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Berks Catholic thumps Bishop McDevitt, 45-24, to repeat as District 3 4A champions

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HERSHEY >> What had felt like destiny from the start came to realization Friday afternoon in Hershey.

Berks Catholic secured its third consecutive District 3 title with a 45-24 thumping of Bishop McDevitt at Hersheypark Stadium.

It was the Saints’ second straight in the ‘new’ 4A classification, created prior to the 2016 season when the PIAA expanded from four to six classifications. The 2015 crown was a 2A triumph, over rival Wyomissing, under the prior system. Last year, the Saints clipped Shippensburg in the first year of the realigned 4A class.

Berks Catholic’s Luis Garcia tries to slide by Bishop McDevitt’s Aaron Gethers during the PIAA District III AAAA Football Championship at Hersheypark Stadium in Hershey on Friday, November 24, 2017. KIRK NEIDERMYER | PA Prep Live

It was the first ever-meeting between Berks Catholic and Bishop McDevitt and the first for Saints’ head coach Rick Keeley, who was Holy Name’s head man before the Diocese merger with Reading Central Catholic created Berks Catholic seven summers ago.

Keeley spoke a week ago, after his club dispatched East Pennsboro by a 48-7 count in the 4A semifinal, about what the chance to compete against McDevitt meant. The smile on Keeley’s face Saturday suggested this one resonated a bit more deeply, given the opposition his club had just handily vanquished.

“I just get more proud of them every week,” Keeley beamed, moments after the saints were awarded the D-3 trophy on the field. “This was one of our goals. We wanted to play in Hershey, play for the district championship and play Bishop McDevitt.

“That is a great program over there. For us to be able to come out and compete the way we did and come of it, that speaks volumes of our program, in my estimation. The results show on the scoreboard.”

Through 13 weeks, there has yet to be a team that has come close to being able to contain Berks Catholic’s Wing-T attack, led by Cooper Lutz out of the backfield — the Saints won by an average of 41.3 points per game during the regular season, the largest average margin in Berks football history. The Crusaders became the latest club to fail in that objective.

Berks Catholic’s Cooper Lutz puts the stiff arm on Bishop McDevitt’s James Lawson during the PIAA District III AAAA Football Championship at Hersheypark Stadium in Hershey on Friday, November 24, 2017. KIRK NEIDERMYER | PA Prep Live

Lutz rushed for 221 yards on 18 carries and scored three touchdowns — all before the half — as the Saints (13-0) executed the Wing-T brilliantly while exposing a speed gap on the edges. All Lutz needed was one block, one hole, one slice of daylight, and it was off to the races.

“Our guards were outstanding today,” Keeley said. “They were out in front of (Lutz), they would get a kick-out block, they’d get the seal block; Cooper, now, he’s waiting for them to do that and he hits the pedal and boy, off he goes. It’s just clicking.”

Lutz: “We watched a couple of games of film and we knew we could get the edge. I took the edge pretty well and went with it. We knew they had a really athletic secondary and perhaps the pass wasn’t going to be there the whole time. We emphasized down-blocking their ends all week in practice.”

Berks Catholic’s Anthony Myers knocks the ball out of Bishop McDevitt’s James Lawson’s arms during the PIAA District III AAAA Football Championship at Hersheypark Stadium in Hershey on Friday, November 24, 2017. KIRK NEIDERMYER | PA Prep Live

BC set that tone with a 5-play, 65-yard drive to open the scoring, just 1:49 into the game. Lutz finished off the series with an 11-yard scamper.

McDevitt countered with a drive deep into BC that fizzled out on consecutive incomplete passes and short screen dunk for three yards — but placekicker Jon Fonner ended the season-long unscored-upon streak the Saints’ first-team defense had compiled with a 30-yard field goal to make it 7-3.

Berks Catholic’s Matt Hagelbarger gets ready to abetter the field with his teammates during the PIAA District III AAAA Football Championship at Hersheypark Stadium in Hershey on Friday, November 24, 2017. KIRK NEIDERMYER | PA Prep Live

But Berks Catholic responded to that with a nine-play, 69-yard campaign and a 14-3 lead with 1:09 left in the first on a 30-yard run touchdown by Lutz, untouched, off the right edge.

A would-be 21-3 lead on Tre Dabney’s 69-yard punt return was wiped by a holding call at the quarter gun. Undeterred, BC finished off the series anyway, 2:19 into the second, with Lutz’s 41-yard dash for score. At 21-3, McDevitt was out of its element.

McDevitt quarterback Chase Diehl was uncomfortable in the pocket all afternoon. His feet provided 30 net yards rushing (46 gross, with two sacks for minus-7 and 9 yards), but those were unscripted scrambles. Diehl also threw two picks, including a killer late in the first half with the Crusaders driving down 28-9 that could have provided a second-half surge.

Qualik Davis’ 4-yard plunge on an earlier drive ended BC’s first-team defense unscored-upon streak, the capper to an 11-play, 65-yard campaign that made it 21-9, following a missed conversion.

Again, though, the Saints answered. Lutz went for 55 on the first snap down to the McD 11, where three plays later quarterback Terrence Derr found back Luis Garcia in the flat and a 15-yard scoring strike that opened it up to 28-9 at the break.

A Jamin Smith field goal, an Anthony Myers 28-yard run and a Derr plunge from a yard out in the second half provided icing.

Berks Catholic’s Cooper Lutz receives the trophy from a PIAA official after winning the PIAA District III AAAA Football Championship at Hersheypark Stadium in Hershey on Friday, November 24, 2017. KIRK NEIDERMYER | PA Prep Live

District 3 4A championship

at Hersheypark Stadium

Berks Catholic 45, Bishop McDevitt 24

McD –  3  6  8  7 — 24

BC –  14  14  3  14  — 45

First quarter

BC – Cooper Lutz 11 run (Jamin Smith kick), 10:11

McD – Jon Fonner 30 FG, 6:15

BC – Lutz 30 run (Smith kick), 1:08

Second quarter

BC – Lutz 41 run (Smith kick), 9:28

McD – Qualik Davis 4 run (kick failed), 4:48

BC – Luis Garcia 15 pass from Terrence Derr (Smith kick), 3:06

Third quarter

McD – Tory Vajdic 13 pass from Chase Diehl (Davis run),  6:32

BC – Smith 27 FG, 1:13

Fourth quarter

BC- Anthony Myers 28 run (Smith kick), 8:37

BC – Derr 1 run (Smith kick), 4:13

McD – Davis 13 run (Fonner kick), 2:42

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