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Warriors get a gritty effort, but fall to Clay, Crusaders
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor, Staff Writer
To beat Lancaster Catholic, it only makes sense for teams to try to stop Crusaders’ senior running back Roman Clay, who already had an L-L best 1,064 rushing yards in five games.
But as Warwick found out last Friday night, Lancaster Catholic also has other weapons who can inflict damage.
One of those is Carmelo Cruz, who ran for a game-best 134 yards on just five carries against the Warriors. The tandem of QB Evan Purvis and wideout Sean Titus was pretty good in its own right, as they connected for a pair of second-half touchdown passes.
Then of course, there was Clay.
Although he was held to his third-lowest rushing total of the season, the Crusaders’ star still managed to gain 108 yards and score three touchdowns as Lancaster Catholic left Lititz with a 33-7 win over Warwick in a Section One game at Joseph Grosh Field.
But Warwick coach Bob Locker was pleased with his team’s effort against the defending PIAA State Double-A champions, staying within 14-0 at halftime of the heavily-favored Crusaders.
"I thought physically we played real hard. The kids played their backsides off for as long as they could," Locker remarked. "Clay is just really, really good. He ran through tackles that nobody else runs through and made plays (when) we had him where we wanted him to be. To their credit, we kinda keyed on (Clay) and they did a nice job using 35 (Cruz) and 24 (Trey Miller) on the counters, and early on, that probably hurt us as much as anything."
While Lancaster Catholic improved to 2-1 in Section One (4-2 overall) after bouncing back from its loss to Penn Manor, Warwick fell to 1-2 in league (3-3 overall) heading into this Friday’s match-up at McCaskey (1-2, 2-4).
Unfortunately for the Warriors, they will likely continue to be without a couple of their top weapons in wideouts Austin Myers and Tommy Garner, who are sidelined with injuries. Lineman Brett Brosemer also was out against the Crusaders and running back/linebacker Ryan Gruett was a question mark until shortly before game time.
"We’re just banged up," Locker said. "All of a sudden when you lose that many weapons, it’s hard. But I’ve got to give the kids credit, they played hard. I thought (quarterback) Zack Hurst (10-for-23, 74 yards/11 carries, 39 yards) did everything he could, (running back) Gabe (Taylor) continues to run hard. We had some people in new places … I’m not crying the blues, it’s part of the game, but when you have to make that many adjustments in one week, it makes things a little difficult for the kids."
Taylor ran for a team-high 103 yards on 29 carries, including an early first down, and Anthony Fatjo’s 32-yard completion to Chris Borg on a flee-flicker took the ball inside the Crusaders’ territory on Warwick’s first touch.
Although the Warriors failed to cash in, they pinned Catholic at its own 11. But Cruz broke a 31-yard gain and Clay ran the ball three times for 30 yards, including a four-yard TD run up the gut to put the visitors on top. After Purvis added the PAT, the Crusaders took a 7-0 lead with 3:59 left in the first quarter.
The Crusaders were forced to punt on their next two possessions, and when the score remained just 7-0 with Catholic taking over at its own 9-yard line with only 2:27 left in the half, Warwick appeared to be in good shape. But Cruz found daylight for a 69-yard jaunt to get the Crusaders out of the hole, and two plays later, Clay scored from six yards out on a toss left with 2:02 on the clock, giving Catholic a 14-0 lead at the break.
"We had no choice (but to key on Clay), and they did a good job of taking advantage of that," Locker said. "Once they figured out we were keying him, they ran counters to Cruz. That’s good coaching … You can’t let Clay be the one who beats you. You’ve got to make it somebody else, and Cruz did a heck of a job and 1 (Titus) is a real good football player."
Titus ended up with six receptions for a game-high 96 yards, including a seven-yard TD catch from Purvis on an out pattern to stretch the Crusaders’ lead to 20-0 with 1:14 elapsed in the third quarter. Purvis finished the night completing 10 of 13 aerials for 138 yards and no interceptions.
Lancaster Catholic ended up scoring on its first two series of the second half, and Clay’s one-yard dive with 5:44 to go in the third capped a seven-play scoring drive which extended the Crusaders’ lead to 26-0.
On their next possession, Warwick answered with a long 17-play drive which ate more than eight minutes off the clock, including a pair of fourth-down conversions. Taylor broke a 22-yard gain, while Hurst went 2-of-3 on the drive and ran six times for 23 yards. Finally, the Warriors’ senior QB bulled in for a two-yard TD run off of left tackle and Kobi Biemesderfer added the PAT to cut Catholic’s lead to 26-7 with 9:07 to go in the fourth.
A short time later, however, Titus got behind Warwick’s secondary on a blown coverage and hauled in a 45-yard TD pass from Purvis, and there was no further scoring after that.
Asked what their strong physical effort against Lancaster Catholic could do for his squad going forward, Locker said, "It all depends what the kids make out of it. If they understand that they just went out and physically played a really good football game, they could carry that over and play that kind of physical football game with a few less mistakes and we make a few more plays, then there are football games that can be won yet this year."
One of those comes this Friday when they travel to Lancaster to face the Red Tornados.
"That’s a game that either team could win, but if we can reproduce this kind of physical effort and clean some other stuff up, I think it should be a good football game," Locker said. More WARRIORS, page B-4