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Stingy defense leads O’Hara to another win

PHILADELPHIA >> The intensity on Cardinal O’Hara’s sideline Saturday had reached its apex, and the Lions weren’t looking to let up.

Just like that … Mastbaum converted a third-and-long. Suddenly, O’Hara’s bench went silent. The unplanned quarterback scramble accounted for a Mastbaum first down — the Panthers’ first of the game.

That Mastbaum couldn’t manage a first down until the final minutes of Saturday’s game, when O’Hara’s second-string defense had taken the field, describes the degree of defensive dominance from the Lions, who breezed past the Panthers, 42-0, at Northeast High School.

O’Hara (2-0) outgained Mastbaum in total offense, 246-49. The Lions created four turnovers and forced negative yardage or no gain on 17 of the Panthers’ 36 offensive plays.

All told, O’Hara has outscored its first two opponents — Mastbaum and a fellow Philadelphia Public League team Kipp-Dubois — by 87-0.

“We feed off each other,” said Lions linebacker and co-captain Tom Wertz. “So when the offense is doing good, the defense is doing good, too, and we all play good as a result.”

Wertz led the defense with four tackles for loss and a fumble recovery that led to an O’Hara touchdown. Fellow linebacker Tyric Gould also had four tackles for loss, and Cameron Blair chipped in three.

That O’Hara trio exited the game after the first defensive series of the second half.

“It’s kind of sad when you’re basically out by halftime,” Gould said. “You come in wanting to play. But everybody’s got to get their work in.”

Added Wertz: “In certain senses, yeah, it’s helpful. We get to see what’s going wrong, X-and-O wise, after we come out. It helps but, sometimes — I don’t know. I guess we can control only what we can control. We can’t worry about the schedule.”

Of course, O’Hara’s offense played as exceptionally well as its defense.

Five players accounted for the Lions’ seven touchdowns. Taseer Jones ripped off two scoring runs, and Luke Sprague tossed for two.

Chris Kirby and Justin Santilla each had a receiving touchdown, and Hunter Whitlock found the end zone for the game’s final scoring play.

The Lions established a 35-0 halftime lead, which initiated a running clock for the entirety of the second half.

Even with dominant play in two consecutive weeks from his team, O’Hara coach B.J. Hogan said he has seen areas of weakness.

“Body language and energy, we’re not where we want to be,” Hogan said. “From last year and this year, though, things are snowballing in the right way. … Then again, we have 10 of 11 starters on defense being seniors. It’s going to go that way for us (on that side of the ball).”

The Lions have one more nonleague date (next week against Chester) before the reigning Catholic League Blue Division champions commence their league schedule against Bishop McDevitt. Blowout victories and shutouts, said Hogan, are positive opportunities that will support his team’s development.

“It’s not an ease-into-the-season thing, but it’s nice to get our young guys reps and make sure the older guys aren’t overmatched playing a St. Joe’s Prep or a La Salle on opening night,” Hogan said. “I think, in a couple years, we can get there and play some top teams. Who knows where the PCL is going. I think it’s going to change next year anyway, where we might have an eight- or nine-game (league) schedule.”

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