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Bishop McDevitt stymies upset-minded Penn Manor

Written by: on Sunday, November 29th, 2009


HARRISBURG, Pa. – After a brief pregame chat with Bishop McDevitt coach Jeff Weachter, one of the Crusaders’ coaching staff gave a small reminder: “Just remember what you see today.”

For Penn Manor, it won’t soon easily forget Jameel Poteat running inside, outside, and through its defense.

Or Salath Williams’ receptions that chewed up a large chunk of Severance Field real estate.

Or that inopportune penalties and turnovers can kill even the best game plan for a potential upset.

Poteat, a junior running back, ran for 210 yards and scored three touchdowns as the Crusaders (12-0) scored 28 unanswered points to pull away from upset-minded Penn Manor (10-3) 49-21 from a windy Severance Field in Harrisburg Saturday afternoon.

With the win, McDevitt will take on Cumberland Valley (11-2), a 28-21 victor over Wilson-West Lawn for the District 3 “AAAA” championship Saturday, Dec. 5, from Hersheypark Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m., and the Crusaders are seeking their eighth district crown in school history.

Nearly a third of the way through the second quarter, it appeared that the day would end with another McDevitt rout and the Crusaders’ ninth mercy-rule game of the season. Thanks to Poteat scoring runs of 37, 5, and 2 yards, McDevitt had built itself a seemingly-comfortable 21-7 lead.

Penn Manor’s lone score to that point came from a PJ Rehm 1-yard run, which halved McDevitt’s advantage to 14-7. That score was set up by a Jared Shearer 73-yard burst up the middle on a fullback trap play.

Through the first quarter, Poteat had run for 123 yards. By the 8:49 mark of the second quarter, he’d bumped that total to 140 yards. But that’s when Penn Manor started to make things interesting.

“It’s tough to play a conservative game against McDevitt,” said Comets’ head coach Todd Mealy.

Penn Manor went on an 11-play drive spanning 65 yards and eating over five minutes of game clock to cut the Crusaders’ lead to 21-14 on a Shearer 1-yard run. But the drive featured two key plays of greater than 10 yards – a 23-yard screen pass from Rehm to LaRonn Lee and a McDevitt pass interference penalty that gave the Comets a 1st-and-10 at (literally) the 10.5 yard line (PM moved the ball to the 6-inch line but still didn’t earn a first down two plays later).

Then, McDevitt’s talented junior quarterback Matt Johnson made a rare mistake, and it brought the contingent from Lancaster County to its feet.

Johnson’s pass intended for Noah Spence was tipped and intercepted by Austin Sahd, who returned the pick 65 yards for a touchdown, knotting the game at 21 apiece.

“That’s the first time all year Matt Johnson made a bad read,” Weachter said. (Johnson has only thrown three interceptions this season.)

McDevitt attempted to make things interesting, chalking up two first downs on passes of 9 and 20 yards to Sean Barowski and Dawan Smith. The pass play to Smith would have ended the half had Penn Manor not been flagged for a five-yard facemask penalty.

Given one untimed down from the Comet 25, Johnson found Aaron Sye from 25 yards out, giving McDevitt a 28-21 lead it would not relinquish.

Penn Manor opened the second half recovering an onsides kick at the McDevitt 41-yard line. But the Comets’ ensuing halfback option pass was intercepted by Corey Ford, and the Crusaders averted a big threat.

“We wanted to take some chances like that,” Mealy said. “We knew we had to take risks. Hopefully more worked than they didn’t.”

McDevitt scored three more touchdowns – Johnson passes of 80 and 60 yards to Salath Williams and Sye, respectively – and a 35-yard interception return by Jeremy Cornelius.

This day, McDevitt finished with 488 yards of offense and 21 first downs. Johnson threw for 254 yards and three touchdowns. Poteat’s 210-yard day put him over 1,500 yards rushing on the season, and Sye finished with 95 yards receiving on three catches, two for scores.

Penn Manor was led by Rehm’s 54 yards rushing and 50 yards passing. But the Comets’ gutty and hard-nosed senior only completed 6-of-17 passes and threw an interception. Shearer added three carries for 78 yards and Lee eight rushes for 26 yards.

McDevitt appears to have one of those special teams – one that is capable of a deep December run. But that’s not on the forefront of Weachter’s mind.

“We’ve been playing it one game at a time,” Weachter said. “Next week, we’ve got Cumberland Valley.”

NOTES: Bishop McDevitt set a new school record for points scored in a season, with 536, shattering the old record set last year (490). This is McDevitt’s first 500-point team in school history. McDevitt has topped 470 points in a season on three other occasions (1985, 1995, 1996).

Penn Manor, winners of 19 of their last 25 games, made their first semi-finals appearance in the District 3 playoffs. Prior to the 2008 season, the Comets had never won a district playoff game.

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