H.S. FOOTBALL: United shows fighting spirit in season-opening defeat
ARMAGH — After one quarter, it appeared that Bishop Canevin would need to win a dogfight against United in order to prevail in Saturday’s non-conference football game at Thomas J. Madill Field.
By halftime, though, the bigger and faster Crusaders had knocked the wind out of United and stolen all the game’s momentum.
Bishop Canevin broke open a tied game and scored 17 points in the second quarter to pull away from United en route to a 31-3 win in the season opener.
Both teams were originally slated to face different opponents Friday night, but Bishop Canevin and United each had to improvise when their initial foes nixed their seasons because of personnel concerns. United canceled its game with Rockwood, and Bishop Canevin scrapped its contest with Imani Christian.
Although he acknowledged his team’s obvious issues with execution, particularly in the second half, first-year United coach Lance Holupka felt encouraged by his the Lions’ fighting spirit.
“Our kids were excited. We came out and played inspired football in the first quarter,” Holupka said. “We played well in the first quarter, and we played well in the second quarter, up until the last minute. We were a minute-and-a half away from going into halftime 3-3, and if we go into halftime 3-3, it’s a totally different game.”
After an interception by United linebacker Tyler Oliver, the Lions got on the board first and finished their first drive with a field goal.
Jacob Beacker nailed the 29-yard field goal with 2:49 to play in the first quarter to give United a 3-0 lead.
The Crusaders’ place-kicker responded on the following drive and booted a 33-yard field goal with 11:12 to play in the first half to knot the game, 3-3.
Roughly nine minutes later and with the game still tied, United punter Seth McLendon whiffed on a punt attempt at the Lions’ 23. Bishop Canevin’s Mark DeSchon pounced on the loose ball at the 15 with 2:00 left in the half.
Tyler Reddy made United pay two plays later by taking a counter handoff and galloping untouched into the end zone for a 13-yard score to make it a 10-3 game with 1:44 left in the second.
Then, on the first play of United’s ensuing drive, Zach Cortese intercepted Matthew Dill in the right flat and returned it 24 yards for a touchdown to swell the Crusaders lead to 17-3 with 56 seconds left in the half.
“There was 1:10 left on the clock and I was just trying to get down the field and at least get into field-goal range,” Holupka said. “We just made a bad read and threw a bad pass. The kid picked it off and took it back. He had a nice return, but those things happen. A lot of times I’m sitting here after halftime thinking, man I should have just went to half 10-3. … But with a team that was in a position that we were in last year, you’ve got to look for any kind of momentum you can get.”
McClendon fumbled on United’s first play of the second half, and Bishop Canevin’s Mike Tambellini jumped on the loose ball at the United 31.
On the next play, Reddy darted 31 yards around left end for a touchdown to put the Crusaders ahead 24-3 with 11:42 left in the third.
United lost four of six fumbles and committed six turnovers.
“We have some skill kids, and that’s where our strength has been,” first-year Bishop Canevin coach Darren Schoppe said. “We have a few of those kids back from last year, and it showed in this game. Those are kids who had experience in the past, and I think early in the season, those are the type of kids that are going to stand out for you, and that’s what happened today.”
Giovanni DeMarzo stretched the Crusaders’ lead to 31-3 by bolting down the left sideline for an 86-yard touchdown with 3:25 to play in the third quarter.
Holupka, a proud United alum who watched United finish 0-10 and score just 33 points last season, remained positive in the face of defeat, pointing out that the Lions have the proper attitude to evolve into a winning team.
“I’m proud of my boys,” Holupka said. “They fought (and) I thought they were physical. We didn’t back down, and every time I’ve talked to all of you, that’s what we’ve been preaching. We’re going to be a physical bunch and we’re not going to back down and we’re not afraid to play people. … At the end of the day, the effort’s there, and that’s what we’re looking for.”