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Early stand by New Hope-Solebury leaves Delco Christian flattened

NEWTOWN TWP. >> As the first-half clock wound under two minutes Saturday night, momentum seemed to be turning Delco Christian’s way at last.

The Knights came up short on fourth down to end an 11-play drive to the 15. But a shanked New Hope-Solebury punt gave them the ball at the 28 and new life. Runs of 17 yards by Luke Gutowski and nine by Jalen Mitchell made it second-and-one at the 2 with 58 seconds to play.

That’s when things unraveled, and the chances of victory went with it.

The New Hope line wouldn’t budge on three cracks at the end zone, and coupled with poor clock management that left DC bereft of timeouts, the Lions protected their two-score edge at the half on the way to a 38-7 Bicentennial League win.

“It’s momentum,” New Hope lineman John Magnan said. “If they score there, it’s a completely different game. They get the momentum going in. But we got it.”

“That’s really tough,” Mitchell said. “We didn’t score on that drive and we knew we should’ve scored.”

First, big back Jared Nesbitt gained the first down inside the one. Then quarterback Gutowski was stood up twice. Factor in an official’s timeout as the helmet of a DC lineman fell off and a brief stoppage that wasn’t a full timeout, and the chaos factor ramped up.

That snippet illustrated the larger pattern that torpedoed Delco Christian’s chances. The Knights (4-3, 3-2 BAL) dominated the clock, running 68 offensive plays to New Hope’s 30. But their methodical, wishbone offense lacked the incisive edge to break through for big gains and touchdowns, as the goal-line frustration attests.

DC gained 300 yards, including 261 on the ground. But their only score came via some Gutowski improvisation on a jump pass that Abby East plucked out of the air on a desperate fourth and goal from the 9 in the third quarter. DC’s glut of carries (61) drove down their rushing average to 4.3 yards per carry. That was dwarfed by New Hope-Solebury (6-1, 4-0), which averaged 10.4 yards per tote thanks to 179 yards and three touchdowns on 14 carries from feature back Jesse Capriotti.

And then there was fourth down, where East’s touchdown was the outlier for a team that under Drew Pearson eschews punting. The Knights were 4-for-9 on fourth down, including twice stuffed on fourth-and-1. Gutowski also tossed an interception and lost a fumble.

You can add in the end-of-half sequence, which carried the desperation of a fourth down.

“The mindset’s all or nothing,” Mangan said. “Everybody is just flying forward, no one takes a step back. All our linebackers were filling every hole, and it’s just, don’t let it get forward.”

“We were fighting hard. They were just the better team today,” Mitchell said. “I’m not taking away anything from our team the way we fought, and sometimes I think it’s just things don’t go our way sometimes. I don’t think we ever got stopped on a fourth down, QB sneak with Luke Gutowski running the ball before. Sometimes things don’t go your way.”

Capriotti made the most of his limited touches, and with the Lions’ big-play potential, he didn’t need much of the ball. Their first two plays from scrimmage were eventful: A 62-yard touchdown from quarterback Nick Garritano to John Flavin, then a Garritano interception to Josh Lucas.

Capriotti ran for a 14-yard score in the first half — on a possession that started when he picked off Gutowski on fourth down — then a seven-yard touchdown on the fourth play of the second half, a drive highlighted by a halfback pass for 33 yards from Phillip Weinseimer to Garritano.

“Going in, we know they’re the type of offense that they’re going to be on the field a lot and take a lot of clock,” Capriotti said. “When we got the ball, we just wanted to make plays.”

That made the score 21-0, and while East clipped it back to within 21-7, New Hope didn’t let up. Logan Waterman booted a 35-yard field goal before Capriotti busted a 50-yard score, then Garritano scampered 13 yards to paydirt.

Gutowski (26 carries) and Mitchell (18 carries) each tallied 112 yards, and Gutowski was efficient through the air in a 4-for-6 day.

But DC lacked a game-breaker of Capriotti’s ilk. And the contrast between the Knights’ slow-and-steady approach with the Lions’ quick-strike capability swung the balance.

“Anytime I’m blocking for Jesse is a pleasure,” Mangan said. “If I have the chance to run down there to run with him on a touchdown, I try to beat him. It’s just fun.”

And how does the 5-9, 225-pound lineman succeed in that quest?

“Not often,” Mangan admitted. “If you watch our film, I’m usually a good 25 yards behind him. But I’ll make it there eventually.”

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