Bethlehem Catholic advances to state semi matchup vs. Imhotep
Survive and advance.
That’s the name of the game at this point of the PIAA football season and Bethlehem Catholic epitomized that mantra in last week’s 33-32 victory over Selinsgrove.
With 11 seconds to play in the PIAA 4A quarterfinal at Shamokin, Becahi faced the survival aspect of the state playoffs. The back and forth affair with Selinsgrove provided a 34-point fourth quarter between both teams.
The Seals (11-3) used a big play approach all night to hang with the Hawks (12-2), as quarterback Logan Leiby hit wide receiver Jarrett Inch for four touchdowns, the last one coming from 30-yards out to pull Selinsgrove within 33-32 with 11 seconds to play.
Becahi had punished the Seals with 408 yards rushing on the night, as Tavion Banks (176 yards, two touchdowns) and Matt Bisko (154 yards, two touchdowns) led the way on the ground.
The running game was unstoppable and Selinsgrove knew that would be tough sledding in an overtime scenario, so instead of extending the game with an extra point, they went for two with the game on the line.
Fortunately for the Hawks, Leiby’s pass bounced out of the hands of wideout Ricky Cope and the Hawks celebrated a return trip to the state semifinals against vaunted Imhotep Charter (12-1) this Friday night at 7 p.m. at the Germantown Supersite near Philadelphia.
Imhotep continued their 12-game winning streak last weekend with a 41-0 demolition over Valley View, but round two of this series between the Hawks and Panthers should be just as good as last year’s 24-13 affair, which saw the Panthers win en route to falling in the state finals.
“They’re similar to what they were last year,” said Becahi head coach Joe Henrich. “Their quarterback may not be as good as last year’s, but they’re still a very good team. They have a new head coach and they do a lot of things differently from a year ago.”
In order to survive and advance to next week’s 4A state championship, the Hawks will have to deal with Imhotep’s size and speed.
The Panthers racked up 561 yards of total offense against Valley View, with 473 yards coming on the ground, led by Penn State recruit Isheem Young, who ran for 159 yards and a touchdown on seven carries, as well as bringing in a 59-yard screen pass for a score.
Young, who also plays as a roaming safety, was complemented in the backfield by Carl Jones, who ran for 149 yards and a TD, as well Khadarius Sampson’s 85 yards and two touchdowns.
While the Panthers have been able to spread the ball around during their 12-game win streak, they also haven’t played many quality teams to this point, with their lone loss coming in a 33-14 defeat to Harrisburg in the season opener.
It was a similar tale last year heading into this contest and Imhotep showed quickly how good they were with their speed at the skill positions and their size up front. The Hawks presented the toughest game of the year for the Panthers up to that point and this week’s contest should follow a similar path.
However, Becahi will need to be at full strength in order to battle this week. The Hawks were without star WR/CB Daizhun Rhodes last week and his absence played a factor in Leiby throwing for 323 yards and four scores, as Inch caught seven balls for 219 yards and four touchdowns from 55, 66, 35 and 30 yards respectively.
Shamus Williams (WR/DB) also was out with injury last week and both were questionable as of Press time. Not having both of their top corners a week ago played a major factor for the Hawks giving up big plays on defense.
This week, though, will be about the battle up front and who wins the trenches with the Panthers primarily being a rushing attack. The Hawks have had tremendous success running behind their line late in the season as well, but Imhotep presents a unique challenge with a college level line on both sides of the ball.
“When you’re talking big, there’s big and then there’s abnormally big,” Henrich said. “There’s not many teams you face in the Lehigh Valley that have guys that are 6-foot-6, a tight end that’s 6-foot-4 and most of their linemen are 6-foot-4 and around 300 pounds.
“But size alone does not make players good and that’s one thing we stress to our players. I do think we have size, but we have a great combination of size and athleticism.”
And one thing the Hawks also have is experience playing against this program. Hearing the words ‘Imhotep Charter’ can play mental games for most teams, but that shouldn’t be the case for the Hawks with last year’s state semifinal experience.
“Imhotep is the kind of team that if you’ve never played them they try to intimidate you right from the get go,” Henrich said. “Having seen them last year and our kids going through that experience, our kids are out to prove that it’s not about the athletes on the team, but it’s about our team.
“The camaraderie and the ability to get through tough times. That’s what we’re excited about heading into Friday to see what we can do.”