The Morning Call

An en­core per­for­mance

Emo­tional Nazareth hangs on to beat Free­dom, re­peat as cham­pion

- By Tom Housenick

The first half of Fri­day night’s Dis­trict 11 Class 6Acham­pi­onship game­fol­lowed the pat­tern of the first meet­ing be­tween Nazareth and Free­dom.

De­fense dom­i­nated.

In the se­cond half, the teams com­bined for 50 points, but it was a de­fen­sive play that sealed the Blue Ea­gles’ se­cond con­sec­u­tive cham­pi­onship.

Do­minic Feli­cian in­ter­cepted a fourth-down pass on the game’s last play of what was a 37-29 vic­tory at White­hall’s Ze­phyr Sta­dium.

“Words can’t even ex­plain it,” Feli­cian said still clutching the ball. “I’m so happy right now.”

Nazareth com­pleted an im­prob­a­ble 7-0 sea­son and first un­beaten record in 53 years by ral­ly­ing from a 9-0 firsthalf deficit to take the lead on Feli­cian’s 91-yard kick­off re­turn to start the third quar­ter.

“He’s watch­ing down on us right now,” an emo­tion Blue Ea­gles coach Tom Fal­zone while hold­ing a photo of his fa­ther, Joe, who passed away ear­lier this fall. “It’s a pretty emo­tional mo­ment right now.”

Though the Blue Ea­gles never trailed again, the Pa­tri­ots never went away.

Feli­cian gave Nazareth the lead for good (14-9) by re­turn­ing the se­cond-half kick­off 91 yards for a touch­down.

“It was great block­ing and a lot of holes,” the se­nior said. “I knew one cut and I could be gone.”

“He’s done that to us a lot in prac­tice,” Fal­zone added. “I was won­der­ing when he was go­ing break one in a game.”

Free­dom never went away, though. Trail­ing 21-9, the teams ex­changed scores on the next six pos­ses­sions.

The Pa­tri­ots kept their hopes alive by block­ing the ex­tra point af­ter Tyler Rohn’s 1-yard TD run with 8:13 left.

Af­ter the teams ex­changed punts, coach Ja­son Roeder’s club mounted a drive aided by two pass in­ter­fer­ence penal­ties.

But Free­dom came up one play short.

“We ex­pected noth­ing else,” Roeder said of his team’s fight. “Any­thing less and we’d be dis­ap­pointed.

“The kids bat­tled for four quar­ters. It was a close game, but that’s not enough here. I feel aw­ful for the se­niors.”

Nazareth has won 15 games in a row dat­ing back to last sea­son. It is their fifth dis­trict ti­tle.

Free­dom has been in four of the last five 6A fi­nals, win­ning in 2018.

Strong start

Free­dom did ex­actly what Fal­zone was con­cerned about by dom­i­nat­ing play early on both sides of the ball.

The Pa­tri­ots de­fense did not al­low a first down un­til the 7:38 mark of the se­cond quar­ter.

Deante Crawford bounced out­side left to turn a short gainer into a 22-yard touch­down run on Free­dom’s third of­fen­sive se­ries. A de­fen­sive hold­ing call helped.

Ge­orge Fer­rey added a 32-yard field goal with 8:31 left in the first half, but Nazareth ap­peared to gain mo­men­tum on the last three plays, which con­cluded with a Sonny Sasso sack, which forced the field goal. Joe Capo­bianco had a solid tackle for min­i­mal game on the pre­vi­ous play for the Blue Ea­gles.

In the teams’ first meet­ing, Nazareth dom­i­nated the first half and pushed its cush­ion to 21-0 on the first se­ries of the third quar­ter of what be­came a 21-7 vic­tory.

Crawford fin­ished with 135 yards and three touch­downs. He also had three scores in last week’s semi­fi­nal win over Eas­ton.

Shift in mo­men­tum

Nazareth found somer­hythm on its first se­ries of the se­cond quar­ter, but that drive ended on con­sec­u­tive sacks by Free­dom’s strong front.

The Blue Ea­gles fin­ished things on their fourth drive. A 36-yard com­ple­tion from Matt Bug­bee to Joe Capo­bianco got them in the red zone. Three plays later, Bug­bee scored from the 1-yard line with 9 sec­onds left in the half.

Three Pa­tri­ots de­fen­sive penal­ties aided the drive. Two were ac­cepted. Athird negated a hold­ing call on the Blue Ea­gles that would have put them in a first and more than 25 yards sit­u­a­tion.

Nazareth’s first three drives net­ted five yards.

Back in ac­tion

Se­nior Matt Russin re­turned for Free­dom af­ter miss­ing the team’s semi­fi­nal win over Eas­ton with a leg in­jury.

His first con­tri­bu­tion was a four-yard sack of Bug­bee to end Nazareth’s third se­ries to start the game with­out a first down.

Russin, who had 477 rush­ing yards and five TDs this sea­son be­fore Fri­day’s game, man­aged 13 yards on four car­ries Fri­day.

Morn­ing Call re­porter Tom Housenick can be reached at 610-820-6651 or at thouse­nick@mcall.com

 ?? SPECIALTOT­HE MORN­ING CALL RICH HUNDLEYIII / ?? Nazareth’s Do­minic Feli­cian knocks the ball away from Free­dom wide re­ceiver OwenJohn­son-Mc­Cormick.
SPECIALTOT­HE MORN­ING CALL RICH HUNDLEYIII / Nazareth’s Do­minic Feli­cian knocks the ball away from Free­dom wide re­ceiver OwenJohn­son-Mc­Cormick.

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