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Pope John Paul II plays two strong halves in win over New Hope-Solebury

UPPER PROVIDENCE >> After suffering a disappointing loss in last week’s opener — a game in which they led by 26 points — the Pope John Paul II football team did not want that negative momentum to carry over into Saturday afternoon’s contest against New Hope-Solebury.

And the Golden Panthers made sure it did not as they held the visitors to negative yardage in the first half and Andrew McDonald returned two punts for touchdowns in a 55-6 non-league win.

Chris Bruder ran for 129 yards and Kamal Gray passed for two scores as PJP (1-1) racked up 341 total yards to 82 for the Lions (0-2), who had beaten the Panthers 42-34 in a district semifinal contest last season.

“It was a great team win,” said Pope John Paul coach Rory Graver, whose team lost a 26-0 lead in a 47-46 setback to Roman Catholic last Saturday. “Special teams, we had two great returns for touchdowns. The defense kind of bounced back this week. Coach Tony Yerger had a great plan. We told them we can’t let Roman beat us twice.”

Pope John Paul II’s Andrew McDonald returns one of his two punt return touchdowns against New Hope-Solebury. (Owen McCue – MediaNews Group)

The Golden Panthers were forced to punt on their first possession, but put together a 42-yard drive late in the opening quarter with Gray running into the end zone from four yards out.

Then the floodgates opened in a 29-point second quarter that featured a 24-yard TD pass from Gray to Justin Kormos, a 55-yard punt return by McDonald for a score, a 2-yard TD run by Bruder after PJP took over at the Lion 19 yard line following a 31-yard punt return by McDonald, a 23-yard scoring pass from Gray to Steve Skarbek and a pair of two-point conversion runs by Josh Little.

And while the Golden Panthers were aware of the possibility of blowing another big lead, they certainly did not let that effect their play when they came back out to start the second half with a 35-0 advantage.

“I think it’s in everyone’s mind,” said McDonald. “But after what happened last week, we couldn’t let Roman beat us again. Our big word is ‘finish’. We want to finish every game.”

(Owen McCue – MediaNews Group)

McDonald returned a punt 64 yards for a TD in the third quarter and Bruder ran 42 yards for a score late in the period to make it 49-0.

McDonald attributed the special teams success to the work that as been put in every practice.

“More this year than I’ve ever experienced with any team,” he said. “We did it for an hour last night. We watched film on it. We were able to capitalize. We know how important it is.”

“We have a great special team,” Graver added. “We spend at least 25 minutes every practice with coach Adam Beach and the players are buying into what he’s bringing.”

Pope John Paul II’s Ambrose Colliluroi (62) and Josh Little (9) pressure New-Hope Solebury quarterback Dylan Hildebrnadt. (Owen McCue – MediaNews Group)

That segment of the game was certainly not the only outstanding one for the Golden Panthers, who gained 246 yards on the ground and would have held the Lions to negative yardage if not for two long completions by quarterback Tom Raupp, including a 46-yard TD pass to Evan Davidson in the fourth quarter.

“I think our defensive ends were great. Our defensive linemen were great,” said cornerback McDonald. “The linebackers were filling the gaps just as they were taught to and made the quarterback run.”

“Our offensive line did a phenomenal job,” said Graver. “We got back to our fundamentals. I’m proud of our guys. They stayed focused. New Hope has a great program.”

Pope John Paul II’s receiver Justin Kormos hauls in a touchdown catch. (Owen McCue – MediaNews Group)

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