Dominant Bonner lets one slip away

PHILADELPHIA >> Bonner-Prendergast had done just about everything necessary to win Saturday’s game. The Friars controlled the ball on offense, limited big plays (and, really, any plays) on defense. And they had a lead late in the fourth quarter.

Until they didn’t.

Bonner-Prendergast’s defensive breakdown on Archbishop Ryan’s final series helped the host Raiders rally for a 7-6 win at Northeast High School in a Catholic League Class AAA semifinal.

A pair of 15-yard personal foul penalties helped Archbishop Ryan cover significant ground on its 10-play drive, which started at its own 29-yard line. And a 16-yard completion on a fake punt set up the game-winning touchdown — a 1-yard lunge by Raiders quarterback Matt Romano with 3:46 to go.

“I knew that six points wasn’t going to be enough. I knew we had to get more points,” said Bonner-Prendergast senior linebacker Ryan George.

The third-seeded Friars (4-6) had a shot to reclaim the lead in a game that belonged to them for a bulk of regulation. Bonner-Prendergast quarterback Shaun Douglas led a drive to the Ryan 25-yard line, aided by his 20-yard reception on a trick-play connection with Evan Raiburn.

Three plays later, Archbishop Ryan’s Cha Cha Gary intercepted Douglas for the second time and, with 32 seconds remaining, sealed the Raiders’ comeback win.

“We had the ball in the right guy’s hands,” said Bonner-Prendergast running back Joe Hartley-Vittoria, referring to Douglas.

The Friars, who had one timeout remaining, weren’t pressed to throw to the end zone on what proved to be their final offensive snap.

“On the first downs of that drive, (the Raiders) were playing a little tighter, so we figured we’d take a shot there,” Hartley-Vittoria said. “We liked the matchup we had with (Bonner-Prendergast receiver Jordan) Mosley. The kid (Gary) just made a play.”

With the win, the second-seeded Raiders (7-3) advance to next weekend’s Catholic League Class AAA championship game against Archbishop Wood (9-0), the reigning PIAA champion that’s riding a 19-game winning streak.

Players on the Bonner-Prendergast sideline believed they were headed for that game, talking about the top-seeded Vikings as their semifinal against Archbishop Ryan played out.

They couldn’t be blamed for looking ahead, either. Bonner-Prendergast led for all but the game’s final three and a half minutes. The Friars dominated the first half, racking up 165 yards of offense while limiting Ryan to 44 yards.

And they had the lead.

The Friars pulled ahead, 6-0, just prior to halftime when Douglas floated a 6-yard pass across his body to the left corner of the end zone and to the hands of George. The senior, who bobbled the pass as he fell to the ground, corralled it for the score with 2:25 left in the second quarter.

“I got it with one hand real low, and I squeezed it in,” George said. “I was nervous right there.”

Archbishop Ryan had hardly threatened Bonner-Prendergast until its final drive, its first and only red-zone trip. The Raiders benefited from two 15-yard personal foul whistles against the Friars, including one on George, to move them down the field in short order.

“You could tell stuff was going bad for us,” said George, who had four tackles for loss, three batted passes, and a forced fumble. “I was just trying to get something started. It was away from the play. It was a stupid mistake on my part. I got my hand where I shouldn’t have had it.”

Added Bernhardt: “He was fired up. He was playing in the emotion of the game. What’re you going to do?”

Then Ryan’s Romano went in for the decisive score to sink Bonner-Prendergast.

“Our guys were battling out there, working hard,” Bernhardt said. “At the end of the day, we were just one play away.”

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