CHELTENHAM >> If it had to end, the Crusaders made sure they ended it their way.
“We really wanted it,” Lansdale Catholic running back Matt Casee said of Saturday night’s season finale with Bishop McDevitt. “We knew it was our last game and we wanted to go out the best way we could.”
Casee rumbled for 156 yards, the LC defense surrendered just three first downs, and the Crusaders even got a pair of field goals from freshman kicker Brandan Menges in a thorough 27-0 shutout of the Royal Lancers in a Philadelphia Catholic League Blue Division game at Cheltenham High.
“I’m so proud of our team,” Lansdale Catholic coach Tom Kirk said. “This team is used to being in the playoffs and playing in November and I didn’t know how we were gonna respond.
“They came out and they played well. They just played terrific.”
Menges booted a pair of field goals — 33 and 23 yards — to give LC a 6-0 advantage at the half. Then, on the Crusaders’ second possession of the third quarter, Casee ran for 10 on a 4th-and-4 at the McDevitt 33, quarterback Mike Basilii connected with Bob Bausman for a gain of 22, and David Saulino scored on a three-yard rush on a toss to the right, increasing the margin to 13-0.
“We really wanted to get the running game going, we wanted to attack, and the offensive line let us do that,” Casee said of the ground game, which racked up 249 yards in the victory.
Superior blocking from guys like 6-foot-2, 260-pound senior Nathanial Ensanien and 6-foot-4, 255-pound Billy Piotrowicz blew open holes and blew open the game.
Said Casee: “This team — we were a family. We loved each other, treated each other like brothers. We worked hard and never gave up.”
In what was also a tremendous defensive performance by LC (3-6, 3-3 PCL Blue), Jake Doheny provided the coup de grace, scooping up a Royal Lancer fumble at the McDevitt four and bursting into the end zone to make it 20-0 early in the fourth.
On the Crusaders’ next offensive play, Casee raced up the middle, breaking away for a 40-yard score and the final points of the evening.
“Our offensive line really came together tonight and Matt knew he was gonna carry the ball a lot tonight,” Kirk said of the junior. “He ran hard. He was really, really solid for us.
“We have a lot of young kids, a lot of kids that got significant playing time this year,” Kirk said. “Every senior class you hate to lose because those guys have played and they played early but we have a lot of kids that got exposure so you hope they can build on that and come back stronger next year.”
Added to LC’s robust running attack and a stifling defense (allowing McDevitt just 39 yards of offense) was the play of the Crusader special teams, including the coverage units.
“Those guys — they’re the crazies,” Kirk said. “They like running down there and they like when the ball goes to their side. And it was big tonight with field position. I think many times our cover team had them inside the 25-yard line and that’s huge.”
Going into the contest, the Royal Lancers (2-7, 1-5 PCL Blue) knew they would be fighting an uphill battle without their senior leader at QB, Max Bryson, who was injured last week.
“That kid is just a terrific player,” Kirk said.
The Royal Lancers at least maybe got a glimpse of their future, as 14-year-old freshman Lonnie Rice got the start, showing some promising signs. His first career completion was a 15-yarder to Jaron Macon midway through the second quarter and he later completed back-to-back throws to Macon and Frank Illingworth just before the half.
“He showed a lot of poise,” McDevitt coach Mike Watkins said. “He took his lumps but I’m proud of him, proud of the way he played. He’s gonna be a heck of a leader and a heck of a football player.”
The Royal Lancers have plenty of youth to build around. They graduate eight seniors, including McDevitt’s all-time leading passer in Bryson.
“They have a ton of character — Max, the leader back there,” Watkins said. “We had Billy Gillette, returning linebacker for us. He played almost every snap. (Lineman) Dan Church played both sides of the ball and he’s just the emotional guy out there.
“He leads both on the field and off the field so we have to find a way to replace that kind of vocal leader. It was a fun class. It really was. It was a special class for me, it being my first year as head coach.”