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Stingy O’Hara shuts down Carroll, preps for Imhotep

Cardinal O'Hara's Joe Kelly (66) celebrates a safety in the first quarter of a District 12 Class 4A semifinal game against Archbishop Carroll Saturday at O'Hara. (Eric Hartline/For Digital First Media)

MARPLE TWP. – John Caponi and Richie Kimmel once were teammates.

“We played baseball together,” Cardinal O’Hara junior lineman Caponi said.

“We played for a Ridley travel team in the Cal Ripken regionals,” Archbishop Carroll junior linebacker Kimmel said.

Cardinal O’Hara quarterback Luke Sprague is in full flight until Archbishop Carroll’s Shawn Johnson grabs some jersey Saturday during a District 12 semifinal game between the teams. (Eric Hartline/For Digital First Media)

The two exchanged pleasantries after the Catholic League Class 4A championship game at Lions Field Saturday night. Caponi was the one who walked away from the playing area smiling after helping O’Hara shut out Carroll 9-0.

With the win, the Lions (7-3) advanced in the PIAA Tournament to a matchup with Public League 4A champ Imhotep Charter. That game will be played at 6 p.m. Friday at Benjamin L. Johnston Memorial Stadium, the Germantown High Super Site in Philadelphia.

O’Hara was leading, 2-0, after a safety in the final minute of the opening quarter, and Caponi turned in one of the biggest plays of the game when he sacked Carroll sophomore quarterback Nick Lamey at the Lions’ 21 midway through the second quarter. One play later, a 12-play Patriots drive came to a halt.

It took O’Hara 10 plays and four minutes to drive 74 yards for the only touchdown of the game. The key play of the march was a 32-yard completion from running back Quasir Cottman to Chris Kirby, putting the ball at the Carroll 27. O’Hara covered those 27 yards in five running plays, with Cottman going the final eight yards to the end zone.

“We knew it would be tougher against them this time,” Cottman said. “Our offensive line had to do a really good job, and they did.”

Ryan Culp, Joe Kelly, Louis Perri, and Cole Gehret were among the Lions who punched holes in the Carroll defense and protected quarterback Luke Sprague during the chilly night.

O’Hara PJ O’Reilly, left, and Louis Perri strip the ball from Carroll quarterback Nick Lamey during the second quarter of playoff game at Cardinal O’Hara. (Eric Hartline/For Digital First Media)

On the other side of the ball, the O’Hara defense gave up only 69 yards rushing on 29 attempts by Carroll (5-6).

After his big play late in the first half, Caponi had three more tackles for losses after the break.

“You just never want to give up,” he said. “We owed it to our coaches to get this shutout today.”

O’Hara coach B.J. Hogan made it a point to mention that after his team surrendered 39 points to Conwell-Egan in final game of the regular season, he was pleased to see the effort his defenders gave him Saturday night.

“Getting a shutout in a Catholic League playoff game is big,” he said. “But we know we have to do a better job of getting things done on offense. We can’t keep getting into the red zone and coming away with nothing, especially against the team we have to play next.”

Kimmel’s name was heard over the public address system often during each of the four quarters. He made four stops during an O’Hara drive late in the third period, including a tackle for a loss on Cottman on a fourth-and-goal play from the Carroll 2.

“We played much better against them than we did the last time (a 21-7 loss in September),” Kimmel said. “We didn’t want to let their offense get started.”

While Caponi and his teammates will get ready for their next playoff game, Kimmel will turn his attention to the 2019 Carroll baseball season as the Patriots attempt to match the long run in the postseason the 2018 squad turned in last spring.

“Maybe next year at this time I’ll have the chance to enjoy a win in a playoff football game,” Kimmel said.

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