By: John Knebels
Photos: Kathy Leister
WARMINSTER, PA – In order to defeat St. Joseph Prep’s football team, an opponent must find a way to neutralize a torrid passing game and a competent running attack.
If able to somehow manage that, it must then discover a method of maneuvering past the Hawks’ defense, an oft-impenetrable unit that either pressures the quarterback with a ferocious front line, tackles runners with quick and athletic linebackers, or blankets receivers with an aggressive but smart secondary.
Good luck with that.
The latest team to find the Hawks almost unbeatable was Archbishop Wood. The defending PIAA Class 5A champion moved up to Class 6A this fall, but on Saturday afternoon at William Tennent High School, the Vikings (2-1 overall) were no match for the Prep.
With senior quarterback Kyle McCord firing four touchdown passes and rushing for another score, the Prep (3-0) waltzed to a 52-6 victory and clinched the District 12 crown.
After a tune-up this Saturday against Roman Catholic, the Hawks have a week off before meeting the District 1 champion in the PIAA Class 6A state semifinal either Nov. 20 or Nov. 21 at a site to be determined.
Though the offense was unstoppable with 17 points in the first quarter and 21 more in the second to enforce a mercy rule running clock throughout the second half, the Prep defense was arguably even better.
“The defense was great,” said Prep coach Tim Roken. “With the short week and not getting the opportunity to do everything physically on the field, the big thing is communication and making sure we get lined up on all the formations.
“The front line was able to take up the blocks and let those linebackers go to work, and on the third level, those guys did a great job of coming down and making some plays.”
Despite an offense that generated 229 yards and four touchdowns through the air and 126 yards and two scores on the ground, the play of the game was undoubtedly a defensive touchdown that won’t ever be forgotten by Prep star senior linebacker Jeremiah Trotter and his sophomore standout brother Josiah Trotter.
With the Prep already leading, 24-0 in the second quarter, an Archbishop Wood pass was deflected by Josiah at the 25 and snatched out of the air by Jeremiah. With blockers in front, the elder Trotter raced 30 yards for his first-ever interception touchdown return.
“It’s a great feeling,” said Jeremiah. “I just tried to run as fast as I could and make sure I didn’t get hauled down. I know my teammates would have been joking on me if I did. So I had to score there. My brother got me that assist.”
Josiah said the execution was all about following instinct.
“I was just blitzing on that play and I saw it was a pass,” he said. “The quarterback was about to throw it. I just tipped the ball up, and when I looked behind me, I saw my brother back there about to pick it off. This wasn’t the first time. It happened in practice, too. Practice makes perfect.”
The Trotters’ coach was thrilled for the brother tandem.
“It was a pretty special moment for those two, I’m sure,” said Roken. “To have that kind of a bang-bang play like that and then to be able to think about it after the game . . . cause in the moment, it just happens. Now you can think back. It was a pretty cool moment for those two.”
McCord’s touchdown tosses included a 55-yard bomb and an eight-yarder to senior Malik Cooper (3 catches for 60 yards), a nine-yard fade to senior Marvin Harrison, Jr. (four catches, 90 yards), and a 10-yard bullet down the middle to senior Sahmir Hagans (four catches, 78 yards) on the Prep’s final drive.
In addition to McCord’s one-yard plunge that opened the scoring and was aided by a 48-yard completion to Hagans on the initial play from scrimmage, senior Noble House (7 carries, 66 yards, TD) and junior Blaine Bunch (4 carries, 59 yards, TD) averaged a combined 11.4 yards per carry.
The Prep's defense, which received an interception by senior Julian Talley, stopped the Vikings on three fourth-down attempts and held them to 54 scrimmage yards on six first-half possessions.
The Hawks’ most impressive stand occurred late in the second quarter. Wood had a first and goal at the Prep three-yard line, but key stops by the Trotter brothers, along with junior Noah Klick and senior David Watson, Jr., helped the Hawks take a 38-0 lead into halftime.
“We came out here today with high energy,” said Jeremiah Trotter. “It was definitely a team effort. Both sides of the ball played great. We did a great job on short yardage and making plays in the backfield, and making that (fourth-down) stop. That’s real big to give our team some momentum.”
(Contact John Knebels at Jknebels@gmail.com or on Twitter @johnknebels.)