WESTTOWN – Mike St. Clair had plenty to tell the West Chester Rustin football team after his 23 seniors played their final game in a Golden Knights uniform.
St. Clair had his players look around at them before he spoke. He proclaimed his seniors had nothing to hang their heads for after winning 28 games in three seasons.
“It was a good run,’ St. Clair said. “It was a great season for us. We did what we wanted to accomplish. This was a great experience for the kids and I’m glad they got the opportunity to play in it.’
Unfortunately for W.C. Rustin, Upper Dublin played close to a perfect game and ended the Golden Knights’ season.
Matt Thompson caught 10 passes for 148 yards and three second-half touchdowns as No. 6 Upper Dublin rallied from a halftime deficit to shutout No. 3 W.C. Rustin in the second half of a 41-23 win in a District 1 Class AAAA quarterfinal game Friday night.
W.C. Rustin (10-2) ended its season advancing to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2010. Upper Dublin (11-1) will travel to No. 2 Pennsbury for a semifinal game next week.
Rustin’s seniors listened and responded to St. Clair’s message to them. Bobby Dougherty is one of those seniors that reflected on what the last three years at Rustin football meant to him.
“We had a lot of fun and won a lot of big games,’ Dougherty said. “We always played hard and for each other. That’s all you can ask for. All good things have to come to an end at some point.’
From the first play, Rustin looked as if it was about to win another big game. Terry Loper took the opening handoff for a 70-yard touchdown to give the Golden Knights a 7-0 lead just 18 seconds into the game.
After the Cardinals scored on their first possession, the Golden Knights responded with a nine play, 66-yard drive capped by an Evan Wlock pass to Matt Hosking for a 30-yard touchdown to give the Golden Knights a 14-7 lead with 2:46 left in the first quarter.
Hosking made a one-handed catch with a man on him for the score on a 4th-and-9 play. Everything was going Rustin’s way in the first half.
After Upper Dublin tied it 14-14, Rustin responded again with a 13-play, 76-yard drive capped with one-yard touchdown run by Wlock to make it 21-14.
Rustin’s defense forced an Upper Dublin three-and-out on the Cardinals ensuing possession. On the punt attempt, the snap was high which caused punter Cole D’andrea to fall on the ball in the end zone.
The safety gave the Golden Knights a 23-14 lead with 1:06 left in the second quarter, their largest lead of the night.
Loper fumbled on Rustin’s first play of its next possession at midfield. The Golden Knights never recovered after that turnover.
“That was a momentum changer,’ St. Clair said. “I thought if we maybe could put a score in there the result could have been different. Football is a game of mistakes. We made a couple and they didn’t.’
Upper Dublin marched down the field in 52 seconds, resulting in a one-yard touchdown run by Kaleif Lee to cut the Golden Knights’ lead to 23-21 heading into the half.
Once the second half started, Thompson and Upper Dublin quarterback Ryan Stover put together an aerial display Tom Brady and Randy Moss would be proud of on a chilly Novermber night.
Stover went 10-for-13 for 168 yards in the half, finding Thompson of touchdown passes of 63, 16 and 21 yards to put the game away.
He finished 22-of-31 for 289 yards and four touchdowns and zero interceptions.
“He’s a big time quarterback,’ St. Clair said. “He can scramble, run, throw. Has great vision. He’s just a very good player. They have a great offense and were tough to stop.’
Thompson’s 63-yard catch on a screen pass gave Upper Dublin the lead for good at 28-23 with 1:44 left in the third quarter. The senior sealed the Cardinals’ victory with his 21-yard endzone grab with 3:30 left in the game.
Upper Dublin finished with 436 yards of offense while Rustin had 288.
Loper led the Golden Knights with 23 carries for 172 yards and a score. His season ended with 235 carries, 2,227 yards and 27 touchdowns.
Over the past two seasons, Loper had 3,982 yards rushing. He finished his career as the Golden Knights’ all-time rushing leader with 4,758 yards and 55 touchdowns.
As Rustin’s 23 seniors walked off the field together one last time, Dougherty could not have played with a better group of players over the past three seasons.
“It’s been a great ride,’ Dougherty said. “I wouldn’t want to go out with anyone else. We’re brothers and been that way for years. It’s tough to go out, but once again all goood things must come to an end.’