HERSHEY -- Despite a three-touchdown lead, some doubt crept into Delone Catholic's bid for a District 3 Class A football championship on Friday.
Injuries began to chip away at the Squires' depth. Head coach Steve Wiles watched Steelton-Highspire gain control at the line of scrimmage, and the Rollers cut Delone's lead to eight points late in the third quarter.
But the reserves didn't betray the Squires, as sophomore Tyler Loucks put Delone back in control midway through the fourth quarter.
"So many kids played today, and so many kids contributed,"
Loucks played outside linebacker Friday because of an injury to junior Nate Miller. Wiles said the sophomore had played much of the season at safety until moving to linebacker for districts.
The move paid off when the Rollers tried to spring Dywan Blanding on a reverse from the 30-yard line on third down midway through the fourth. Loucks wasn't fooled and made the tackle for a 9-yard loss. The play slowed down a Steel-High drive that chewed up yardage through the running game.
"We needed a loss in the backfield, and that's what we got," said Delone senior captain Austin Noel, another linebacker. "Tyler did his job and stayed home."
On the next play the Rollers attempted a fake punt, but senior safety Brett Smith came down with an interception and rolled 78 yards for the touchdown that provided the final margin of victory. Not bad for a guy who wasn't supposed to be on the field for the play.
"I really was supposed to come out (for the punt return). We just kind of stayed in our defense," Smith said. "We weren't going to return it at all. We were just going to play the fake. The ball was up there, and so I was, like, 'I'm just going to take it if they're going to give it to me.'"
The play gave Smith three interceptions on the day, and the senior almost scored on one of his earlier picks. His only real defensive miscue on the day came when he was flagged for pass interference after colliding with a Steel-High receiver midway through the third quarter. Three plays later, the Rollers scored their first touchdown.
The Squires needed some time to regain their footing, but eventually got back to the play that left Steel-High reeling in the first half. Eight of the Rollers' 11 first downs came in three second-half drives.
"It was tremendous for all of us on the starting (defense) and for the players who came in and stepped up," Noel said. "I was getting worried there in the third quarter, but we stepped up big and it paid off.
"We definitely don't have that much depth, but it was huge that a lot of people sucked it up and played their hearts out tonight. I can tell you that every single one of them did their best and wanted to bring home this gold (medal)."