Re-tooled, reborn Neumann-Goretti drubs Interboro

PHILADELPHIA >> It usually takes a little while for a football team to settle into a new season.

For Neumann-Goretti, playing its season opener Saturday, the clock on that learning curve expired at, oh, about 19 minutes. And when the talent that first-year coach Albie Crosby has imported to the historically down Catholic League program started firing, Interboro didn’t know what hit it.

The Saints scored 48 unanswered points to roar by Interboro, 54-25, at the South Philly Super Site Saturday night.

It wasn’t your run-of-the-mill blowout though — Interboro led, 25-6, late in the second quarter. Then came the Neumann-Goretti explosion: 26 points in one minute, 49 seconds to take a 32-25 lead at halftime, and a total of 42 points in 13:50 of game action by the end of the third quarter.

“It was hard at first,” quarterback Charles Britt said. “We had to fight through it. Our team, we’re tough, and I believed in them, so I kept my head up high and I was ready.”

The catalyst was Interboro’s wastefulness with the ball. Kalie Kuyateh was on his way to a stupendous first half, with running touchdowns of 34, two and three yards.

But then the Interboro runner started putting the ball on the ground. He fumbled two consecutive kickoffs — one recovered by Neumann-Goretti’s Rafiq Miller, the other forced by Miller and captured by Jahmir Stillman. That set up Leddie Brown’s nine-yard score and a fade thrown by Britt, a transfer from the shuttered Del Val Charter, to Tre’Sean Bouie for a tremendous catch to put the Saints up, 26-25.

The next time the ball slipped out of Kuyateh’s hands, it found the mitts of defensive end Kharon Lloyd for an 18-yard return touchdown.

“I just saw the ball and I scooped and scored,” Lloyd said. “It gave me an opportunity to score.”

“It’s really difficult to manage that,” Interboro running back Joe Forte said. “It’s just a punch right in the face. One minute you think you’re up, and then you’re down.”

All told, the Bucs fumbled nine times, losing three. It felt particularly detrimental since Neumann’s inability to secure the football helped fuel Interboro’s early edge. The Saints coughed up two kick returns — one forced by Ryan Doughty and recovered by Geno Marchesano, the other jarred loose by Anthony Zizza for Forte to fall on.

But where Neumann-Goretti weathered its mistakes, perhaps in part because of the new-season sheen, Interboro was punished more harshly by the Saints’ explosiveness.

The stats flattered Interboro, which ran for 315 yards and ran 60 offensive snaps. The Bucs (2-1) gained 21 first downs and benefitted from 16 Neumann-Goretti penalties. Kayuteh finished with 128 yards and Forte added 75, including a one-yard touchdown in the second quarter. But they couldn’t keep up.

“Keeping it together, it’s tough, especially when they keep racking up those points,” Forte said. “We just try to stay together, pat either other on the butt and stay as one.”

Britt threw for 244 yards and four scores on just 8-for-11. He found Macon, a Bishop McDevitt transfer, twice for scores, and tossed an out pass to Brown on third-and-13 with which the running back scampered 97 yards. Chris Wells added a 68-yard touchdown, and Brown returned a kick 85 yards in the first quarter.

Despite the changes Crosby has instituted on the personnel side, the win was special for holdovers like Lloyd, part of an 0-9 team last year that ended the season early as participation dwindled to fewer than 20 players. He’s one of only 11 returnees, and to rise from last year’s despair to Saturday’s jubilation was particularly poignant.

“I didn’t win all season last year,” Lloyd said. “It felt good to win today. … It’s a relief, for us to win instead of us just losing every game and everybody giving up. Everybody works hard and everybody’s putting in their all, 100 percent.”

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