Stianche hauls in late TD re­cep­tion as Bec­ahi escapes with vic­tory

The Morning Call - - FOOTBALL - By Michael Blouse Michael Blouse is a free­lance writer.

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.

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