NH-S Downs LM; Advances to District Title Game
By Don Leypoldt
To run in the November 19th Bucks County Herald
Behind senior wide receiver Blake Hildebrandt’s career night, the host and #1-seed New Hope-Solebury Lions defeated the #4-seed Lower Moreland Lions 27-0 last Friday in the District One AA semi-finals.
Hildebrant caught seven balls for 155 yards on a blustery night, none more impressive or important than his 16 yard circus catch touchdown that put NH-S up 20-0 midway through the second quarter.
“I saw Nick (Garritano) scrambling back and forth and I tried to make a play. I saw the ball hit my hands and then I just tried to get me feet in as quick as I could,” said Hildebrant, who extended high to corral the pass. “Thank heavens I was in.”
The win gives NH-S (10-1) a spot in Friday’s District One AA title game against #2-seed Springfield Montco at War Memorial Stadium.
But despite the win, coach Jim DiTulio knows there is a lot of work to do.
“I made it pretty clear tonight that I was not happy with the second half and the execution on the football field,” said DiTulio. “That is not who we are.”
“Everyone played hard nosed,” observed junior lineman Matt Fest. “But (Lower Moreland) definitely played better than last time and we definitely didn’t play the toughest game that we could have.”
The NH-S Lions dominated Lower Moreland (2-9) 55-8 in week seven, a game where New Hope ran for 288 yards and forced five turnovers. A stouter LM held NH-S to 226 rushing yards while producing a +1 turnover margin.
“They went unbalanced more and caught us off guard a little bit,” DiTulio pointed out. “And they had (fullback Matt) Gallagher back. That definitely made a difference, since he was out.”
Gallagher rushed for 55 yards on 15 carries. Lower Moreland was paced by senior Pat Giordano’s 62 yards on 14 rushes.
NH-S scored on their first two drives, both covering eight plays. Quarterback Garritano, who completed 10-of-16 passes for 189 yards, hit tight end Matt Kolen on a bootleg for a 15-yard scoring strike to put NH-S up 7-0. NH-S used four Garritano completions to move 89 yards on their second drive.
“We knew what we were going against and we executed,” said Garritano, who added that he was not bothered by the wind. Junior running back Jack McKenna capped the second drive with a six yard jitterbug for a touchdown.
A 35 yard Garritano to Hildebrant bomb on third down was the keyed NH-S’ opening drive in the second half. “Nick has been throwing great balls all year and it’s been great to have that many targets,” said Hildebrant. “I just have to keep making plays for him.”
Junior running back Brendan Shadle punched it in from the one to put NH-S up 27-0. Shadle rushed for 89 yards on 15 carries. McKenna added 61 yards on 10 rushes.
“We keep the blocking scheme the same for whoever is running the ball. They’ve gotten it done all year,” commented Fest.
While the visiting Lions averaged four yards a carry, NH-S limited the visitors to just 27 yards passing on 10 attempts. Defensive back Andrew Wheelan snuffed out LM’s most impressive drive with an interception at the NH-S 35.
“They don’t play with a lot of wide receivers. We played them before so we already knew their scheme. That really helped out as well,” said Hildebrandt, who doubles as a defensive back.
The Lions were coming off of a difficult 41-17 loss at Delco Christian in the Bicentennial League title game.
“We made it clear on the bus ride home that we had to put that in the backseat. But we had a good week of practice,” DiTulio felt.
The win sets up an intriguing Friday final with the Spartans, 26-12 winners over #3-seed Bristol. Don’t let Springfield’s 4-7 record fool you. Both Springfield and NH-S beat Bristol and Lower Moreland by similar scores; two of Springfield’s wins are against AAA or AAAA teams.
“We have to clean up a lot of things. Our backs weren’t hitting the hole like I know they can,” DiTulio said. “Defensively, we gave up a lot of yards on the ground tonight and that is not typical of our style of defense.
“We’ll tighten it up, we’ll have a great week of practice,” the coach predicted, “and we’ll be ready to go next week.”
Don Leypoldt’s book Keystones and Wishbones: Faith, Values and Football in the Delaware Valley is now available on Amazon! The book features interviews with over a dozen NFL veterans, all with Delaware Valley ties. Click here to order:
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