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Lancaster Catholic Hangs On, Notches Second Consecutive Victory As Crusaders Get Past Archbishop Carroll

Written by: on Saturday, September 11th, 2021. Follow Andy Herr on Twitter.

 

In football, much like in life, sometimes all you really need is a spark. Well, Week 2 of the 2021 high school football season just happened to provide that very opportunity for two programs that were both in search of a jolt, Archbishop Carroll and Lancaster Catholic.

For the Crusaders of Lancaster Catholic, finding momentum would have been a chore almost unfathomable just a few years ago when you consider that the purple and gold routinely cast themselves as one of the Lancaster-Lebanon League’s premiere football franchises. However, even for all their enormous success in recent years, even a program built upon bedrock as strong as Lancaster Catholics was not immune to the weird and wonky season of COVID-19. The Crusaders reached the finish line last year with a 2-6 record to their name, including an atypical 0-6 start right out of the chute.

In Week 1 of this season, Lancaster Catholic once again struggled to start off on the right foot when they came away with a 24-7 defeat at the hands of York Catholic. Last week’s game against Delone Catholic was a bit of a crossroads game for the Crusaders’ program in a sense. The Crusaders’ backers left Crusader Stadium happy after a 14-7 triumph over the Squires last Friday night.

On the other side of the field, much of the same could also be said about Archbishop Carroll. Last season, in a COVID-shortened season, Carroll ended the year with a 2-3 overall record. The Patriots were awarded the opportunity to compete in the postseason last year after another Catholic League team, Neumann-Goretti, was forced to bow out with their own COVID issues. However, the Patriots fell to Danville 42-21 in that postseason contest.

This year, the Patriots found themselves at a bit of a crossroads last week coming off a 43-14 setback at the hands of Pope John Paul II in Week 1. Last week, Carroll lined up against Rock Creek Christian Academy out of Maryland, hoping to get things in gear for 2021 by going out of the commonwealth. Unlike their counterparts this week in Lancaster Catholic, Archbishop Carroll came out on the short end of a 42-0 affair against Rock Creek Christian, bringing an 0-2 record with them into Lancaster city on Friday evening as a result.

Would Lancaster Catholic keep things rolling against Archbishop Carroll heading into L-L section play, or would the Pats rise up and capture their own mojo as the season only intensifies from here on out?

Ask anyone involved in most any sport and they’ll likely tell you that getting off to a fast start is paramount. In that regard, hang a massive gold star next to Lancaster Catholic’s name in terms of Friday evening.

Ignited by a three and out by way of their defense, highlighted by a sack courtesy of Catholic’s Eddie Hauk which emphatically shut the door on Archbishop Carroll’s opening possession. The Crusaders were able to draw first blood and cash in on their opening drive thanks to a sweet 19-yard cutback touchdown run from senior running back, Tony Cruz, putting Catholic up 7-0 following Daniel Mueller’s PAT with 9:13 still left to play in the opening stanza.

But for as quick as Lancaster Catholic was able to strike, Archbishop Carroll was up to the task just as well.

The Patriots found themselves residing inside the Lancaster Catholic red zone following a 56-yard bubble screen connection from James Wright to Victor Taylor, setting Carroll up beautifully. Sure enough, Carroll’s counterpunch would come shortly thereafter.  A 15-yard touchdown toss in the back of the end zone from the sophomore duo of Wright to Jesse Ventre knotted things back up at 7-7 with 5:19 still left in the first quarter. Lancaster Catholic once leaned heavily on their defense as the opening quarter trudged along.

The Crusaders surrendered a 21-yard scamper up the gut from Spurio on Carroll’s next series. They then locked things back down as a 14-yard loss for the Patriots quickly followed suit, followed then by a sack courtesy of Lancaster Catholic junior defensive tackle, Eddie Dresch. The score remained deadlocked at 7-7 once the second quarter began.

Did we mention the Lancaster Catholic defense already? Yes, they came to play and then some in the opening half on Friday night. On the Patriots’ initial offensive series of the second quarter, the Crusaders rudely ended that drive as well, this time thanks to senior linebacker JJ Keck. Then, given the handiwork of their defense, the Crusaders went back out on offense and began to lean on the Patriots’ defensive troops.

As a result, Tony Cruz moved the Catholic offensive effort all the way down to the Carroll 10-yard line. From there, the Crusaders were able to churn out nine more yards before it was Terrell Crawley’s turn to find the end zone. The sophomore running back was able to cap off the aforementioned Lancaster Catholic takeaway with a one-yard touchdown plunge to make it a 14-7 affair with 6:17 left before intermission with the hosts once again out in front.

Momentum was clearly riding with Lancaster Catholic. So, why not continue to ride it? Fittingly, that’s exactly what the Crusaders proceeded to do.

After forcing Archbishop Carroll to punt once again on their ensuing possession, the Crusaders went back to what had helped them take the lead on both previous occasions—running the football.

In fact, Lancaster Catholic turned up the dial ten-fold once they got the ball back considering every play on their ensuing offensive possession came exclusively by way of the ground attack. With Cruz now ripping off chunks of yardage at the hands of the Carroll defense, the Crusaders were able to paint themselves a masterpiece in terms of a late half scoring drive considering they now found themselves up by two touchdowns thanks to a one-yard TD run from Cruz, his second of the opening half, with just 44 seconds left on the second-quarter clock.

It seemed as if Archbishop Carroll needed to scratch and claw for every yard they were able to pick up against the Crusaders’ defense throughout the opening two quarters on Friday night. In a sense, the Patriots’ best opportunities would have to come by way of the defense and/or special teams. That’s precisely what the visiting Patriots did to open the second half.

As if Lancaster Catholic’s last-minute touchdown drive wasn’t already damaging enough, the Crusaders had the ball as the third quarter began as well. Needless to say, the Patriots needed a stop. Sure enough, the Patriots had their wish granted with a key interception from the junior defensive back, Deveyon Hartage-Fitzgerald, for a massive boost that shut off down the Crusaders’ opening offensive series of the second half.

A sack by Lancaster Catholic junior linebacker, Hudson Hess, brought the Archbishop Carroll punting unit back onto the field at the conclusion of the drive, however, allowing the Crusaders’ faithful to exhale just a bit.

After they themselves were unable to negotiate past the Archbishop Carroll defense once again, it was Lancaster Catholic’s turn to punt it away. Well, so they thought.

A high snap on the would-be punt resulted in a Patriots’ touchdown as senior linebacker Mason Streko was able to pounce on the loose pill in the end zone, making it a 21-13 affair with 1:06 left to play in the third following another block, this time on the Carroll PAT tries.

Once the fourth quarter got underway, the game was now up for grabs. Lancaster Catholics still found themselves in a precarious position. Why? Getting negated on downs didn’t help matters, which is exactly what happened to the Crusaders to begin the final frame. So, with the ball back in their grasp once again, it was paramount that the Patriots have a long and fruitful march down the field. Long, yes. Fruitful, no.

To their credit though, the ensuing Carroll drive following the turnover on downs was almost magnificent in many ways. Aided by two crucial fourth-down conversions, thanks to Anthony Spurio and Josh Jones, the Pats would get no further than the Lancaster Catholic 41-yard line as back-to-back incompletions thrown by Carroll, let the Crusaders’ offense come trotting back onto the field.

The Crusaders were only able to muster four yards on their next three offensive plays, punting the ball back away to Archbishop Carroll with 1:42 now left on the clock.

With Archbishop Carroll once again with ownership of the football, the Pats found themselves staring down the barrel of a 3rd & 10 turned 3rd & 5 following Lancaster Catholic being offsides. Luckily, the Patriots were once again the beneficiaries of a Crusader pass interference penalty, effectively giving the visitors a fresh set of downs.

The Crusaders were downright stifling to the Carroll offensive attack, such as when Isiah Caine found himself playing in the Patriots’ backfield, as the Crusaders’ senior defensive tackle came up with a key sack. When it seemed as if Lancaster Catholic would finally end Archbishop Carroll’s late-game heroics, the Patriots just kept on punching.

With a 4th & 19 attempts, incumbent junior quarterback, Andre Groce, fired a pass across the Crusaders’ defensive heart to senior wideout, Devon Southern, good enough for a first down. A lob thrown down the Crusaders’ sideline by Groce on 4th & 5 shortly thereafter found a perfectly situated Deveyon Hartage-Fitzgerald, a 6’1 junior. He was able to saunter into the end zone, making it a jaw-dropping 21-19 ballgame with a mere ten seconds left. The Crusaders’ defense was able to stand tall on the Carroll two-point conversion attempt, stonewalling the Patriots’ attempt to tie and head into overtime no further than at the line of scrimmage.

At this point, the task became obvious for either side—recover the onside kick. However, neither team needed to do that seeing as how the ensuing Archbishop Carroll onside kick attempt trickled harmlessly out of bounds, allowing Lancaster Catholic ended the final ten seconds of the contest in the victory formation as a kneel-down officially put the finishing touches on the Crusaders’ gritty 21-19 triumph over a very game Archbishop Carroll squad.

 

NEXT UP: With their win over Carroll on Friday night, Lancaster Catholic now carries a pivotal two-game winning streak with them into a much-anticipated game next week against their fiercest of rivals, Columbia, in a game that will likely carry a lot of weight when it comes to determining the eventual landscape of the Lancaster-Lebanon League Section 3 picture this season.

For Archbishop Carroll, the Patriots will stay on the road once again next weekend when they too jump into conference play with a matchup against Cardinal O’Hara next Saturday afternoon in Catholic League-Blue Division action in search of their first win on the 2021 campaign.

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