Berks Catholic Spoils Opening Night Festivities As Saints Roll Past Lancaster Catholic
Sometimes in life, things don’t turn out exactly the way we plan. In many ways, the game of football can be quite similar. Case in point: this year’s matchup between Berks Catholic and Lancaster Catholic. Coming into the season, this game was arguably one of the more intriguing nonconference tussles across the District 3 landscape. And for good reason. Just looking at recent history, it’s hard to find a tastier matchup than Saints v Crusaders.
Over the last handful of seasons, Berks Catholic has certainly shown themselves to be a dominant force in not just the Berks League, but District 3 as a whole. The Saints have become an annual fixture at Hersheypark Stadium come Thanksgiving weekend as BC has advanced to four straight District 3 title games, with the Saints being able to bring gold trophies home with them to the West Reading after three of those trips, including last season when the Saints bested Shippensburg. Needless to say, BC’s success at the local level has not gone unnoticed by a statewide audience as Berks Catholic has seen their name appear on Top 5 lists that rank the best football programs in the entire state of Pennsylvania.
Their hosts on this night, the Lancaster Catholic Crusaders, also have a storied history to call their own. Always a perennial force on the Lancaster Lebanon League football scene, the Crusaders have also succeeded on the District level capturing a handful of district titles, parlaying two of those into state championships in 2009 and 2011 respectively.
History aside, the outlook for both squads heading into 2017 also seemed to paint a rosy picture. While Berks Catholic certainly held up their end of the bargain coming into Friday night’s contest scorching hot outscoring their three opponents by a combined total of 143-16, including back to back shutouts in their last two outings. Given said history coupled with a talented group of returners, Berks Catholic entered Friday night boasting yet another Top 5 statewide ranking.
Lancaster Catholic on the other hand came in having traveled a different road. One of the favorites to win Lancaster Lebanon League Section 3 this year, a goal which is still very much attainable, the Crusaders came into the weekend with a puzzling 0-3 record, albeit playing challenging opponents such as Camp Hill and Trinity. And while this year has not started off the way many had expected for the school in the Rossmere neighborhood, there was no time like the present to change the narrative. After all, what better to ignite your season than by knocking off one of the best teams in the state in your home opener? And oh by the way, you’d also be cutting the ribbon on your sparkling new stadium after an offseason facelift on this night. Despite all the fanfare that preceded the game, it quickly became apparent once the game got underway that Berks Catholic had arrived with bad intentions.
Aided by a key 3rd & 10 conversion pass from junior quarterback Terry Derr to senior wideout Tre Dabney on their initial drive of the game, Berks Catholic quickly found themselves deep inside Lancaster Catholic territory as sensational senior running back Cooper Lutz darted 12 yards for yet another 3rd down pickup on the early drive to place the ball just outside the redzone at the 21. From that point on however, resistance was met by the Lancaster Catholic defense as the Crusader D stiffened and rose to the challenge forcing Berks Catholic to settle for a 36 yardfield goal on their opening possession which Jamin Smith booted through the uprights as the Saints drew first blood with the 3-0 lead after chewing up more than half the first quarter clock.
After Lancaster Catholic was forced to punt after a three and out on their opening possession of the game, all of which were stuffed by the BC interior defensive line, Berks Catholic appeared to be back in business with the ball now resting at the Crusader 36 yard line after a short punt. Despite the short field, Lancaster Catholic, or Andrew Miklos rather, would have none of it as the sophomore linebacker stepped in front of a BC pass, ending the Berks Catholic threat. Unable to do anything with ithowever, the Crusaders had relinquish possession to back to BC with another punt.
With the ball back in their hands out near midfield, Berks Catholic began to author one of their trademark drives. After early runs in the drive authored by punishing junior running back Brandon George, the Saints were on the march as the first quarter concluded. When the second quarter got underway, the Saints handed the keys to Cooper Lutz who promptly drove the Saints down to the doorstep, just outside the 10 yard line. From there, BC went to the skies as Terry Derr found Tyrese Dargan all by his lonesome in the corner of the endzone for the 13 yard Berks Catholic TD as the Saints improved their lead to 10-0 with 9:36 left to play in the half.
Berks Catholic’s defense was simply stellar all night and clearly in a greedy mood as the Saints were able to take the ball away from Lancaster Catholic an eye-popping seven times on the evening. One of those turnovers came on the ensuing Crusader drive as Trevor Leamer stepped in front of an LC pass to set the Berks Catholic offense up just beyond midfield. Berks Catholic did not let Leamer’s INT go to waste as Terry Derr found Cooper Lutz streaking behind the Lancaster Catholic secondary for the 50 yard touchdown connection to put the Saints up 17-0 with 8:30 now left to go in the opening half.
Another trip out to the field, another turnover registered to the Berks Catholic D. Lancaster Catholic’s next series would also come to an abrupt end as another interception ended their advances. The only difference this time was that Berks Catholic didn’t need their offense to finish the job. No, when Brandon George read his keys and picked off the pass, he had his eye set on the endzone. He seemed to know the way there as the junior linebacker rumbled all the way home for the 44 yard pick-6 TD for Berks Catholic as the dam had officially burst with the Saints now in charge 24-0.
Although Lancaster Catholic would find themselves with fantastic field position later on in the half after a James Sheetz fumble recovery with just 10 yards to go, any Crusader aspirations of a score here were washed away by yet another turnover. This time it was Cooper Lutz showing off his prowess as a defensive back nabbing an INT for the Saints albeit in the shadow of their own goalposts. No matter. The Saints turned to Lutz again on offense and after a pair of runs, BC found themselves out near midfield. Once at midfield, BC dialed up the pass again and a beautifully executed, textbook screen pass to Lutz ended with a celebration in the endzone as the Saints ran into the locker room up 31-0 at the half.
It quickly became apparent on Lancaster Catholic’s first possession of the second half that the halftime break did nothing to slow down the turnover machine that was the Berks Catholic defense. For a brief fleeting moment, it appeared that Brandon George had tallied his second pick-6 on the evening, but a yellow flag laying on the new synthetic turf put an end to that possibility. Nonetheless, Berks Catholic’s offense also proved up to the task once the second half got underway. After a long run by junior running back Quinn Foley, Cooper Lutz put the Saints on the precipice down to the 1 yard line. Lutz had the honors from there as Lutz’s third overall TD of the night put BC up 38-0 with 7:45 to go in the third.
Fortunately for Lancaster Catholic it was not all doom and gloom as LC was able to avoid a shutout on this special night. The Crusaders were able to put lights on their side of the scoreboard late in the third quarter when senior linebacker Nate Bryson scooped up a Berks Catholic fumbled and raced 44 yards to the house to earn the unique distinction of going down in history as the first Lancaster Catholic Crusader to score points in the new stadium. Phillip Bomberger would follow suit as the junior quarterback scrambled in for the 2 point conversion to close out the scoring with Berks Catholic prevailing 38-8.
Needless to say, Lancaster Catholic faced a tall order on Friday night going up against the stingy Berks Catholic defense. A defense that BC head coach Rick Keeley sees steady improvement in week to week. “This group here has just really sunk their teeth into all the adjustments that we do and we’re getting lined up right. With the way we’re progressing more and more and more, we’re not making those mental mistakes and we are getting lined up right. Our defensive coach is doing a great job,” the head Saint said Friday night before stating matter of factly, “When we’re lined up right, we’re a tough team to beat.”
NEXT UP: Berks Catholic will look to build off their early season dominance as the Saints now enter familiar territory jumping into Berks League from here on out starting with an intriguing game at home against Exeter next Friday night. After such a fantastic start one might wonder, what is there really left to improve on? Fortunately for the Berks Catholic faithful, Coach Keeley still sees things that can be tweaked and finely-tuned which will bode well for another playoff push. “We have to stop the mistakes. We can’t be jumping offsides and we lined up wrong a couple times offensively,” Keeley went on to detail before summing his overall thoughts thus far by saying, “I’m real pleased with where we’re at right now.”
Although Lancaster Catholic was not able to prevail in any of their nonleague contests this year, the Crusaders still can achieve their goal winning the Lancaster Lebanon League Section 3 title. They will have to respond and circle the wagons quickly however as a pivotal date with Annville-Cleona looms on the horizon at home next Friday night in a game that could go a long way in deciding this year’s Section champ. The Dutchmen have been the talk of the LL League so far this season as A-C will enter next weekend with a four game winning streak with their only loss of the season coming in Week 0 by just two points to Trinity on the road.
Follow EasternPAFootball.com on Twitter @EPAFootball
Share This Post: