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Football: Three PCL Teams Advance to PIAA Quarterfinals

By John Knebels Photos/Videos: Ryan Nix & Zach Reagan, 11/23/22, 1:30PM EST


St. Joseph's Prep, Bonner-Prendergast & Neumann-Goretti, three games away of bringing home a state title.

Photos/Videos: Zamani Feelings, Ryan Nix & Zach Reagan (SJP ’23).

By: John Knebels

PHILADELPHIA – Behind three key victories this past weekend, Philadelphia Catholic League football continues to thrive.

Heading into the quarterfinal round of the PIAA state tournament, PCL powerhouses St. Joseph’s Prep, Bonner-Prendergast, and Neumann-Goretti are all within three victories of bringing home a state trophy.

For the Prep, which received a first-round bye because of so few Class 6A teams in District 12, a “city championship” victory over D-12 foe Northeast High School was necessary.

Behind three touchdown passes by Red Division Most Valuable Player Samaj Jones, the Hawks had little trouble disposing of the Vikings, 49-6.

Up next is a more challenging feat, versus District 11 champ Parkland, Saturday at Liberty High School in Bethlehem.

St. Joseph's Prep celebrates after defeating Northeast HS 49-6 to win the D12 6A Title - Video by Zach Reagan, SJP '23

“We played a good game, but I feel we still have our best football ahead us as a team because we our constantly chasing the perfect game,” said first-team All-Catholic junior running back Kahseim Phillips, who scored two touchdowns to give him 10 for the season. “It’s very important to me and my team that we know that we are going to go against some of the best teams in the state, so we just try to stay locked in and focus on the main goal.”

Gently reminded that there really is no such thing as a “perfect game” in football, Phillips acquiesced.

“You’re right, there is no such thing,” said Phillips. “But that’s our brand of football and the reason we want to get better as a team each and every day.” 

SJP sophomore Ryan McDonald talks about his late-game interception – Video by Zach Reagan

Kahseim Phillips walks us through the Prep’s Game-plan vs. Northeast – Video by Zach Reagan

Senior Owen Garwood talks about his early touchdown vs. Northeast HS – Video by Zach Reagan

Blue Division champion Bonner-Prendergast had a much more anxious experience in a Class 4A first-round meeting with Interboro at Ridley High School.

The Friars fell behind 14-0 and 21-7 in the first half, but a touchdown pass from senior quarterback Justin Shepherd to senior Zach Coneys – his ninth TD reception of the season – got them to within 21-13 at halftime.

Buoyed by junior Avery Hankey’s 150 yards and touchdown on 28 carries, the Friars dominated the second half with three unanswered touchdowns for a very impressive 33-21 win.

Bonner-Prendergast has now won 10 straight, and the Friars’ 11 victories (against only one loss) ties the 1994 Catholic League championship squad (11-2) for most wins in a season. The Friars will try to set a new mark when they meet Crestwood 1 PM Saturday at Northeast High School.

“We showed resilience, not letting going down 14 points get to our heads as much,” said B-P junior running back and linebacker Isaiah Session, who backed up his PCL Most Valuable Player honor by scoring three touchdowns to give him 12 for the season. “The team showed good composure as we went into half down (21-13) and heard all of their fans booing us.”

Along with Sessions, Coneys, and Shepherd, other Friar standouts included sophomore wide receiver/defensive back Jalen Johnson, sophomore defensive tackle Jaylen Allen, senior offensive lineman Jawaad Hanton, and junior tight end Austin Cannon.

MBAP vs. Bartram - PSD Highlights by Ryan Nix

“I feel like we just kept our main focus on winning and nothing else,” said Sessions. “That showed good character on everyone’s part – both the players and the coaches.”

Neumann-Goretti also needed to drive the comeback route in its 22-14 Class 3A win over Scranton Prep.

The Saints fell behind, 7-0, before a touchdown by senior Shawn Battle and two-point conversion gave them an 8-7 lead. A touchdown connection from junior Mekhi Wharton to senior TyJuan Beverly upped the advantage to 14-7 in the second, but Scranton Prep forced a 14-14 tie with six minutes left in regulation.

Behind Battle’s 215 yards rushing, the Saints embarked on a five-minute scoring drive, punctuated by Battle’s second touchdown run. Senior Kyan Johnson sealed the win with an interception.

The Saints will face Northwestern Lehigh Saturday at the South Philadelphia Supersite.

“Winning the first round of state playoffs meant a great deal for us,” said senior offensive lineman Lou Governatore. “It solidified the fact that Neumann-Goretti is a true state contender for the second year in a row.

“Traveling to another team’s hometown for a long ride is always difficult, considering the environment and the weather. We got the job done by staying disciplined as a team and following our coaches’ game plan.”

A pair of PCL teams were unable to advance.

After one of their best seasons in many years that included a thorough 28-0 win over Archbishop Wood in the Class 5A PCL final, Roman Catholic dropped a 14-6 decision to always-strong Imhotep. The Cahillites finished 8-3.

“This wasn’t the outcome we wanted,” said senior Eddie Figueroa, “but as a four-year senior, I saw where we came from. What Coach (Rick) Prete has done with this program in just four years is amazing. This won’t be the last time Roman is a powerhouse in PA.”

Coming off a near monumental upset against Blue Division champ Bonner-Prendergast in the regular-season finale, Class 2A West Catholic was turned back by Trinity High School, 24-0.

Among the graduating players in particular, seniors K’Saan Greene, Jeremiah Britford, and Kaeon Athill have left their mark on West Catholic football.

“We lost to a tough Trinity team,” said West Catholic coach Brian Wood. “We wish them the best moving forward and hope to see them next year. Off-season starts now.”

(Contact John Knebels at or on Twitter @johnknebels.)