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Lions Resilient in Painful Opener

Written by: on Sunday, August 25th, 2019. Follow Don Leypoldt on Twitter.

 

To run in the August 29th Bucks County Herald

There are tough losses.  And there are tough losses.

New Hope-Solebury’s (0-1) 21-0 blanking at Upper Moreland (1-0) last Friday night was a tough loss.

With 3:40 left in the first quarter, Lion quarterback junior Phil Weinseimer was sacked at midfield.  Weinseimer buckled awkwardly and was carted off the field with a severe leg injury.

The early season loss was a harsh blow for NH-S.  Last year, the 6’3” Weinseimer completed 58% of his passes for nearly 1,700 yards while boasting a 20:5 touchdown to interception ratio. He was a favorite to win the Bicentennial League MVP Award.

“It’s tough,” coach Jim DiTulio admitted.  “You saw every player go out there” and circle Weinseimer’s stretcher. “That shows the respect they have for him.  He is our leader and he is one of the best players in our League, hands down.  All of the time Phil put in the offseason and weight room, and it’s not going to happen.

“It deflates you, but I thought our kids did a nice job of rallying.  I’m proud of them,” DiTulio continued.  “Our kids could have quit and they did not quit.”

The Lion defense performed admirably against class 4A Upper Moreland.  The Golden Bears started a drive at the NH-S 27 late in the first half, but the Lions forced a three-and-out.  Upper Moreland only led 7-0 at halftime.

“The D line really got pressure and the linebackers filled the gaps,” said co-captain Zach Griffiths, who had a tackle and a half for loss. “That was one of our best drives of the game.”

Bryon Hopkins hit Jahaire Johnson on a backbreaking, third down 97-yard touchdown pass midway in the third.  The two connected again on a 34-yard scoring aerial on Upper Moreland’s next drive.

Remove Hopkins’ three touchdown passes and the Golden Bears averaged 4.9 yards a play, an effort that DiTulio appreciated.

“We did a nice job upfront and our D ends did very well,” DiTulio commented.  “They didn’t have big play after big play until late in the third quarter.”

“It was really just two big plays,” Griffiths added.  “I thought the front seven were pounding it.  We were in the quarterback’s face.  People got sacks.  We have 30 kids on the team.  They have 60.  It was hard, but we played our tails off.”

NH-S was aided by Chris Kolen’s foot; the junior nailed five punts of over 40 yards to help the Lions in the field position battle.

The Lion offense admittedly struggled.  Michael Borys, a talented running back, was forced into signal calling duty.

“I had been practicing quarterback but never really thought Philip would go down,” Borys said.  “I stepped up and tried to do my best.  We have to get back to practice and see what works.”

“I thought Mike Borys did a great job.  He’s smart,” DiTulio praised.  “But he was cramping up so we couldn’t move him effectively.”

NH-S lost last season’s top three receivers.  But they return Borys and Thomas Raupp, their two leading rushers in 2018. Joey Capriotti, who got snaps at running back last fall, showed promise on Friday.

“The experience back there helps what we’re doing,” Borys noted.  “With any audible, we can fix it right away.  Tonight, they had a very good rush on us but we hope next week is a different game.  We push the young receivers every day to try and emulate what we had last year. They have speed and good hands.”

The Lions travel to Pope John Paul II (0-1) next Saturday afternoon.  Pope John Paul won in week two of the 2018 regular season at New Hope-Solebury 39-27.  But the Lions won the one that mattered weeks later: the District 1/12 3A semi-final, 42-34.

“Something happened tonight that effected our team,” DiTulio concluded.  “We’re 0-1, but we’re not 0-9.  We have to rally and pick each other up, but that’s what we’ll do.”

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