MARPLE >> No team goes quietly in the longstanding series between Cardinal O’Hara and Bonner & Prendergast, and their Catholic League Class 4A play-in game Saturday night was no exception.
Just when the Lions thought the Friars were ready to get on the bus, they lost their shutout and almost had two touchdowns dropped on them in a matter of minutes in the third quarter.
The Lions stopped their opponent on downs just inside their red zone and piled another TD on their guests to walk off with a 42-7 victory in the 63rd meeting.
“It’s great, it’s a huge win,” said Lions quarterback Luke Sprague, who threw for 241 yards and two touchdowns. “It always means a lot to play Bonner. It’s always a great game. It’s great to get a win.”
The game was close in the first quarter until the Lions erupted for touchdowns on three straight possessions spanning 6:03, the third one coming with 1:55 to left in the opening frame.
Nick Kutufaris kick-started the burst with a 29-yard run on a stretch play, the Lions spreading the defense out with multiple wide receivers, the line opening up huge lanes.
That would be one of the themes for the Lions, Kutufaris later rolling 22 yards in the second quarter to pad the lead to 27-0.
“We had a couple tough losses the past couple of weeks so we wanted to start fast, put those behind us,” said Kutufaris, who rushed for 85 yards on seven carries. “And the game plan was to run downhill and for the defense and everyone to do their job. The line did a great job. They opened huge holes. It made easy on us running backs.”
The Lions (7-3) broke the game open when Sprague connected with Deuce Patrick for a score on a 56-yard catch-and-run and Justin Santilla sprinted 52 yards with another pass. It gave the Lions a 34-0 cushion at intermission.
“A lot was working,” Sprague said. “We just came out with a lot of intensity and were just pounding the ball. Great routes by receivers. Everything was just working.”
Sprague threw for 217 yards in the first half.
The Friars’ most promising first-half possession ended on downs at the O’Hara 22. The big plays on that drive were Shon Nelson’s 31-yard spiral to KJ Jackson, and Nelson’s keeper, a 10-yard gain.
Mike Standen stepped in to quarterback the Friars (1-9) for a brief stretch in the second quarter and was intercepted by Ken Borrelli. The Lions’ defense limited the Friars to nine first downs.
Nelson found Jackson in single coverage and threw the ball up to give his receiver a chance. Jackson turned it into a 35-yard scoring reception with 5:47 left in the third quarter. It was Bonner’s first points in two games against O’Hara this season. That late flurry could be a learning tool for the 35 freshman the Friars welcomed into the program.
“We kept on fighting,” said Jackson, who caught four passes for 93 yards. “I gave it everything I’ve got. I’m a senior, this is my last game and it was wonderful fighting with my team for the last time.
“The freshmen, they got a lot of experience tonight about what’s it going to happen next year. They’ve just got to step up and play big boy football.”
The Lions scored just once in the second half, Sprague finishing off a fine march with a two-yard sneak. He then found Santilla for the two-point conversion and a 35-point lead. With 10:01 left, the running clock had begun.
“We’ve come a long way,” Sprague said. “We’ve got to come out a little harder in the second half, though. We can’t take our foot off the gas.”
For Jackson, it’s the end of the active rivalry with the Lions. That’s what he’ll miss most when he graduates.
“Playing here,” Jackson said. “I love playing O’Hara. It’s a rivalry game. I know everybody here. My cousins were here. The atmosphere was crazy, I just love it.”
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