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Line of Duty: Bethlehem Catholic’s front too much for Pottsgrove

ROYERSFORD >> The Pottsgrove football team knew the feeling.

The Falcons spent much of the season dominating the opposition at the line of scrimmage on the way to a District 1 Class 4A championship. Friday night against Bethlehem Catholic, Pottsgrove saw what life was like for many of their past victims.

Bethlehem Catholic dominated the battle in the trenches and the game, 49-14 during the opening round of the PIAA Class 4A playoffs at Spring-Ford High School.

Pottsgrove, a team so traditionally founded on its play up front, had finally met its match. Becahi’s frontline was simply a force — enabling the Golden Hawk offense to rack up 360 yards rushing. Defensively, District 11 champ Becahi’s defensive front limited Pottsgrove’s star running back Rahsul Faison to a season-low 87 yards, that total inflated by a 79-yard touchdown carry.

Pottsgrove’s Javon Colbert (32) and Michael Dickey (62) team up to tackle Bethlehem Catholic running back Zaheer Seabrooks during the first half. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

On the night, the Stony Brook commit Faison surpassed Owen J. Roberts’ grad Ryan Brumfield (2010) to became the Pioneer Athletic Conference’s all-time leader for rushing yards in a season (2,920), but fell just eight yards shy of District 1’s all-time record set by Neshaminy’s D’andre Pollard in 2013.

It was a position that the Falcons perhaps hadn’t been since their last meeting with Bethlehem Catholic — a 51-20 opening-round loss during the state playoffs last season.

“We were on that side of the fence a lot of times this year,” said Pottsgrove head coach Rick Pennypacker of generally being the dominant team in the trenches. “My kids tonight found out what it was like to be there on the other side.”

Entering Friday, Pottsgrove’s defense was holding teams to just 73 yards rushing, best in the PAC, while returning the favor with a conference-best 345 rushing yards per game offensively.

Bethlehem Catholic’s Daizhun Rhodes (5) runs into the end zone for a touchdown in the first half while Pottsgrove’s Jimai Springfield pursues. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

That simply wouldn’t be the case against Bethlehem Catholic. Their bread-and-butter was completely neutralized.

“We just couldn’t get off blocks,” said Pennypacker. “It was nothing my kids could have done — Parris Janusek is 5-10, the kid he was going against was 6-3. My one tackle is 205-210 and he was up against a kid that was 305. What are we gonna do? When you’re out-manned and you’re overmatched, there’s not much you can do.”

“They were big up front, the biggest we’ve seen all year,” said senior two-way lineman Ephraim Hurt-Ramsey. “We kept fighting it the Pottsgrove way.”

Like Pottsgrove, the line-play has been the foundation of Becahi’s success all season.

Three times on the night, Bethlehem Catholic stuffed Pottsgrove inside the red zone, including a goal-line stand just seconds before the half that could have potentially altered all the momentum.

Pottsgrove quarterback Jay Sisko (11) hits the open field on a long touchdown run in the first quarter against Bethlehem Catholic. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

“Our guys take a lot of pride in that,” said Bethlehem Catholic head coach Joe Henrich of his team’s play up front. “We came in and everything is about their tailback and possible records and all these kids of things, and our guys take that personally. We’re a pretty stout team and our guys are energized and enthusiastic about everything right now. I’m really proud of the way they played.”

There’s hardly a way to replicate and prepare for a game like Friday night if you’re Pottsgrove. The Falcons were making the adjustments on the fly — including a solid night from quarterback Jay Sisko  — but didn’t have enough firepower.

Sisko rushed it for 89yards on 12 carries — including a 65-yard touchdown run while passing for 83 yards. Desmond Austin pulled in four receptions for 76 yards, including a 63-yard grab on a beautiful pass from Sisko.

With the loss, Pennypacker’s storied 29-year career came to a finish with Falcons. Even on a night where his team was overmatched on paper and ultimately on the field, he took plenty away from his final time on the sideline.

Pottsgrove head coach Rick Pennypacker speaks to his team after the Falcons’ season-ending loss to Bethlehem Catholic. It was the retiring Pennypacker’s final career game. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

“I can’t say anything bad about my kids. They gave me everything and never quit. They left it out there all season, tonight included,” said Pennypacker. “I couldn’t be more proud of the way they played.”

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