READING >> Berks Catholic booked a return engagement to the District 3 4A title game Friday night with a 48-7 dismantling of East Pennsboro in a semifinal clash at Forino Sports Complex.
The Saints will draw Bishop McDevitt in the 4A title game on Black Friday at Hersheypark Stadium. That contest is slated for a 1 p.m. kick-off. The Crusaders defeated Lampeter-Strasburg in Friday’s other 4A semifinal.
“We’ve been so prepared in every phase of the game, I’m just so proud of them,” veteran Berks Catholic head coach Rick Keeley said. “It’s just a real good thing going on for our program right now.” The Saints delivered a birthday present to their head coach mere hours early and sang “Happy Birthday” to him him in the post-game huddle on the field.
Another district title game — which, frankly, has seemed a formality for some time now — was realized with what has become the familiar Saints’ MO: Overwhelm early with superior talent on both sides of the ball and save the firepower for the next week with a second-half mercy clock. It was BC’s 10th mercy clock victory of the season.
BC (12-0) did that against Enola’s Panthers (9-3) with a 42-point first-half outburst while managing to shut down star running back Onasis Neely during that span. Neely came into Friday’s semifinal averaging nearly 210 yards rushing per game and had amassed in excess of 2,220 yards this season. He was held to 31 on 12 totes by BC’s ferocious defense in the first half.
BC’s first-teamers remain unscored upon for the entire season. That is a stat that seems ripped straight the pages of old- timey leather helmet history, but it is true and remains intact as the Saints march into Hersheypark Stadium to take on the Crusaders for all the marbles next week.
BC harassed Panthers quarterbacks Payton Morris and Nik Karoly into a miserable 3 of 11 showing for 32 yards and two pick-sixes, one charged to each.
Neely finished with 122 yards on 22 carries and scored a touchdown on the final carry of his high school career, with 1:20 to play, to avoid a shut out. But when it mattered, he could not find space and East Pennsboro’s offensive line simply could not get the push needed in the trenches or on the edges to create it.
“One of the reasons we’ve been able to do it is because of the numbers he puts up,” Keeley said. “He has over 2,000 yards rushing and in order to do that you have be a good athlete and you have to work really hard. That presented a great challenge to our defense, to want to compete against a back of that caliber. And they really rose to the occasion and played their best game, I think.”
Keeley’s crew did similar damage to Neely and Co. in this same spot a year ago.
Cooper Lutz torched East Penn for 144 rushing yards on just six totes, with touchdown scampers on half of them. Lutz ran for scores of 28, 55 and 40 yards. The last TD was his final carry of the evening and gave BC a 48-0 lead with 6:21 left in the third quarter. Lutz had added a 2-point conversion run earlier to get the Saints to the mercy clock midway through the second quarter — after an earlier PAT block left them sitting at 33-0 following Brandon George’s 2-yard scoring plunge.
Tre Dabney, an important cog on both sides of the ball, sparked BC early with a 65-yard punt return for touchdown to break the seal with 4:08 left in the opening stanza. He later had a 32-yard interception return for a score on defense to give BC its 42-0 lead with 1:01 to play in the half.
“Tre just loves to play football,” Keeley said. “He has talents that he uses and it showed it tonight with that pick-six and that punt return for touchdown. He makes good things happen and I’m happy for him.”
George, who has been nursing a sore ankle, was pressed into service — instead of cautiously being held out again — when his backup at fullback, Tom Molteni, sustained a leg injury early in the contest. He had a 42-yard pick for a score on East Penn’s first snap following Dabney’s punt return to give the Saints a 13-0 lead late in the first quarter and appeared to be fine.
McDevitt awaits. Keeley relishes the match-up.
“Well, when you talk about Bishop McDevitt, that’s a team that any good program wants to play, because they’re a very good program,” he said. “Since we got bumped to (the ‘new’) Quad-A, I knew it was only going to be a matter of time before our two programs were going to be able to compete against each other.
“It’s going to be huge challenge. When you talk about Bishop McDevitt, you’re talking about the best of the best.”
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