Wood doesn’t offer O’Hara any happy returns

WARMINSTER >> This week, Cardinal O’Hara had to wait an extra two days between games before taking on Archbishop Wood. Sunday afternoon, there was no such wait for the game’s first big play.
Cardinal O’Hara surrendered a touchdown on the opening kickoff, as Archbishop Wood trounced the Lions, 50-7, in a Catholic League Class AAA game at William Tennent High School.
It was the first of Wood’s two special-teams touchdowns in the first quarter. After an O’Hara three-and-out, the Vikings’ Bobby Heck returned the ensuing punt 55 yards for another score.
“In my entire football playing career, I’ve never had my team go up, 14-0, before I took my first snap,” said Wood quarterback Anthony Russo, a Rutgers commit.
Wood’s special-teams unit outgained its offense, racking up 260 return yards to Russo and Co.’s 244 yards of total offense. There was little O’Hara (1-6, 0-2) could do to slow down Wood (7-0, 2-0), the reigning two-time PIAA Class AAA champions.
“The return game killed us. That set up 28, 35 points right there,” said O’Hara coach B.J. Hogan. “We’re sitting there, almost waiting for them. We have to go full speed. We have the advantage there. We have to get off blocks, get down the field, and make a play. I have to see on film whether it’s a scheme thing or not.”
Wood’s Jordan Johnson hauled in a pair of first-half touchdown passes from Russo, and Raheem Blackshear — who took the opening kickoff 82 yards for a score — added two rushing touchdowns to his ledger.
Throw in a third-quarter safety and a fourth-quarter score by second-stringer Qualik Davis, and Wood ran off 50 points unanswered. It wasn’t until O’Hara reserve running back Taseer Jones found the end zone with 39 seconds remaining in the game that the Lions had fended off a potential shutout.
Not all is lost for O’Hara.
Twice, the Lions picked off Russo. Linebacker Kyle Godsey shadowed Russo as he bootlegged to his right in the second quarter, before snagging his errant pass. And later that quarter, O’Hara’s Alvin Eburuah intercepted Russo to stymie a Wood drive in the red zone.
“We just came out trying to stop them as quick as we could, but they’re a really good team,” said Godsey, who also forced a fumble in the third quarter. “That team is fast, the quarterback (Russo) gets the ball out fast, and they’re just an all-around good team.
“We practiced hard this week, but it’s a lot different than what we prepared for in practice.”
O’Hara’s postseason hopes are fleeting. The Lions will need wins next week against visiting Archbishop Ryan, then another in the final week of the regular season at Bonner-Prendergast — and some outside help — to secure one of the four Catholic League Class AAA playoff spots within their five-team division.
“We have to work hard in practice and come out good against Ryan, then do the same thing against Bonner,” said running back Myles Henderson, who cobbled only 18 yards rushing on 14 carries. “We’re a good team. We just have to play together.”
Hogan will be echoing that sentiment Tuesday, following an off day for his team.
“If they’re sluggish, it’s my job to get them motivated,” the first-year coach said. “I haven’t had an issue with the kids. They come to work. But we’ve got to continue to motivate them even more to make sure they’re stepping up.
“They haven’t checked out and we won’t let them. Whether you’re 1-9 or 10-0, the coaches work the kids are hard as ever. You expect greatness from your group. You need to respect the game and do things the right way, and that means not checking out to get through a season. I won’t let it happen. We’re struggling, but that’s life. Nothing’s easy in life. We’ll get there.”


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