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Late interception dooms O’Hara in loss to McDevitt

MARPLE >> All that Cardinal O’Hara needed Friday night was one first down. Leading by seven points with three minutes to play in the fourth quarter, the Lions faced a third-and-five at their 20.

“And then we got the penalty,” coach BJ Hogan said.

False start. Five yards. Third-and-10.

“And then we threw the ball into double coverage,” Hogan said.

Bishop McDevitt’s Lonnie Rice picked off O’Hara quarterback Luke Sprague and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown. Chris Kirby blocked the extra point to preserve a one-point lead for the Lions.

It wouldn’t last.

With 1:15 left on the clock, McDevitt quarterback Rice connected on three passes. Sensational sophomore tailback Jon-Luke Peaker then took a handoff and darted three yards into the end zone for the game-winning score. O’Hara gave up two touchdowns in the final three minutes and suffered a 12-7 defeat, their first of the year.

“Heartbreaking,” said Kirby, the Lions’ senior wide receiver/defensive back whose nine-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter snapped a scoreless tie. “We didn’t get it done. We didn’t finish.”

Hogan accepted blame for the loss. In hindsight, he said, he should have called a running play on that crucial third down. But when the Lions were whistled for a five-yard infraction, he felt obligated to throw the ball.

“Bad coaching. I was stupid and told them to throw the ball when I should’ve just ran it,” Hogan said. “That false start hurts. You have a shot on third-and-five, you run the ball and punt anyway if you don’t get the first down. That’s on me. I’ve got to go back (to the) film and look at that.”

The Lions recovered the ensuing onside kick, which would have given them the ball near midfield, but they were called for offsides. Bishop McDevitt then opted to kick the ball deep and allow its defense to force a three-and-out. Starting at their 20-yard line, the Lions went backward and eventually punted with just over a minute to play. Derrick Patrick’s punt traveled just 18 yards, giving the Lancers (3-1, 1-0 Catholic League Blue Division) tremendous field position despite not having any timeouts left. That’s when Rice (6-for-10, 94 yards) went to work.

“I knew O’Hara wasn’t going to let me run after last year. I kind of ran it up on them last year,” Rice said. “I had to pass it.”

Sophomore Joachim McElroy caught passes of 14 and 13 yards to put the Lancers within striking distance. Peaker (146 yards on 18 carries) then finished the game-winning drive.

“O’Hara is a good team, but with us, we’ve got a lot of young stars on our team,” Rice said. “Sophomores, a lot of underclassmen who have big hearts. And I told them, I’ve got your backs as long as you’ve got mine. If I keep my calm, you keep your calm. Just come in, play football, execute and we’ll win the game.”

Both teams struggled to find rhythm offensively in the first half. The Lions’ opening drive of the night resulted in a lost fumble in the end zone after a nice catch by Max Much. Due to a slew of gaffes the Lions left plenty of points on the field.

“It started in pregame; the kids weren’t really focused,” Hogan said. “I don’t think kids at the high school level really understand that the little things translate into big things. … The focus was there in practice all week, but I don’t think we were ready to play early.”

One week after rushing for 204 yards in a victory at Sun Valley, Keed Kpoto amassed 112 yards on 26 carries. Sprague went 10-for-22 for 124 yards with a touchdown and two costly interceptions. Patrick had two catches for 49 yards and Kirby had three receptions for 25 yards.

“We got to clean up a lot of stuff and get ready for (Archbishop) Carroll next week,” Hogan said. “We’re in a tough stretch in our schedule right now. It doesn’t get any easier.”

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