Lions Beat Drakes; Stay Unbeaten
To Run in the 9/22 Bucks County Herald
Behind Jack McKenna’s 271 rushing and receiving yards, the New Hope-Solebury Lions (3-0) topped the Jenkintown Drakes (1-1) 35-12 on Saturday. It was the Bicentennial League opener for both teams.
“We run Power I one play and five receivers the next play,” McKenna smiled. “It’s the most fun offense I’ve played in.”
New Hope-Solebury took a commanding 28-6 lead into halftime; the second half featured more parity.
“We wanted to run the ball and the first series we were very lackluster. We weren’t getting a push from our line,” said NH-S coach Jim DiTulio. “We settled down the line, made the right calls and were effective with our inside run game.
“We had to make some adjustments since they were blitzing our A and B gaps, so we bounced it outside and had some success,” DiTulio concluded.
The Lions offense opened with a three-and-out but recovered on their second series when they marched 85 yards in eight plays. Quarterback Nick Garritano raced 40 yards on a fake sweep and scored on a sneak four plays later.
“I went over to coach and told him that would have been wide open,” Garritano said. “We ran that play previously where I tossed. We executed it really well- the O line and wide receivers did a great job blocking.”
McKenna’s 37-yard sweep set up Brendan Shadle’s one-yard touchdown plunge with 7:37 left in the second quarter. Garritano hit McKenna on a 53-yard touchdown bomb on New Hope-Solebury’s next offensive play to put the Lions up 21-0.
“(Jenkintown) was overpursing,” McKenna said. “Brendan and I were finding the cut back lanes. Once we got outside, they had a hard time stopping since our line is so athletic when they pull.”
Jenkintown did not get a first down until their fourth possession but they cut the lead to 21-6 late in the second quarter when Jake McGrath hit receiver Patrick Morrin for a 29-yard touchdown. It looked bleak for New Hope-Solebury when Jenkintown’s Albert Koniers recovered the fumbled kickoff at the Lion 30.
The Lions got the ball back on downs when Charles Bray and Joey Gegeckas combined for a big sack and Andrew Wheelan made a textbook pass breakup, one of his two on the day.
“That snapped us out of sleeping,” said Wheelan, who had a big first half tackle for loss. “When I made that big play and hit that receiver hard, it definitely shifted momentum.”
Four straight Garritano passes ended with Morgan Shadle’s beautiful diving touchdown catch of a 19-yard aerial with 15 seconds left in the half. The Lions led 28-6 at the break,
“I saw the ball in the air, I dove for it and got it,” Shadle added.
Patrick Tangradi starred defensively for New Hope-Solebury in the second half, recording an interception and a fumble recovery. Jenkintown scored a second touchdown with 3:33 left in the game on Steven Charlemagne’s one-yard catch. McKenna answered four plays later with a 38-yard touchdown run. Logan Waterson’s fifth point after conversion put the score at 35-12.
“They were a lot more talented and physical then the first teams we played,” McKenna observed. “It feels good to come in here and get the win.”
The Lions, who were coming off of their bye week, outscored their first two opponents 94-12.
“We lost a huge amount in our linebacker corps and we’re building on that,” Wheelan said. “But our secondary is really clicking. Pat Tangradi was balling today. He made that great interception.”
“(Gegeckas) is a sophomore and we’re getting more and more confidence in him,” DiTulio noted on his new linebacking corps. “We like what we see in him. You can’t replace what we lost, but we’re working each and every day to get better.”
Garritano completed 8 of 16 passes for 136 yards. McKenna recorded 178 yards on 15 carries while catching two passes for 93 yards. Brendan Shadle gained 88 yards on eleven carries.
The Lions travel to archrival Bristol this Friday night. “We weren’t sharp,” DiTulio reminded. “If we play like this next week, we’re not going to be in a good position to remain undefeated.”
But Wheelan, a member of the District One AA title team last year, is up for it. “In the offseason, we trained a lot harder,” he reminded. “We had a lot to live up to and there was definitely a lot of pressure. It’s good to live up to that and have a challenge.”
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