HERSHEY >> After missing two months of the 2016 football season due to injury, Berks Catholic’s Cooper Lutz returned a week ago to contribute in the Saints’ District 3 4A semifinal win over Lampeter-Strasburg.
The BC junior was just warming up.
Lutz rushed for 151 yards on 15 carries and two touchdowns to help power the Saints (13-1) to a third district crown in four seasons, 37-13, over Shippensburg Friday afternoon at Hersheypark Stadium. BC’s two previous titles came under the old classification system, in 2A.
“I think Cooper’s going to keep getting better,” BC head coach Rick Keeley said. “We had to run him a lot today. He made some nice runs for us and made some nice blocks when he wasn’t running the ball.”
BC’s new 4A classification presented new challenges to Keeley as he prepared his squad for the Greyhounds.
“A big difference is it takes a lot more prep time,” Keeley said. “I don’t know anything about the schools we’re playing, but I learned from the three films we get and that’s what we go on. With the small schools, I pretty much knew ahead of time what everyone was doing. But there’s a big learning curve now. We have to learn and then we’ve got to teach it to our kids, and this is a great group of kids to be going through that learning process with.”
Lutz’s 56-yarder to pay dirt late in the first quarter gave the Saints a 14-0 lead; a 6-yard dart late in third gave BC a commanding 31-13 lead.
But his biggest contribution may have come on the other side of the ball. Lutz was moved over to cover Ship wide out Cody Gustafson after the break — and the adjustment cemented the result in BC’s favor. Gustafson and Ship quarterback Carter Van Scyoc had knifed alternate corner coverage for seven catches and 144 yards in the first half. During the second half, with Lutz on Ship’s capable pass-catcher: Zero for zero.
Wih Lutz jamming or blanketing Gustafson off the ball and with help over the top, it was the chess move that finally shut down Ship’s air game for good.
“I just went out there and played my hardest and it seemed like I was able to lock him down,” Lutz said. “He’s really good receiver and we had help over the top.
With Ship’s only real working component out of the mix, the Greyhounds ran 21 plays for just 52 net yards in the second half.
“We went into what we call our ’42 lock’,” Keeley said. “In that 4-4 we have two outside linebackers, one on either side, and when they came out in trips we just moved both outside backers to the trips side to give us an extra defender over there.”
It wasn’t as if Van Scyoc had an easy time of it in the first half. When he wasn’t finding Gustafson, he spent a lot of time on his backside. Ship’s signal-caller was sacked seven times overall, five in the first — and two of those on the Greyhounds’ opening possession, setting an ominous tone. He finished 16 of 33 for 238 yards and one interception.
“Our line gave us a great pass rush,” Keeley said. “They didn’t give him a lot of time to look back there. It was a great team effort.”
The Saints hit the ground running and dented the scoreboard before taking an offensive snap. Travon Dabney returned Ship’s first punt 66 yards a touchdown 2:05 into the ballgame for a quick 7-0 BC lead.
Lutz’s first touch resulted in that 56-yarder to double the edge; Ship responded with a six-play, 57-yard foray to half the deficit with 48 seconds left in the first quarter. Van Scyoc found Gustafson twice for 48 yards on the drive; Cameron Tinner finished it off from two yards out.
BC quarterback Terrance Derr hooked up with Brain Tanis for a 32-yard score in the corner of the end zone with 4:07 left in the half to extend the lead to 21-7.
But Ship fought back late in the half on its best drive of the night, an 11-play, 87-yarder that culminated with Tinner’s second TD, this from a yard out. The PAT was blocked and BC led 21-13.
Jamin Smith capped the first possession of the second half, a 12-play, 63-yard meat grinder with a 30-yard field goal to give the Saints a 24-13 advantage with 6:32 left in the third.
Lutz’s second score of the day, on BC’s ensuing possession, opened it up to 31-13 and sapped whatever energy was left from the Greyhounds.
District 3 4A championship
at Hersheypark Stadium
Berks Catholic 37, Shippensburg 13
S – 7 6 0 0 — 13
BC – 14 7 10 6 — 37
BC – Travon Dabney 66 punt return (Jamin Smith kick), 9:55
BC – Cooper Lutz 56 run (Smith kick), 2:56
S – Cameron Timmer 2 run (Jackson VanHorne kick), :48
BC – Brian Tanis 32 pass from Terrance Derr (Smith kick), 4:07
S – Tinner 1 run (kick blocked), :24
BC – Jamin Smith 30 FG, 6:32
BC – Lutz 6 run (Smith kick), 1:13
BC – Derr 1 run (kick failed), 1:58