SPRINGFIELD — It's at the time in the season when a team like Cardinal O'Hara, desperate to jostle its way into a more-favorable playoff position, will do just about anything to earn a victory.
Like doing the unconventional and counting on its Boston College-bound wide receiver — not to catch passes, but to set blocks on the edge.
O'Hara ran the same play at the same part of the field twice in a span of five minutes in the fourth quarter. Both had Thaddius Smith controlling the left side with devastating blocks. Both had Lamont Veal sneaking in behind Smith and traipsing down the field, untouched, and into the end zone.
Veal's touchdowns didn't win the game for O'Hara, but they sure did put the fine-looking finishing touches on a gritty 41-21 win for the Lions over visiting Lansdale Catholic Saturday afternoon.
"Not a lot (of postives),' said LC coach Tom Kirk. "I'll be honest with you — we were ready, but it didn't translate onto the field. I wish I could figure it out.'
The victory was particularly important for the Lions (5-5, 2-1), who, by virtue of finishing second in the Catholic League Class AAA standings, avoided reigning PIAA Class AAA runnerup Archbishop Wood in next weekend's first-round playoff game. Instead, O'Hara draws Bonner-Prendergast (2-7, 1-2), a team the Lions defeated a week ago. LC on the other hand will face Wood.
"It's why you don't want to finish fourth, but that's what happens,' Kirk said. "We just have to buckle up and play. We'll be ready. I'll have them ready.
With Lansdale Catholic throughout the game pinning a cornerback on Smith, the All-Delco wideout, and using the strong winds to stymie Lions quarterback Dashawn Darden, O'Hara had no choice but to run the ball on 19 of 20 offensive snaps in the third and fourth quarters.
"They did a good job taking Thad out of the passing game, so we said, ' OK, we're going to run the ball,'' O'Hara coach Dan Algeo said.
So the Lions went to work. They kept Smith on the field and two times in successive offensive series, called for Darden to hand off Veal on a rush to the left. Once, Veal found paydirt from 42 yards out. On the next, he scored on a 45-yard carry.
"They have an impressive offense and an impressive group of running backs,' LC LB Andrew McClintock said. "It was just, I don't know what to say, they were good.'
All told, Smith and Veal contributed to a rushing attack that churned out 300 yards on 42 carries for the Lions. JT Blyden toted 19 times for 156 yards and a touchdown, Veal had 88 yards and two scores on six carries and Smith took 11 handoffs for 39 yards.
"Just a good, solid game for us,' Algeo said.
While the passing game wasn't nearly as strong as it has been, the Lions squelched an early lead by Lansdale Catholic (6-3, 0-3) and never looked back. Darden connected with Veal on a 70-yard sideline route in the first quarter, leveling the score at 7-7. The Lions never trailed from that point on.
From there, Darden rushed for a pair of second-quarter scores, from eight and two yards out, respectively, to give O'Hara a 21-7 edge at the break.
The Crusaders got 103 yards rushing and two touchdowns from Phil Seger, who helped Lansdale Catholic close to within two scores of O'Hara, at 34-21, midway through the fourth quarter. But the last of Veal's scoring sprints sealed LC's fate."I think after halftime, we needed a couple defensive stops that we didn't get,' Seger said. "But on the offensive side, we were able to move the ball down the field and score twice, and that's something positive to take into next week.'
LC can now set its sights on Wood.
"I can't wait,' McClintock said. "Playing against Wood, we get to play the big boys and it's all in. Either we win and move on and succeed or we lose and it's all over. It's all in. I love it.'
Cardinal O'Hara 41,
Lansdale Catholic 21
Lansdale Catholic 7 0 0 14 — 21
Cardinal O'Hara 7 14 7 6 — 41
LC: Talley 32 pass from Pinzka (Fenstermacher kick), 7:53
CO: Veal 70 pass from Darden (Weyler kick), 3:51
CO: Darden 8 run (Weyler kick), 11:10
CO: Darden 2 run (Weyler kick), 3:00
CO: Blyden 9 run (Weyler kick), 5:15
LC: Seger 1 run (kick failed), 10:46
CO: Veal 42 run (kick blocked), 8:22
LC: Seger 13 run (Isabella run), 4:42
CO: Veal 45 run (Weyler run), 3:03
First downs 21 19
Rushes-Yards 57-293 42-300
Passing yards 39 91
Total yards 332 391
Passing 3-6-0 3-6-0
Punts-Average 3-37.3 1-33.0
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 1-1
Penalties-Yards 7-68 8-84
INDIVIDUAL STATISTICSRushing: Lansdale Catholic — Seger 10-103, Isabella 14-63, Quigley 15-56, Iacono 11-56, Jefferson 2-8, Pinzka 5-7. Cardinal O'Hara — Blyden 19-156, Veal 6-88, T Smith 11-39, Darden 5-18, Team 1-(-1).Passing: Lansdale Catholic — Pinzka 3-6-0, 39. Cardinal O'Hara — Darden 3-6-0, 91.Receiving: Lansdale Catholic — Talley 1-32, Gallagher 1-7, Isabella 1-0. Cardinal O'Hara — Veal 2-75, T Smith 1-16.Interceptions: Lansdale Catholic — None. Cardinal O'Hara — None.