Ask any football coach and he will tell you ‘big plays hurt you.' Such lightning bolts, however, are not uncommon in an opening game, especially one featuring many untested varsity performers. Council Rock South faced just such a predicament as it lost its season opener 36-13 to a talented Cheltenham team.
Last year Vince Bedesem’s Golden Hawks compiled a 6-5 record in the highly competitive Suburban One League National Division. They were powered by the likes of such proven vets as Chase Patterson, Sammy Vaniver, Matt Cheechia and Nick Gallo, just to name a few. This year’s squad, however, lost six starters on offense and seven on defense.
The Golden Hawks did look like time-tested warriors in the opening moments of their game against Cheltenham. Their aggressive defense held the Panthers to a four-and-out on their opening drive. Blocking the ensuing punt on the Cheltenham 26-yard line, South was in excellent position to put coach Bedesem’s triple option into motion.
Noah Caldani, who finished last season as the starting quarterback, engineered a drive that moved the ball to the nine-yard line. Senior Dawson Freeses carried the ball three straight times for 9 yards and Caldani broke up the middle for a first down.
Just when it seemed the Rock was destined to grab the lead, lightning bolt number one struck. With the Panthers drawn up to prevent the option run, CR decided to go to the air. Unfortunately for the hometown fans, Cheltenham’s T.J. Harris stepped in front of Caldani’s corner pass, avoided several tacklers, and raced 99 yards for a touchdown. When the kick for the extra point failed, Cheltenham held a 6-0 lead.
The defenses then took control with neither team mounting much of an offensive threat. The Panthers finally staged a drive late in the second quarter. Taking over on their own 35-yard line they put the ball in the hands of their capable running backs, Jamir Barnes and Kamden Wyatt. Barnes toted the pigskin six times to help move the ball to the one-yard line where quarterback Adonis Hunter dove in for the tally.
The Golden Hawks would generate an offensive strike late in the first half. Mixing in runs by Jason Shragher, Tom Woloshyn and Caldani along with two quick Caldani-to-Matt Gozman passes, South moved deep into Cheltenham territory. The drive ended when the Panther’s T.J. Harris, once again, would step in front of Tom Woloshyn to intercept another pass on the 3-yard line.
Down 13-0 at half, the Golden Hawks were determined to even the score. Unfortunately, their opening drive in the second half ended up when they were forced to punt after three quick plays. They then interfered with the punt returner to give Cheltenham the ball on the Hawks 22- yard line. Panther quarterback Adonis Hunter took no time to deliver 22-yard scoring strike to Siddiq Williams.
The second big lightening bolt came when a Hawk drive once again stalled at midfield. The game hero for the Panthers, T.J. Harris gathered in the kick, raced to his left, and scampered 70 yards to pay dirt increasing Cheltenham’s lead to 26-0 with 7:33 left in the third quarter.
Not willing to surrender, the Golden Hawks took the ensuing kickoff back to their own 30. Runs by Shragher, Caldani, Woloshyn and Geist moved the ball to the Cheltenham 23. Caldani finished off the march when he fired a strike down the middle of the field that Sal Mastromarco hauled in to put the Hawks on the board. Mastromarco would score a second time on a 37-yard pass from Matt Striffolino with minutes left in the game.
A 27-yard field goal by Andrew Moreland and an 18-yard pass from Hunter to Harris rounded out the Panthers scoring. Though coming out on the losing end of the 36-13 score, the Golden Hawks had fought gamely. They ended up recording one more first down then their opponent. They held a 247 to 203 total yards advantage over the Panthers. They outrushed Cheltenham by a 164 to 84 margin.
The only battle the Golden Hawks did not win was the final score. They gave up too many ‘big plays’, a situation they will undoubtedly remedy when they take on their next opponent, Central Bucks West