In football, it’s always a good thing when your opponent emerges from a contest visibly bewildered after a thorough thrashing.
That’s what occurred Friday night in Newtown, Bucks County, after Father Judge High School, fresh off its return from Ireland, dismantled Council Rock South 34-14 in front of a dispirited home crowd.
The lopsided final score was misleading, because it wasn’t even really that close.
“I thought our guys up front did a tremendous job,” Judge coach Tommy Coyle said. “They did great work from start to finish.”
The Crusaders (1-1), playing their first game since losing their season-opener outside Dublin, Ireland, one week earlier, were facing a squad that reached the PIAA District One Class AAAA final last fall.
Although several of Rock’s key players have graduated since then, this was still a very impressive victory against a quality opponent.
It also provided some revenge.
“I’m not going to lie. I came into the game motivated by what happened last year,” said senior two-way tackle Vince LoStracco. “That was definitely in the back of my mind.”
He was referring to Judge having blown a two-touchdown lead in the fourth quarter to Council Rock South, and then, failing to convert a two-point conversion inside the final minute, thus ending with a bitter 35-34 loss.
This time around, the Crusaders started early and never let up. Never once was there a feeling that Council Rock South (0-2) would find a spark to ignite an oversized crowd that was quiet from the opening kickoff.
“I loved it,” LoStracco said. “It was great to get that off of our back.”
On the third play of the game, sophomore running back Samir Bullock took a handoff and sped 70 yards for a touchdown. One quarter later, senior quarterback Ryan Mackiewicz connected with senior Max Pascavitch on a six-yard strike to double the Crusaders’ advantage heading into halftime. The second touchdown drive was masterful, as the Crusaders held the ball for just under eight minutes and, during the 80-yard march, converted four first downs.
During the halftime talk, Judge’s coaches chose not to talk about what happened against this particular opponent a year ago. Instead, they concentrated on the present.
“They just reminded us that we had to keep playing the same game we did in the first half,” said senior nose guard Dan Toner. “We were beating them up front and we were doing exactly what we planned to do. No reason to do anything different.”
Rock coach Vince Bedesem admitted later that his team “needed a big play to turn things around.” Instead, it was Judge that executed what several opposing players collectively described as a backbreaker.
On the second play of the third quarter, Bullock carbon-copied his earlier touchdown jaunt. This one travelled “only” 57 yards, and Judge’s advantage swelled to 20-0.
Rock avoided a shutout later in the third quarter, but Judge answered with a 20-yard touchdown sprint by Mackiewicz to make it 27-7. Council Rock trimmed its deficit to 27-14 in the fourth quarter, but Judge’s subsequent drive ended when Mackiewicz sneaked into the end zone from the one-yard line.
Bullock tried to deflect the bountiful plaudits after the game. Starting in place of injured junior Marquis Seamon, Bullock’s career-best performance included an astounding 252 yards. Like Coyle, Bullock complimented his blockers, and for good reason. The offensive line performance of junior Tom Bayer at center, LoStracco at right tackle, sophomore Dan Sipps at right guard, junior Jim Galasso at left guard, senior Shane Murphy at left tackle, as well as senior Albi Arapaj at tight end, created openings all night long.
On defense, front linemen Toner, tackle Bayer, and ends Arapaj and junior Anthony Galasso halted most running attempts immediately. When Rock was able to move the ball, linebackers Joe Nigro (junior), Brandon Spatz (senior), and Kyle Douglas (senior) were there to mop up.
The Golden Hawks amassed 210 yards on the ground — 67 of which came on one play — and completed only one pass for 15 yards.
“This is how we need to play when we play our Catholic League games,” Toner said. “We have a lot of very tough games against quality opponents, so the Council Rock game was a great practice test. We were focused and wouldn’t have taken a loss lightly.”
Next up for Judge is State College High School, who the Crusaders defeated on the road last year.
“They’re going to be a good test,” Coyle said. “We’re excited to play them. We have the attitude that we will play any team anytime.”
Toner said that is the “type of attitude” that “helps get us psyched to play every week.”
“We believe in ourselves,” Toner said. “It’s a great way to be.” ••