Stianche hauls in late TD reception as Becahi escapes with victory
Bethlehem Catholic senior Matt Stianche needed every inch of his 6-foot-3 frame to snag the winning 30-yard touchdown pass in the final 50 seconds and save the Golden Hawks from their second straight loss to a city rival.
The result was a 27-22 Bethlehem Catholic win over Liberty in an Eastern Pennsylvania Conference South Division showdown.
Coach Joe Henrich’s Golden Hawks responded to a late Liberty score with an 80-yard winning TD drive, capped by sophomore Jared Richardson’s 30-yard scoring strike to Stianche, that started with 3:42 left and ended with 46 seconds remaining.
Bethlehem Catholic bounced back from last week’s 24-21 loss to Freedom.
While Stianche and Henrich walked off the Bethlehem Area School District Stadium turf feeling grateful, Liberty coach John Truby lamented some missed opportunities and a couple controversial calls.
“A win’s a win. We grinded it out,” Stianche said. “We all were very disappointed last week, of course. We’re all a lot happier this week but not as happy as we should be because we didn’t play too well.
“We never gave up. We never thought for a second we were going to lose.”
“We’re pleased to get a win,” Henrich said. “I think they all understand that this was not our best effort.”
Other than Stianche’s TD catch over a Liberty defender — it was ruled he got a foot inbounds in the front corner of the end zone —the biggest play was Richardson’s 14-yard pass to Tavion Banks on fourthand-6 from the Golden Hawks’ 24.
“We made a lot of key plays,” Henrich said. “And that might’ve been the biggest one.”
“We had our shots to get them off the field on the last drive,” Truby said. “Credit to them for some really good plays on that last drive.”
Bethlehem Catholic improved to 2-1 overall and 1-1 in the EPC South. Liberty is 2-1 and 0-1.
Close call: Liberty, which trailed 21-9 at halftime, took its first lead on Dallas Holmes’ 5-yard TD run with 3:42 left.
The Hurricanes’ go-ahead score came after Bethlehem Catholic fumbled on a punt return.
Truby credited the Golden Hawks for converting several clutch plays on the winning touchdown drive but was unhappy with several calls that went against his team.
“There were plays in this game that I’m going to send into the league,” Truby said. “There were some that were just downright ridiculous calls. You don’t want to take away from Bethlehem Catholic and I’m proud of my kids. But there were some plays I wish the refs would’ve saw a little clearer.”
Liberty entered the game with two wins against EPC North opponents, outscoring Pleasant Valley and Pocono Mountain East by a combined 90-0.
“I know there were a lot of questions about us,” Truby said, “after playing up North and coming back to the South. I think we answered a lot of them. But we have some stuff we need to fix.”
Standing strong: Bethlehem Catholic came through with a huge goal-line stand in the final 25 seconds before halftime.
Liberty’s Holmes ran through a gaping hole on a fourth-and-4 play from the 18. He was ruled inches short of the goal line — Holmes celebrated what he thought was a TD — and Hurricanes coach John Truby called the team’s last timeout with 19 seconds left.
Holmes threw an incompletion on first down. Jaiden Canada was stopped for no gain on a second down run play, and after hurrying his team to the line of scrimmage, Holmes fumbled the snap as time expired.
Instead of trailing by one score and seizing momentum, Liberty went into intermission behind by 12.
The Golden Hawks sprinted off the turf in triumph.
“The touchdown at the end of the half,” Truby said of Holmes’ run that was ruled short of the end zone, “is one I’ll be circling.”
Lookin’ ahead: The Golden Hawks and Hurricanes face formidable foes next weekend in EPC South action.
Bethlehem Catholic plays 2-1 Parkland on Saturday at BASD Stadium. Liberty travels to 3-0 Easton on Friday at Cottingham Stadium.
The third of three Christmas City rivalry games, Freedom vs. Liberty, is Saturday, Oct. 26 at BASD Stadium.