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Rustin runs into hot hand of Upper Dublin QB O’Sullivan in district final loss

FORT WASHINGTON >> The West Chester Rustin football team overcame many obstacles this season. Rustin dealt with a rash of injuries, the uncertainty of COVID-19 and and a shortened schedule that made every game incredibly important.

But the Golden Knights finally ran into a hurdle they couldn’t get over: The hot passing night of Upper Dublin quarterback Colin O’Sullivan. The savvy sophomore led the host Cardinals to a 29-8 victory in the District 1 Class 5A championship game Friday night, ending Rustin’s season and sending the Cardinals to the PIAA semifinals against Erie Cathedral Prep.

West Chester Rustin (5-2) never got on track offensively, and the Rustin defense watched the Cardinals’ (6-1) quarterback complete 20 of 27 passes for 219 yards and a touchdown. The Golden Knights are not built for comebacks, relying heavily on the running game. And the run-heavy Golden Knights totaled only 96 yards on the ground all night, and 119 total yards of offense.

“We really ran into a hot kid throwing the football tonight,” said Rustin head coach Mike St. Clair said. “We just couldn’t stop him. We tried to make adjustments but he picked us apart. They attacked our weaknesses and they did a real good job tonight. We are not built to come back from big deficits so it was tough for us when they went up in the second half.”

Rustin took an 8-7 lead in the second quarter when O’Sullivan made his only mistake of the game. Anthony Meadows picked the Cardinals quarterback off and returned the ball deep into Upper Dublin territory. Three plays later, Dayshawn Jacobs took a jet sweep 24 yards, and after the two point conversion, the Golden Knights led, 8-7.

The Golden Knights had another chance to score late in the quarter when they drove the ball to the Cardinals’ 10 yard line, and were faced with a fourth and one situation. Rustin quarterback John Crispino hit the line, but the line did not move, and the Golden Knights came up short going into halftime.

“That fourth and a foot really was big,” St. Clair said. “We get that and go up a little, maybe things were going to be different but we did not get it.”

Upper Dublin took command of the game in the third quarter. After taking the kickoff at their own 27 yard line, the Cardinals went on a 14-play, 73-yard drive, with O’Sullivan picking apart the Rustin defense down the field. Micah Bootman, who caught five passes for 93 yards on the night, was big on the Cardinals’ drive, catching two third-down passes for Upper Dublin conversions. John Rossman went over the left side for a one-yard touchdown and the Cardinals took the lead for good at 14-8.

“That drive hurt us,” Rustin defensive end Jacob Barksdale said. “They were very well prepared and they executed really well. This really hurts right now.”

After the Golden Knights went three and out, the Cardinals drove down the field again with O’Sullivan leading the way. After a pretty 40-yard completion to Bootman to put the ball at the Rustin 9 yard line, Bootman took the ball the final three yards to make it a 22-8 game after the two-point conversion.

With their backs firmly against the wall, the Golden Knights had to throw the football, and Crispino was picked off by Chris Kohlbrenner, who returned the ball 28 yards to score. It locked things up for the Cardinals, who will face Erie Cathedral Prep next weekend. Cathedral Prep advanced by forfeit for the second straight week, this time when Wyoming Valley West had to forfeit due to COVID.

“We overcame a lot this season,” St. Clair said. “And the kids who were hurt always came around to provide leadership and set the example and encourage the rest of the team. I am really proud of this group.”

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