Monday, February 26, 2024

Bishop McDevitt Upset in State Football Semifinal

After watching Bishop McDevitt march 95 yards on 13 plays in the driving rain on their first possession of the game to punch in a touchdown almost effortlessly, most football fans in crowded Bulldog Stadium in Slatington, North Lehigh, would have taken the surefire bet that the Crusaders were on their way to their third state championship appearance in a row against Aliquippa. But the opposing Mountaineers of Dallas High showed their tenacity and ability to adjust to the Crusaders’ high octane offense. In a thrilling yet heartbreaking finish for McDevitt, the Mounties pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the 2023 football season, thus ending the defending state champs’ season and their 26-game winning streak in double overtime, 26-23, in the PIAA state Class 4A semifinal game on December 1.

Dallas won the pressure-packed football game because they made far less mistakes than the talented Crusaders. For the second week in a row, the Crusaders had a punt blocked for a quick-six; two on-side kicks successfully executed by the Mounties thwarted any offensive momentum Bishop McDevitt could muster. Trailing 13-7 at half, Bishop McDevitt went into halftime looking stunned at Dallas’ ability to defensively blitz the Crusaders on nearly every play, which also stymied the Crusaders’ ability to use their potent offensive weapons whether throwing or running the football.

Yet, down 16-13, the Crusaders mounted an impressive march down the length of the field again to get a first and ten at the Dallas 11-yard line in the fourth quarter. With under a minute to go, the Crusaders were in business to win this football game in which they were out-played and out-executed. After a short run and two misfires by quarterback Stone Saunders, the Crusaders had to settle for a clutch 30-yard field goal by kicker Gerard Lulinda to square it and send the game into overtime.

With each team getting possessions on the 10-yard line, the Mounties struck first with relative ease and the Crusaders followed suit with a hard-fought score on a nifty catch-and-run by running back Nazir Jones-Davis who tip-toed along the sideline and broke several tackles to knot the score again at 23-23. In the next series, the Crusaders offense sputtered, and a tried field goal was blocked this time after a poor snap and hold. The Mounties seized the moment and kicked their game-winning field goal on second down, launching them into a massive mid-field celebration. It was a seemingly miraculous, improbable upset in the fog and mist that was hanging over the Poconos mountains. It was a stinging defeat for the defending state champ Crusaders.

“We just made way too many mistakes, especially on special teams,” a dejected head coach Jeff Weachter said after the game to the press. “Give credit to Dallas, they beat us.”

“It’s sad,” running back Maurice Barnes said, soaked from the constant drip of rain. “They came out a lot harder than we thought. I think we underestimated them a little bit.”

Football fans know that mistakes and taking your opponent lightly is not going to win big football games in December when determined underdogs sniff an upset.

(Photos by Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness.)

By Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness

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