Hawks are moving on
You can’t really label a series of games between two teams as a rivalry unless one side has tasted defeat, but perhaps from a Bethlehem Catholic point-of-view, this week’s matchup with Imhotep Charter in the PIAA 4A state tournament is just as big, or bigger than any Liberty or Freedom city showdown.
The Golden Hawks (11-3) will make another trip down the turnpike this Friday night to Northeast High School to face Imhotep (11-2) for the third straight year in the state semifinals at 7 p.m.
Becahi trounced Pottsgrove in last week’s state quarterfinal 58-20 led by Tavion Banks’ five TD performance to propel the Hawks into another tussle with the mighty Panthers from Philly.
Imhotep had no trouble dispatching Valley View 37-9 last Saturday in their state quarterfinal at Northern Lehigh, as the Becahi staff and players attended to get a firsthand look of this year’s Imhotep squad.
The Panthers bring a similar resume as they do every year, carrying the state’s top ranking in 4A, speed and size on both sides of the ball and Division-I talent across the board. Their two losses this year have come to nationally-ranked teams DeMatha (MD) and St. Joe’s Regional (NJ).
Becahi lost to the Panthers last year 34-14, giving up 463 yards of offense, with 376 yards coming from the ground game, but head coach Joe Henrich and his staff feel more comfortable coming into round three of this series than they have before.
“I think we’re used to playing them now and the more you play a team like that, the more you believe that they’re just like you,” said Henrich. “I’m not sure if you can label this as a rivalry because we’ve never beaten them, but I think we match up better with them this year than we have before. I know they [Imhotep] are very confident because they’re a very talented group, but our kids are excited to get another chance at them.”
Senior running back Tykee Smith torched Becahi last season to the tune of 253 yards and four touchdowns. Smith, who has committed to West Virginia, ran for 170 yards last week, including an 87-yard score, which brings one of Henrich’s concerns to the forefront this week — limiting big plays.
“We have to play a clean game,” he said. “We have to be smart with the football and we have to limit their big plays. We haven’t seen anyone outside of our scrimmage with Don Bosco, with this much talent and athleticism at the skill positions. We have to make them earn everything.”
In last year’s defeat, nothing came easy for the Hawks, as they could never get into a rhythm offensively and managed only 189 yards of offense. Being able to grind out drives, get first downs and keep Imhotep’s offense off the field will be big for the Hawks this week and that will be led by their offensive line.
“We have to sustain drives against them,” Henrich said. “I know we have to be balanced and it’ll be important that we protect [QB] Zamar [Brake] and allow him time to make plays too. This is a big challenge and motivational piece for us and I think we’ll be aggressive. I know our guys up front are going to be critical to our success this week.”