Bonner’s defense stands tall in sloppy win

RADNOR >> A wet, muddy ball and a wet, muddy field made for exactly the kind of game one would expect. It was ugly, it was messy, it was abnormal.

Both Archbishop Carroll and Bonner-Prendergast found the end zone once. The difference? The Friars hit their extra point. The Patriots did not. So, it went 7-6 in favor of the visitors in a Catholic League opener that was played in a steady drizzle, on a field that was mostly mud.

The Friars (2-3 overall, 1-0) have won two straight. Last week they survived a pesky Chester team. This week, they survived a much tougher team than they’ve seen in years past in Carroll (1-4, 0-1). Both went for wins. After that 0-3 start, that’s all coach Greg Bernhardt wanted to see.

“At the end of the day, that’s all that matters,” he said. “We knew the weather was going to be rough, the field was going to be a mess, so we just said ‘Hey man, focus on what you can control.’ The biggest thing is going 1-0 in the league, and that’s where we’re at.”

Bonner-Prendergast scored its touchdown on Shaun Douglas’ 51-yard pass to Joseph Hartley-Vittoria. Douglas, playing for an injured Evan Raiburn, threw a floater down the sideline that the hard-charging running back caught like an outfielder hauling in a pop-up. Because of the field, the defenders slipped behind him, leaving Hartley-Vittoria about 40 yards of green (and brown).

He barely made it across the goal line before being tackled.

“That was the thing, it’s tough on this kind of grass to go up, especially to defend the ball,” Bernhardt said. “Looking at film all week, we thought we had that. We thought it would be more open … but we liked that matchup, we thought we could hit it.”

What followed that play was key. The point-after made it 7-0 midway through the second quarter. The Friars wound up holding that advantage.

“We’re 2-0 right now, 1-0 in the league,” Hartley-Vittoria explained. “We got a little something (going).”

The defense did the rest from there. Carroll had just 156 yards of total offense (Bonner-Prendergast had a mere 113). The hosts were handed chances to score in the first half, but couldn’t. The biggest of the opportunities came just before halftime, when Kyrin Jackson intercepted Stephen Honick in the end zone.

It was one of several key plays the Bonner-Prendergast defense made. With the conditions and the offensive struggles, this unit knew it was on them. They delivered.

“I thought that was going to be enough,” said linebacker Ryan George of the 7-0 lead. “We just needed to hold them.”

Carroll finally scored on Rahsul Faison’s 2-yard run in the third quarter, but of course, the point-after was missed. It didn’t get another first down the rest of the way.

“It’s not just one play,” Carroll coach Joe Powel said. “We made key mistakes at key times.”

Powel, though, was still encouraged. The loss hurt — but that was a good thing. In previous years, it wouldn’t. He put it simply: “The care was there.”

Bonner-Prendergast walked away with perhaps even more encouragement, and even more to look forward to. After that tepid start, it has reeled off two wins, including a league victory.

In both weeks, there was one constant — strong defense.

“Those guys have really played well the last couple of weeks, they’re getting better each week,” Bernhardt said. “That’s another thing we harp on — guys stepping up and making plays.”

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