By Jon Gerardi
The Daily Item
It was just the type of play Selinsgrove needed to get back in the game.
After Allentown Central Catholic’s Colin McDermott ran in a 22-yard touchdown, the Seals were looking at a 14-point deficit. A touchdown could make it a game again, perhaps even shift the momentum.
That’s when freshman Juvon Batts was handed the ball and took off down the right sideline 21 yards to the end zone.
Then, as had happened several times this year, a referee threw the yellow flag and called a holding penalty on Selinsgrove, negating the score.
The Seals had another penalty shortly thereafter and were ultimately forced to punt.
Four plays and 94 yards later, McDermott found the end zone again to all but put the game out of reach.
The Seals allowed 35 unanswered points as the Vikings advanced to the PIAA Class AAA state semifinals with a 41-13 win at Frank Banko Field at Liberty High School in Bethlehem on Friday night.
Defensively, Selinsgrove (10-4) could do little-to-nothing to stop McDermott, a senior running back, who ran for 384 yards on 34 carries and scored the first five touchdowns for the Vikings (9-5). The performance put McDermott over 3,000 rushing yards and right at 40 TDs for the season.
“It was hard (to defend him). They kept running the ball and he just kept cutting back and they were just washing everything one way,” Selinsgrove coach Dave Hess said. “He would just plant the foot and he just has a knack for finding the seam. The kid’s an amazing running back. He really is.”
McDermott had 12 carries of 10-plus yards and averaged 11.3 yards-per-carry. “That young man is an amazing running back,” Hess added.
Early on, it wasn’t as lopsided as the score indicates.
The Seals took their opening possession 58 yards to the end zone on seven plays. Conner Leisenfeld ran in from a yard out to put Selinsgrove ahead 6-0. Selinsgrove’s defense came up big by blocking a field goal on the ensuing possession.
McDermott ran one in from 23 yards to give the Vikings a 7-6 lead with 3:05 left in the first quarter. Zach Adams (7 carries, 98 yards) then had a 50-yard run up the middle to put the Seals ahead, 13-6, with 19 seconds left in the quarter.
Unfortunately for Selinsgrove, that’s when it’s offense started to sputter, despite Batts rushing for a team-high 140 yards on 19 carries to go over 1,000 in his freshman season.
After producing two touchdowns on their first three drives, the Seals had a punt blocked, turned it over on downs, had three punts and a lost fumble to end the game.
Selinsgrove had 10 first downs in the first half, but managed to move the chains just twice in the second half.
“We didn’t have an answer for (McDermott). That’s it — bottom line,” Hess said. “We just didn’t have an answer for that kid.”
The blocked punt on Selinsgrove’s fourth drive resulted in an Allentown Central Catholic touchdown.
Late in the third quarter, the Seals put together a nice drive, going 62 yards on six plays. The series ended with a fumble on a long run into the red zone.
“Give us all that, they were still the better football team,” Hess said. “You have to hand it Allentown Central Catholic. They did a great job.”