Delone Catholic claims District 3 Class A football championship
HERSHEY, Pa. – In the game of bowling, three strikes in a row is termed a “turkey” and four consecutive strikes is called a “four-bagger.”
Brett Smith, a senior for Delone Catholic, didn’t land four straight strikes Saturday, but he bowled through Steelton-Highspire both offensively and defensively for a “turkey” and a “four-bagger” of a different sort.
Smith picked off a trio of passes on defense and had a hand in all four Delone Catholic (9-3) touchdowns as the Squires scored a quick 21 points in the first half and fended off a Steelton-Highspire (8-4) rally in the second half to claim the District 3 Class A football championship, 28-13, Friday afternoon at Hersheypark Stadium.
With the victory, Delone Catholic advances to face the winner of the District 6 Class A championship game, which will be played Saturday evening in Altoona at Mansion Park Stadium featuring Bellwood-Antis and Bishop McCort.
“These guys just don’t understand it, but these (district championships) are very difficult to attain,” said DC head coach Steve Wiles. “It’s just so satisfying to see the team celebrate this game. They worked hard and responded.”
Not to say Friday’s title game was a cakewalk for the black-and-gold clad Squires. Steel-High made things interesting in the second half after having fallen down by three scores at halftime.
The Rollers used a pair of big passing plays – a 13-yard touchdown pass from James Warren to Anthony Ferguson and a 40-yard connection from Warren to Jaki Haywood – to pull within 21-13 with 2:30 left in the third quarter.
And the Rollers, who at one point reigned supreme over the District 3 Class A bracket and won a pair of PIAA football titles, had strung together a trio of first downs and was advancing into Delone territory with 8:01 remaining in regulation.
Then, just as quickly as it had sprung to life, the wheels fell off of the Rollers’ wagon.
A reverse play lost 10 yards and set up a 4th-and-14 situation, when punter A.J. Savol floated a pass which was intercepted by Smith and returned 78 yards for the decisive touchdown.
“There was a formation malfunction (on the faked punt),” said Rollers’ head coach Tom Hailey. “That’s on me. That was a coaching error. Sometimes, those things happen in a game.”
Up until Smith’s critical second half interception, the Squires had only one first down on offense and a mere nine net yards from scrimmage.
“All that I was thinking about was, ‘No mistakes. Play like you are capable of playing,'” Smith said. “I was in seventh grade when Delone last won a district football championship and I watched that game here in the stands. It feels good to win this game, but we’re not done yet.”
The Squires, nowhere near done with their season goals, lent the impression the outcome was merely an afterthought after racing to 21 unanswered points to open the game. Smith scored on a pair of short touchdown runs and threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Patrick Staub, but Steel-High’s Dywan Blanding made an athletic play to intercept a Smith pass to prevent Delone from jumping up four scores.
“I hate to say it was the arena and the atmosphere (of a championship game), but we played like it got to us early,” Hailey said. “We went in at halftime and talked about playing Roller football.”
Maybe Delone junior Matt Guiffreda was in on the Rollers’ halftime talk, because he rolled through the silver and blue for a game-high 160 yards on 24 carries.
“He was breaking a lot of tackles,” Smith said. “It was huge for us. He runs the ball hard.”
“We liked what we saw (from them defensively) and he had a tough game for us,” Wiles said of his fullback. “He only started playing running back as a freshman for us and he’s just gotten better and better (as time has gone on).”
NOTES: Friday’s title game appearance was Delone Catholic’s first since 2009, when the Squires were a AA school and fell to Lancaster Catholic. It marked the third District 3 title game appearance in Wiles’ tenure as DC’s head coach, which began in 2007. “Being in Class A, we thought we’d have a good chance to reach the district finals,” Wiles said……..Steelton-Highspire has not won a District 3 football championship since 2008, when the Rollers finished 16-0 and won PIAA gold for the second consecutive year. Steel-High was only a two-win team a season ago, but rebounded for eight wins in Hailey’s second year. “You have to look at the long-range forecast of the team,” Hailey said. “I’m happy for our seniors for their hard work, but I’m disappointed because our seniors couldn’t end their careers as district champions”……..The official attendance for the game was 854.
Steelton-Highspire 0 0 13 0 – 13
Delone Catholic 6 15 0 7 – 28
DC – Brett Smith 2 run (kick failed)
DC – Patrick Staub 25 pass from Smith (Matt Guiffreda run)
DC – Smith 3 run (Jay Strickland kick)
SH – Anthony Ferguson 13 pass from James Warren (Dywan Blanding kick)
SH – Tyquan Walker 2 run (kick failed)
DC – Smith 78 interception return (Strickland kick)
Rushes-yds 36-76 47-196
Passing 4-15-3 3-6-1
Passing yds 64 56
Total offense 140 252
1st downs 12 13
Penalties 1-15 4-34
Turnovers 3 1
RUSHING: DC: Matt Guiffreda 24-160; Lance Reneker 11-34; Brett Smith 9-14 2 TD; Zach Smith 3-minus-12. SH: Tyquan Walker 19-68; Dywan Blanding 8-15; James Warren 8-minus-7; Alex Furlan 1-0.
PASSING: DC: B. Smith 3-6-1-56 TD. SH: Warren 4-13-1-64 TD; Blanding 0-1-1-0; A.J. Salov 0-1-1-0.
RECEIVING: DC: Guiffreda 1-26; Patrick Staub 1-25 TD; Austin Noel 1-5. SH: Jaki Haywood 2-51; Anthony Ferguson 1-13 TD; Blanding 1-0.
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