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Defense reigns supreme as McDevitt tops archrival Harrisburg

Written by: on Saturday, November 6th, 2010. Follow Josh Funk on Twitter.

HARRISBURG, Pa. – There’s a large, white banner spanning Market Street a few blocks west of Bishop McDevitt High School that reads, “Be a friend, not a bully.” The sign is part of an anti-bullying campaign in Harrisburg area schools.

But there was just one problem. Bishop McDevitt’s ferocious defense obviously was unaware of said campaign.

Bishop McDevitt (8-2) forced four turnovers and turned the gifts into 14 first half points to defeat Harrisburg (8-2) 21-7 from a sun-splashed Severance Field at Harrisburg High School Saturday afternoon.

The victory gave McDevitt the #3 seed in the upcoming District 3 AAA playoffs, where the Crusaders will face Kennard-Dale. Harrisburg, meanwhile, will face Penn Manor in the D3 AAAA bracket.

But the Cougars have bigger problems than what youthful Penn Manor brings to the table in a week’s time.

“We need to find a quarterback,” said Harrisburg head coach George Chaump.

The Cougars had ridden the coattails of senior quarterback Jalen Fitzpatrick, a three-year varsity starter who entered the McDevitt game with 1,700 passing yards and more than 1,000 rushing yards. #4 had been lighting things up for the silver and black all season, especially during their 7-game winning streak since a Week 2 loss to Pennsbury.

But in the second quarter, Harrisburg’s dreams of a possible District 3 championship may have come crashing to a halt. On his seventh keeper of the game, Fitzpatrick gained a yard, but was injured. He needed to be helped off the field, and received extensive attention on the sideline for the duration of the half. After halftime, Fitzpatrick emerged from the locker room sporting a pair of crutches.

Fitzpatrick, who ran for 95 yards and didn’t complete a pass in six attempts, did not return to the game. And, as a result, most of the life was sucked out of Harrisburg’s offense.

“He may be lost for the rest of the year,” Chaump said of #4.

Backup field general Stanley Lumpkin Jr. replaced Fitzpatrick, and finished 0-for-3 passing with an interception and carried the ball five times for minus-11 yards.

“Lumpkin doesn’t get that much work,” Chaump said. “It’s a complicated offense we run (with the option and reads), and Jalen (receives most of the work each week). We need to lick our wounds and work out something for the playoffs. But that ruined a good ball game.”

Good if you were a fan of defense. The Crusaders and Cougars combined for five turnovers within the first 17 minutes of game clock (McDevitt -2; Harrisburg -3) and defense resulted in McDevitt’s first two touchdowns of the day.

After forcing a Fitzpatrick fumble on Harrisburg’s second play from scrimmage, McDevitt moved 18 yards in six plays, finishing the “drive” with a 4-yard scoring run from senior field general Matt Johnson. Another Cougar fumble, this with 7:00 left in the first half, was recovered in the end zone by linebacker Sean Barowski, giving the blue and gold a 14-7 lead.

Fitzpatrick got Harrisburg on the board with an 85-yard scoring run down the home sideline with 7:06 left in the first quarter, but that was one of the few offensive highlights this day for the Cougs, who finished with 134 yards of offense (all rushing) and just six first downs.

“Our defense, for the most part (aside from the Central Dauphin game) has played really well all year,” said Crusader boss Jeff Weachter.

And offensively, while Harrisburg was bent on shutting down Pitt commit Jameel Poteat (14 rush, 26 yards) pretty much all game long, McDevitt countered with an almost West Coast style passing attack, using screen passes and quick hitters to negate Harrisburg’s lethal defensive front seven.

McDevitt tallied five first downs on its first three possessions of the second half – the second of the three possessions yielded the game’s final touchdown, a Poteat 7-yard run on a toss around left end.

Johnson, battling a pretty sore hip in the second half, broke off a pair of 19-yard runs, booted two second half punts of 41 and 33 yards to pin Harrisburg deep, and finished 17-of-25 for 146 yards with an interception.

“Matt Johnson is one of the toughest kids I’ve ever coached,” Weachter said. “He’s a warrior. He’s so competitive. I kept asking him, ‘Are you OK?’ and every time he told me, ‘Coach, I’m OK. I got it.'”

McDevitt finished the day with 229 yards of offense and 16 first downs. Johnson added 11 yards on 12 carries and Darnell Holland chalked up five carries for 39 yards for the gold domes.

Harrisburg’s ground attack was paced by Niam Williams (6 rush, 19 yards) and Ray Burnett (10 rush, 25 yards).

Asked to speak to McDevitt’s defensive effort this day, Chaump said succinctly, “They didn’t have much to defense (against).”

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