LOWER GWYNEDD >> Down by six points, Lansdale Catholic moved the ball 70 tough yards against a persistent West Catholic defense and a shrinking clock, but with 16 seconds to play, Wilbert Mulbah intercepted a pass by Crusader quarterback Michael Dutkiewicz and raced 97 yards for the clinching score.
The Burrs held on tight to a 40-28 victory in Friday night’s Philadelphia Catholic League Blue Division contest, in a game good enough to momentarily transform coaches into entertained spectators and wild enough to produce a touchdown on a 38-yard fumble return and another score on 4th-and-23.
Down 34-28 with six minutes to go, the Crusaders went from their 15 to the West Catholic 15, but came up just a few breaths short of the end zone.
“I can’t be more proud of them,” LC coach Tom Kirk said of his team. “I said to them ‘it’s one of my proudest moments but also one of my saddest moments, because it’s a game you were in position to win. If you wanna win a Catholic League Championship, you gotta beat the best teams in the league. So at the end of the day, it’s a loss.’
“But I’m really proud of the way the kids played.”
The Crusaders (1-3, 1-1 PCL Blue) tied the game at 28 apiece when Dutkiewicz — battling an injury coming in — threw to a wide open Nick Picozzi for a 13-yard score, and then Matt Casee — also fighting through injury — ran in for two.
Casee had 24 gutsy carries for 131 yards and Danny Dutkiewicz battled his way for 92 yards on 15 attempts. LC put together back-to-back scoring drives late in the third and early in the fourth, largely because roads were opened.
“The offensive line was terrific,” Kirk said of a unit that includes seniors Danny Pelligrino and Billy Piotrowicz.
After LC tied things up with 8:54 to play, West Catholic took over at its own 20. Then, backed up with a 3rd-and-19 at the 11, quarterback Da’Vion Kidd-Jackson found his way to a 38-yard gain that got the Burrs (3-2, 2-0 PCL Blue) out of trouble and on their way to a go-ahead score.
Said Kirk: “That quarterback is just so darn good. He’s so fast, and it’s something you can’t simulate in practice. I give that kid a lot of credit because I know he was banged up but he just kept on coming, kept on coming.”
Kidd-Jackson ran for a whopping 188 yards on 17 carries, putting his team in front 34-28 when he ran left for a six-yard score with 6:15 to play. The two-point attempt failed but the Burrs had put in the work — they gained 183 yards through the air and a decisive 315 on the ground.
“We have a very strong running game,” said Mulbah, who played many roles for the Burrs — game-winning interceptor, big-play receiver, and even a contributor to that churning running attack. “When we get the blocks down, our running game is dominant.”
Mulbah was mad at himself early and then would find redemption not once but twice.
Midway through the first quarter, Tyler Owen caught a 45-yard pass against Mulbah on a corner route.
“My teammates were like ‘keep your head up, keep your head up,’” Mulbah said. “‘You’re gonna make up for it.’ And next thing you know, I made up for it the next (drive).”
After that LC possession ended with a fumble, Mulbah — on a 4th-and-23 — gathered in a short pass from Kidd-Jackson, spun away from a tackle and raced down the sideline for a 37-yard score and a 14-7 West Catholic lead.
“They had so many big plays on (third and fourth down),” Kirk said. “And it’s certainly not for a lack of effort on our kids’ part. They’re out there just busting their rear ends, but speed just kills.”
LC did knot things up at 14 apiece at the half, with a one-yard push by Casee.
Casee also reached the end zone on a 38-yard fumble return, on LC’s eighth offensive play. In keeping with the wild rhythm of the night, West Catholic scored on the very next play, a short pass to Seth Degree, who spun out of a tackle along the right sideline and then raced 80 yards for a score (the two-point run by Tre Johnson making it 8-7).
“That’s kind of the way this game went,” Kirk said. “All kinds of crazy things happened.”
West Catholic went ahead 22-14 in the third quarter when Jacir Savoy (91 yds) ran to the right corner from eight yards out, followed by a two-point run by Kidd-Jackson, and then LC trimmed it to 22-20 when Evan Zawadski burrowed in from a yard out, the two-point attempt falling short.
Kidd-Jackson, who threw for two scores and ran for two, broke free for a 46-yard score and a 28-20 West Catholic lead early in the fourth.
A stifling tackle on the two-point attempt by Alex Arnow kept it a one-score game, and then Arnow added to his heroics when he returned the ensuing kickoff all the way down to the West Catholic nine. Three plays later, Dutkiewicz found Picozzi, Casee was in standing, and it was a tie game again.
“Heck of a game,” Mulbah said.
“You’re in the game and you’re coaching the game but sometimes you can become somewhat of a spectator,” Kirk said. “There were some plays where it was like ‘this is fun to be a part of.’”