a fitting end for a game between title combatants. O’Hara (9-0, 5-1 PCL Blue) controlled the clock, running 65 offensive plays to West Catholic’s 31 in regulation. Their first drive — a 14-play, 8-minute march — ended in a Calamita field goal.

Wortham responded with a four-yard touchdown, and Kidd-Jackson found Ahmad Kent for a 26-yard score after Kent returned a punt 20 yards to set field position. That staked West to a 12-3 halftime lead.

O’Hara searched for a spark, but their first break was redeemed for just three points. Amadou Barry muffed a punt at West’s 37 that Max Much pounced on, but the Lions only got as close as the 10 for a Calamita 27-yarder.

A Santilla interception return set O’Hara near midfield on the next series, but conversions on third-and-7 (an O’Hara scramble for 11) and fourth-and-6 (O’Hara to Redd for seven) couldn’t prevent the drive fizzling at the 30.

Finally, the breakthrough came on the final series. O’Hara (12-for-28 for 143 yards) found Derrick Patrick Jr. for 22 yards on third-and-15 and Jack Gibson for eight on third-and-2, setting up the fade to Santilla and Calamita’s chance to eventually play the protagonist.

The O’Hara fans’ gratification was delayed, as they exited the stands and massed near the track before Calamita’s calamitous last-minute try.

But for a team that waited 12 years for Catholic League hardware and endured consecutive one-win campaigns, a few extra minutes of concern was worth the euphoria that followed.

“It’s unbelievable,” Hogan said. “I’m just happy for the kids, the seniors. … I told these kids enjoy this this whole weekend this weekend. This is special.”

“Everyone just storming the field, it’s just great,” Calamita said. “Having a PCL championship, it’s just ridiculous to think about.”

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