McDevitt pounds Solanco, reaches district final
Hoping to eat up large chunks of clock while maintaining possession of the football with its ground-heavy attack, Tony Cox’s Solanco Golden Mules instead were victimized by an opponent that beat them at their own game.
Mike Jones rushed for 209 yards and four touchdowns on 38 carries as Bishop McDevitt ground out a 35-7 victory against the Mules in a District 3 Class AAA semifinal-round scrap Friday night at Rocco Ortenzio Stadium.
Top-seeded McDevitt also picked up an early 18-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tayvon Bowers to Virginia commit Bryce Hall, putting the Mules (11-2) in arrears merely 4:11 into the winner-moves-on contest.
Jones kept the momentum on McDevitt’s side throughout by scoring on runs of 1, 1, 7 and 2 yards to help Jeff Weachter’s Crusaders (12-1) keep alive their hopes for a sixth consecutive District 3 championship.
Waiting for McDevitt in next Friday night’s final at Hersheypark Stadium will be Mid-Penn Keystone Division rival Susquehanna Township, a 21-20 victor against Manheim Central in the other semifinal. Township won the teams' earlier clash 35-26.
Noah McCardell’s short keeper accounted for the lone Solanco score.
“We came in wanting to control the ball, and we made mistakes,” admitted Cox, who watched his Mules run just four plays from scrimmage in the opening quarter. “We fumbled the ball and gave the ball back to them.
“[McDevitt] did a great job; they’re a very successful program,” Cox continued. “It’s a program that you try to live up to at times. I think our kids see it. I think it was good to make it this far and play this team. I think it’s a great opportunity to play this team and see what it’s like [to play] a team that’s won the district championship five years in a row. … So it’s good for our kids to play a team like this.
“So the years after this our kids will know what it’s like, especially the freshman and sophomore guys on this team. Most likely, they’ll remember this night.”
While McDevitt used its high-octane passing attack to set up Jones’ repeatedly sizable bursts between the tackles — especially slants and tosses to the flanks — the Crusaders capped their initial march when Bowers hooked up with Hall on a quick out to the left boundary. Hall tiptoed home from there.
Solanco was forced to punt following a three-and-out on its first possession, but Kyle Williams swiped a Bowers pass and returned it 27 yards to the McDevitt 15. One snap later, the Crusaders were back in business after McCardell fumbled and Tim Kater fell on the loose ball at the 18.
McDevitt controlled the ball for the rest of the opening quarter, cashing in early in the second on the 13th play of the march when Jones skipped in from the 2.
Although McCardell’s 3-yard TD run midway through the second quarter briefly interrupted McDevitt’s post-Thanksgiving shindig — especially when the Mules recovered an onside kick — the football was soon back in Crusader hands after Solanco was stopped a yard short on fourth down.
And Jones was getting plenty of looks.
“I thought we were gonna be passing, but the linemen just started pushing them off the ball and we knew we could run during the game,” said the 6-foot-0, 215 pound sophomore, who rushed 18 times for 86 yards before the halftime break. “It was like a progress through the game, just to start running.”
Jones also was heavily involved in the Crusaders’ third scoring march — hardly surprising since he got plenty of touches throughout — racking up 31 yards on six attempts. He even carried the ball on the last five plays of McDevitt’s drive, crashing over from a yard out with 1:33 to play as the lead grew to 21-7.
“We could tell our linemen were ready for this game,” Jones said. “We were focused all week on running. We practiced running. We practiced passing. We just knew coming into this game that we were gonna be able to run.
“The push up front was real good. I shout out to my line, they did a nice job. The holes were big, so I could just hit the hole and accelerate through to get more yards.”
Those big eaters — Anthony Long, Jaelon Mitchell, Braden Weachter, Dante Nolan, Joe Parker and Jake Perloski — enabled the Crusaders to pile up 251 rushing yards and keep the scoreboard clock humming along at a crisp pace.
Solanco appeared to be moving the ball on its first possession after the break, but McCardell lost another fumble and Joe Joe Headen recovered. Six plays later, Jones danced into the end zone as McDevitt’s lead continued to grow.
Cox’s Mules reached the McDevitt 3 on their next possession, but the Crusaders stiffened. Plus, an errant pitch led to another fumble and a 12-yard loss and Osman Kamara’s 17-yard sack of McCardell forced Solanco to give it back.
The Crusaders were in terrific shape, especially since the Navy spread that Solanco utilizes isn’t typically equipped to overcome sizable deficits.
“Our biggest asset is managing the clock, so whenever we can’t keep moving and keep our defense off, you’ve got to try to call different plays and try to find different ways to get the momentum going back your way — especially when you get a holding call or you get tackled for negative yardage,” Cox said.
“That’s part of it. That’s part of the option. That’s part of the game. We’ve lived on it all year, we’ve definitely been successful and I wasn’t going to change anything.”
If Cox could have changed anything, however, it likely would have been what happened immediately following Williams’ pick and lengthy return.
Particularly since the Mules were down by just a single score.
“It was the mistakes we made mentally, missing the blocks and fumbling the ball, that kills you,” Cox said. “You can’t have turnovers in a game, especially trying to get momentum. The interception was great and we got the ball, but we ran a play, someone went the wrong way, the ball got fumbled and like I said, that’s part of it.
“That’s part of the game. Mental mistakes happen sometimes. You just try to keep it to a minimum, but we had a lot of them tonight.”
As a result, Solanco’s splendid season is over. Done in by a McDevitt side that did to the Mules what the Mules did to others.
Bishop McDevitt 35, Solanco 7
BM - Bryce Hall 18 pass from Tayvon Bowers (Nick Miletic kick), 7:49
BM - Mike Jones 1 run (Miletic kick), 11:23
S - Noah McCardell 3 run (Cody Bleacher kick), 6:43
BM - Jones 1 run (Miletic kick), 1:33
BM - Jones 7 run (Miletic kick), 8:59
BM - Jones 2 run (Miletic kick), 10:14
Rushing – S, Prosper Eguzouwa 8-91, Darren Wheary 8-56, Noah McCardell 14-25, Robbie Hassel 5-12; BM, Mike Jones 38-209, Kobay White 1-34, Osman Kamara 3-14, Tayvon Bowers 2-(-5), Team 1-( -1).
Passing – S, McCardell 2-4-0-24. BM, Bowers 12-18-1-137.
Receiving – S, Troy Miller 2-24. BM, Kobay White 4-44, Bryce Hall 4-43, Kyree Calli 2-41, Jones 1-5, Kevin Lenz 1-4.