MARPLE TWP. >> Up by what would be the final score of 24-6 with less than a minute to go in the game, Cardinal O’Hara coach B.J. Hogan had his starting defense on the field.
It wasn’t a punishment. No, the Lions defense wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s about pride,” said linebacker Jamir Redd. “We didn’t want them to score on us, and they didn’t.”
It marked the third straight game the O’Hara defense didn’t allow a point. Chester’s lone score came on a defensive touchdown. Aside from that, the Clippers (0-3) couldn’t crack the Lions defense.
“I was starting to get worried because a lot of the guys on defense are two-way players,” Hogan said. “They were on the field a lot in the first half, but they’ve been together a long time. They battle and play hard. They are our bread and butter this year.”
The O’Hara starting defense features 10 seniors, many of whom have been playing regularly since they were sophomores. And the Lions (3-0) needed every one of them to play at a high level against Chester.
The Clippers out-gained them in yards (143-141) and controlled the time of possession (27:29-20:31), especially in the first half when Chester ran nearly twice as many plays (36-19) and had the ball in their hands for more than two-thirds of the half.
“We were able to get some crucial stops at some really crucial times,” Hogan said. “Thank God for our defense because it was horrible that our offense turned the ball over as much as we did.”
O’Hara had three turnovers — one that was cashed in by Clippers linebacker Warrick Galbert on a 23-yard fumble return.
But the Lions defense created two turnovers at the most crucial points in the game.
After an O’Hara fumble gave Chester the ball deep in Lions territory in the third quarter, momentum had swung in favor of the Clippers, who were only 20 yards away from getting within a field goal.
That’s when Redd had the play of the game.
Devan Freeman had been pounding the O’Hara defense with one hard, powerful run after another. So it wasn’t a surprise that Chester coach LaDontay Bell was calling his number again.
However, the handoff from Tahree Fuller-Bryan wasn’t clean, and Redd, who had beaten his man on a blitz up the middle, scooped it off the turf on one bounce and went 76 yards the other way, turning what was a tight game into a secure lead for O’Hara.
And it was extra special for Redd.
“Since my hometown is Chester, I studied their plays extra hard this week,” Redd said. “I was calling it out to my guys and they knew I knew what they were running and I was able to break through most of the time.”
O’Hara was able to score in the first half on a 13-yard touchdown run by Nick Kutafaris and a 29-yard field goal by Kevin Calamita. Both scores came off very short drives after Chester struggled with their punting game — first on a bad snap and second on a shanked punt.
“Special teams killed us again,” said Bell. “But I think we’ve come a long way. This team is staying together. Our defense played their hearts out. They did a great job. Right now we just need to find our heartbeat on offense. We do that, we’ll find the spark we need.”
O’Hara quarterback Bobby Siderio led all rushers with 74 yards on eight carries, most on read options. That included a 27-yard touchdown for the Lions’ final score.
“Chester was a good challenge for us,” Siderio said. “We needed that. They’re a lot better than people give them credit for. They were coming hard all game, we were just able to make a couple plays when we needed it.”