UPPER DARBY — By the time Jon Durkin scooped up a Father Judge fumble late in the fourth quarter and rumbled 72 yards the other way for a touchdown, it was too little, too late for Bonner-Prendergast.
And after Kyle Dawson streaked down the sideline, hauling in a 52-yard touchdown pass from Collin DiGalbo to trim Judge's lead to eight points with five seconds left in regulation ... well, it was still too late.
Father Judge survived Bonner's late push and escaped Upper Darby Memorial Field with a 21-13 triumph Saturday afternoon.
Considering Bonner (1-4) entered play with the county's last-ranked defense, the 284 total yards allowed was a marked improvement. By and large, the effort on defense was evident. Players like Durkin battled for all four quarters, but the Friars dug themselves a hole they couldn't climb out.
"We have to start playing harder for the entire game,' Dawson said. "It's been that way this season. We've been giving up too many big plays on defense and we just haven't been able to execute on offense. We can execute, but we don't do it until the end, when we're down by a lot and our backs are against the wall. I just... I don't know. It's frustrating.'
After advancing to the Philadelphia Catholic League Class AAA championship game in each of the previous two seasons, Bonner could be going through a transitional phase in 2013. That's not to suggest they can't get their act together, make some big improvements and find their way battling for a PCL title.
It could happen, but there's a lot of work to do.
"The easy thing to say is, hey, we're a little outmanned,' coach Greg "Bubba' Bernhardt said. "I don't want to say that and make those excuses, because our kids put so much effort in. We're just a little short right now ... on making a play. We're just a breakdown away and we're not good enough to overcome (those mistakes).'
For instance, Bonner pieced together a nice drive late in the second quarter. DiGalbo threw a strike to Tyler Higgins in the back of the end zone from 22 yards out to seemingly get within a touchdown, seconds before halftime ... but that play was called back due to holding.
On the defensive side, Mike Shanahan dropped a surefire interception near midfield.
Those are the types of mistakes that cost the Friars. The Crusaders (4-1) didn't necessarily outplay the Friars as much as the Friars shot themselves in the foot.
It also didn't help matters that two key cogs, running back/defensive back Rickey Wilson Jr. and wide receiver/defensive back Joseph Oquendo, did not play because of injuries.
"A team like us, we're not going to throw 90-yard touchdown passes or run the ball down your throat. We have to play smash-mouth football, ready to jam the ball down their throats and win that way,' Durkin said. ' We have to play all four quarters and be a 48-minute play. It starts in league play now (next week at Lansdale Catholic).'
After the LC game, the schedule gets worse for the Friars. On the horizon is PIAA Class AA monster, Imhotep Charter, which put up 83 points — not a typo — Saturday against School of the Future. The Friars then host Cardinal O'Hara on homecoming before finishing the regular season at against Archbishop Wood.
"We just have to execute and play rowdy from the start,' Durkin said. "We're too... hesitant.'
Saturday, the Friars' goal was to take Judge running backs Yeedee Thaenrat and Marquis Seamon out of the equation. It worked to a certain point, but Judge was effective in the passing game, too. Quarterback Zach Carroll threw slant routes on a dime, and the Lions had trouble in coverage. Thaenrat racked up 77 of his 121 yards rushing after halftime and accounted for all three Judge scores.
DiGalbo was pressured virtually the entire game, yet completed 16 of 28 pass attempts for 182 yards and a touchdown. Dawson and Mike Ockimey — who was defensed well Season out wide — had four receptions apiece.