HORSHAM >> In a game where momentum teetered like a seesaw, something had to give in Hatboro-Horsham’s 28-14 win over Wissahickon.
Wissahickon got off to an early 2-0 lead on an ill-advised pitch play by the Hatters while backed-up on their own goal line. Trojans running back Chris Smalls followed that up with a touchdown run, giving his team an 8-0 lead.
The Hatters struggled for much of the first half until a little over three minutes remaining in the second quarter. That was when fullback Jordan Collazo sprinted for a 69-yard touchdown run and cut the lead to 8-7.
The Hatters defense then got a pivotal stop on the Trojans’ ensuing possession. First-year head coach Bruce Fleming went for it on fourth-and-one at midfield but Smalls was stuffed. Seconds later, Hatboro-Horsham quarterback Patrick Chapman found a wide-open Amir Bookard down the sideline for a 46-yard touchdown. Just like that, the Hatters carried a 14-8 lead into halftime.
Still looking for their first win under Fleming, Wissahickon clawed back in the fourth quarter with a 12-yard touchdown run by running back Maurice Johnson, tying the game at 14.
The teams then began to exchange turnovers. The Hatters had a blown opportunity, when going for it on fourth down from 15 yards out, Chapman floated a pass that went right between an open receiver’s hands in the end zone.
Trojans wideout Maurice Willis then lost a fumble on the ensuing possession while sprinting down the sideline, only for Wissahickon to scoop up a fumble by Collazo on the very next play. Keeping up with the trend, Nahji Logan picked off Wissahickon quarterback Santo to reclaim possession for Hatboro-Horsham.
Collazo made up for his lost fumble by giving the Hatters a 21-14 lead with six minutes left in the game, running it in from 16 yards out.
Bookard is the Hatters’ workhouse tailback and was perhaps the most skilled offensive player on the field between either team, but it was Collazo who utilized his strong build, kept his head down and ripped off two game-defining runs.
“You ask the fullback to do a lot of things, like open up holes for the speedster (Bookard),” said Hatters head coach Michael Kapusta. “Then you can hit (Collazo) up on the inside with some quick-hitters. He can really run the ball effectively as well.”
It was Logan who then sealed the deal with a pick-six off Santo, his second takeaway of the fourth quarter.
“I think tonight was the coming out party for (Logan),” Kapusta said. “He just really played a tough game. It was more than just those big plays. He did a lot of things maybe the layperson doesn’t see. He was doing a nice job setting the edge, staying home and all those things. When you do the little things, the big things happen.”
Wissahickon, an exceptionally young team with a first-year coach at helm to boot, perhaps saw a glimpse of what’s to come if patience can be had and maturation can be developed. Santo is back under center after spending some time with La Salle over the summer.
He transferred back to Wissahickon and had to sit out the first two games of the regular season due to a new eligibility rule. The Trojans relied heavily on the run without him. With him, they are much more balanced. Turnovers were his bugaboo Friday night.
“It’s a big difference (having Santo at quarterback),” Fleming said. “Even though he’s a sophomore, he played six games as a freshman last year and that gave him a lot of confidence to understand the speed and the flow of varsity football. This year, now he has to take the next steps. That’s being able to be that quarterback that everyone knows he can be. He has to believe in himself, which he does, but he still has those mistakes, like the wrong read on a certain pattern or pulling the ball down too quickly. I think as the year finishes out, we’re going to see a different Nick Santo.”
Wissahickon did not look like a doormat. It was a step in the right direction, despite falling to 0-5.
“One of the things we talked about all week is being resilient,” Fleming said. “Finding a way to fight through when things don’t go our way. And I think my guys have started to learn that, that we’re going to fight through to the end no matter what. We saw that tonight.
“Everyone knows where this program has been over the past 5-6 years, so we need to build it brick by brick,” Fleming continued. “I think we are slowly getting to that point. I tell my guys all the time that I love the fight. I love the effort, and I love that we are taking the right steps.”
The Hatters, meanwhile, improved to 2-3. They do not have a quarterback of Santo’s upside and they may lack some offensive playmakers outside of Bookard, but they are more seasoned. In his fifth season at the helm, Kapusta’s philosophy mirrors that of Fleming’s: being head coach has as much to do with teaching integrity and resiliency as it does coaching football.
“It’s huge to see the guys stay in the fight,” said Kapusta. “We talk about it all the time, responding to adversity. When something bad happens you fight right back and make a play. It’s the kind of thing that makes your hair stand up, that I coach guys who are doing that.”
Hatboro-Horsham 28, Wissahickon 14
Wiss – Safety
Wiss – Smalls 1 run (2-point conversion failed)
HH – Collazo – 69 run (extra point successful)
HH – Bookard – 46 catch (extra point successful)
Wiss – Johnson 12 run (2-point conversation failed)
HH – Collazo 16 run (extra point successful)
HH – Logan interception return (extra point successful)
Passing: HH: Chapman 4-10, 55 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT. Wiss: Santo 10-24, 132 yds, 0 TD, 3 INTs.
Rushing: HH: Bookard 14-127; Collazo 4-91, 2 TDs; Chapman 6-32. Wiss: C. Smalls 11-37, 1 TD; Johnson 6-45, 1 TD; Santo 1-10.
Receiving: HH: Bookard 4-55, 1 TD. Wiss: Willis 5-104; J. Smalls 3-18; Johnson 2-9; Schreiner 1-1.
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