WEST NORRITON — In the spirit of the holiday season, Bonner & Prendergast’s Jalil Hall kindly accepted a gift Saturday at Norristown High.
The star defensive end/wide receiver stood inside Pope John Paul II’s 5-yard line in the first quarter of a PIAA Class 4A first-round game. PJP quarterback Luke Terlesky dropped back two steps and threw a floater, on what appeared to be a screen pass, but there no one was there to catch the ball except for Hall, who walked into the end zone for six easy points.
“We got some breaks and we took advantage of them. And our defense really came to play today,” Bonner & Prendie coach Jack Muldoon said after the Friars’ 21-13 victory. “They wanted to represent our league, knowing (PJP) is 12-0. And they are a good team. They have some talented kids, but so do we.”
Hall’s four-yard interception return for touchdown was one of five turnovers forced by the Friars, helping Bonner & Prendie (10-2) to return to the Class 4A quarterfinals for a second straight year to face District 2 champion Dallas next Saturday at a site and time to be determined.
Hall, who was selected to the All-Catholic League first team last week, was a monster from his edge position as well as in the receiving game. When he wasn’t creating turnovers, he was making tackles in the backfield and batting down passes at the line of scrimmage.
“We watched a lot of film on them, both individually and as a team. We knew their motions and what they wanted to do,” Hall said. “We were locked in.”
As the Friars’ No. 1 receiver, Hall finished with four catches for 52 yards and a touchdown. In the third quarter freshman quarterback Kenji Gatling, who made a quick appearance in place of fellow frosh Noel Campbell (5-for-9, 81 yards), threw a perfect deep ball to Hall, who had his man beat in one-on-one coverage along the Bonner & Prendie sideline. Hall made a picturesque catch in the end zone to extend the Friars’ lead to 20-0.
“We talked all week about being a family and staying together,” Hall said. “We just wanted to go out and play the best we could.”
A case could be made that Hall deserved the Catholic League’s MVP honor. He was a strong runner-up to teammate, friend and fellow defensive end Mylachi Williams, who is bound for Penn State.
“Jalil is a great, great football player. He could’ve been MVP,” said Muldoon, who always goes to bat for his players come awards season. “He just makes a huge, huge difference. It’s every play.”
When Irv Fisher drilled the extra point to make it a 21-0 game, it appeared the Friars were well on their way to victory. After all, the District 1 champion Golden Panthers (12-1) showed no signs of being able to do anything positive with the ball.
But PJP responded to the big deficit and made things interesting in the end. As the Friars were getting flagged for questionable penalties (12 for 110 yards), the Golden Panthers found a groove. And a big part of their success on drives in the second half was because of senior running back Boyd Skarbek, who was a workhorse.
Skarbek ran the ball eight consecutive times on his team’s opening drive of the third period. Aiding the Golden Panthers was an unnecessary roughness call on the Friars, which put the ball inside the Bonner & Prendie 20-yard line. Two plays later Terlesky found Braden Reed over the middle for a 16-yard score.
In the fourth quarter, PJP trimmed its deficit to eight points with a 15-play drive capped off by Skarbek’s three-yard run into the end zone. Skarbek ran the ball 32 times for 135 yards.
Ultimately, the self-inflicted wounds — all five of them — haunted the Golden Panthers. With three seconds to play and the ball at the Friars’ 18, Hall’s pass rush caused Terelsky to throw a wobbler, and Josiah Adams was in the right spot to snag the game-ending interception.
“A lot of mistakes,” Skarbek said. “We never give up and we always play to the last whistle. We thought we could have come back and won, but didn’t get the job done.”
The Friars hope their offense can hit their stride in the quarterfinal round. Top running back Avery Hankey, who was sidelined the last two games, was limited. Mick Johnson returned from a one-game injury to lead the way with 63 yards on 12 carries. He ran for a touchdown in the first quarter. The rest of the Friars’ carries managed negative-one yard on 12 rushes. Campbell was banged up in the third quarter, but able to return and end the game.
“We feel we have something to prove,” Johnson said. “We’ve just got to execute. We’ve got the pieces, but we’ve got to go out there and do it. “