November 26th- For the second year in a row the Bishop McDevitt Crusaders have earned a trip to the PIAA District 3 finals. Last year, playing in Class AAAA, McDevitt was upset by Cumberland Valley in 2 overtimes, 34-27. This year the Crusaders qualified in Class AAA by beating Lampeter-Strasburg tonight, 40-10 at Lampeter's cozy Pioneer Field. McDevitt jumped out to an early lead on the strength of senior quarterback Matt Johnson's right arm and thwarted the Pioneer offense all night behind an overpowering defense. Whether stopping LS's vaunted running game or employing the best pass rush in the area, the McDevitt defense, led by juniors Noah Spence and Brock Dean and seniors Sean Barowski and Frank Simoncelli, kept the Pioneers away from the end zone while the Crusaders offense piled up the points. The contest entered the “Mercy Rule” early in the second half. McDevitt now moves to the finals next Friday night against Cocalico.


The game began in a most unusual way. McDevitt won the coin toss and elected to receive. Junior Miles Williams fielded the short kick at the McD 34 and immediately came to a stop as a whistle blew. Players on both teams milled around for a few seconds before realizing that the ball was still in play, and the Pioneers quickly flopped on Williams for a 2 yard loss. The McDevitt coaches began to raise a fuss until the referees realized that there had been an inadvertent whistle, so LS kicked off again! This time senior Jameel Poteat gathered in the kickoff at the McD 14 and advanced to the 21. Poteat's first carry went for no gain and the large home crowd roared its approval, but the Crusaders were just getting started. On the next play Johnson fired a fastball to sophomore Brian Lemelle for a 9 yard gain, and then Poteat bulled for a yard to gain McDevitt's initial first down of the game. Johnson then threw to junior Shaun Seif for a short gainer before Poteat followed junior guard Deandre Lawson's trap block through the Pioneer line. Poteat broke a tackle and then sprinted 40 yards, to the LS 23. One play later Johnson threw another seed that found Lemelle at the LS 5. The shifty soph darted into the end zone from there for the game's first score, at the 8:27 mark in the opening quarter. Sophomore kicker Connor Maloney shanked the PAT, so McDevitt had a 6-0 lead. LS's Dan Neff to the ensuing kickoff and returned it 50 yards, to the McD 43. From there the Pioneers used jet sweeps to advance deep into Crusader territory before a botched snap stalled the drive. Chris Garraffa came on to boot a 25 yard field goal and LS had narrowed the McDevitt lead to 6-3. McDevitt answered quickly. Seif fielded a short kickoff and weaved his way to the LS 11, a splendid 67 yard return. Two plays later Johnson lofted a pass to the left corner of the end zone. Lemelle made a fine adjustment and stepped inside the defender to gather in the scoring pass. Maloney's true kick made the score 13-3, McDevitt. LS had another good kickoff return, to the McD 48, but the Crusader defense began to assert itself. After holding the Pioneers to 1 yard on 2 plays Spence broke through for his first sack of the game, good for a 7 yard loss that forced a punt. Seif returned the kick 4 yards, to the McD 27, and the Crusaders were back in business. This drive started with a 7 yard Barowski blast up the middle and Poteat followed with a 3 yarder to move the chains. A 15 yard, Johnson-to-Lemelle connection followed, and then the same duo combined for a 17 yard gain, to the LS 30, as the first quarter ended.


The Pioneers started the second quarter in man-to-man press coverage, so Johnson simply dropped back and tossed to Lemelle, who had scorched his defender down the right sideline. The pass hit Lemelle in stride as he crossed the goal line and, after Maloney's PAT, McDevitt had moved its lead to 20-3, with 6 seconds gone in the second quarter. LS's next possession was stopped when Dean flew past two blockers to stymie a screen pass on third down, and the Crusaders watched as the following punt rolled dead at the McD 41. This time McDevitt covered the 59 yards in 5 plays. The drive started when Johnson drilled Seif with a screen pass and the quick junior followed his blockers for a 24 yard gain. After an incomplete pass Poteat fought for a 6 yard gain and then Seif took another Johnson pass for 15 more. On the next play Poteat followed Barowski and senior guard Tony Harris into the LS secondary and romped the final 14 yards into the end zone untouched. Maloney missed another PAT, so the score stood at 26-3, with 7:55 left in the half. LS then used another good kick return and a well-timed screen pass to move to the McD 42. From there the Pioneers tried to convert a 4th-and-5, but LS quarterback Nate Shank's scramble was stopped by junior linebacker Alan Holman and McDevitt took over at the McD 38. Four plays later it looked like the Crusaders were going to add to the lead when Lemelle slanted across the middle and took in an accurate Johnson pass. Lemelle fumbled while switching hands, though, and LS recovered at the LS 11. The Pioneers then paired a couple of first downs before consecutive sacks, by Spence and Holman, forced the 3rd LS punt of the half, to the LS 48. With the game clock now under two minutes Johnson scrambled for 8 yards and stepped out-of-bounds to stop the clock. Poteat bounced for 5 yards and an incomplete pass followed. On the next play Johnson flipped a screen pass to Lemelle, lined up at right end. Lemelle hopped into the middle of a convoy of McDevitt blockers and jogged into paydirt to finish the 35 yard scoring play, his fourth of the half. Maloney's accurate kick put the score at 33-3, with 1:36 left before intermission. The Pioneers were soon forced into another punt and Johnson took a knee to end the half.


The second half began and it became apparent that the Pioneers, despite the 30 point deficit, weren't going to quit. After returning the kickoff to the LS 35 Neff had a 30 yard gain. Then, on fourth down, Holman turned in a 2 yard sack to change possession. McDevitt was soon forced into its first punt of the game, so Johnson sliced a 31 yard boot that was fair caught at the LS 21. The Pioneers went backwards from there, with Spence contributing another sack, and the short punt that followed was downed at the McD 40. Johnson then passed to Lemelle for a 10 yard gain and a first down. On the next play Poteat followed the block of senior tackle Justen Garlic over the left side of the line. Then Poteat shifted direction, cutting to the right before bolting to the right corner of the end zone, trailing a pair of tiring Pioneer defenders. After Maloney's final PAT of the night McDevitt led, 40-3, enacting the “Mercy Rule”, with its continuously-running clock. LS then held the the ball for 10 plays, advancing to the McD 46 before a fake punt resulted in a 3 yard gain that failed to move the chains. Taking over at the McD 43 as the final quarter started, the Crusaders held the ball for 7 plays using up the clock before punting back to the Pioneers at the LS 15. The home team then managed to score a touchdown, on a 56 yard pass to Christian DelRocini, as time expired.


Next Friday night, December 3rd, the Crusaders will travel to HersheyPark Stadium to challenge the Cocalico Eagles for the PIAA District 3 Class AAA Championship. McDevitt and Cocalico have history in the District playoffs. The Eagles upset McDevitt 15-14 in the first round of the 1994 Class AA playoffs, and the Crusaders prevailed, 35-7 in the AA Championship game the following year. Cocalico, which competes in Section 2 of the Lancaster-Lebanon League, is a #13 seed and sports an 8-5 record, having beaten West York, Susquehanna Township and Conrad Weiser to reach the title game. Game time is 7:00 PM.


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