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Bishop McDevitt Claims 3-AAA Championship on HersheyPark Stadium’s A-Turf Field

Bishop McDevitt needed more than high-end recruits and roughshod defense to convince Lampeter-Strasburg to simply pack up and leave Hersheypark Stadium in a quiet, orderly fashion. Shawn Seif, however, did point to the nearest exit midway through the second quarter. Seconds after Jordan Groff and Nate Shank pushed the talented Pioneers ahead, Seif jumpstarted the Mid-Penn Crusaders with a 90-yard kickoff return that cleared momentum and chased Bishop McDevitt to a 28-14 District 3-AAA championship triumph. Darnell Holland and Andre Robinson chipped in short TD runs and the top-seeded Crusaders leaned on their frenetic defense down the stretch. Lampeter-Strasburg made four second-half trips into Crusaders’ territory. All came up empty.

“Yeah, the big return for the touchdown killed some momentum that we did have, “said L-S skipper John Manion. “We knew coming in that we had to play perfect. We know what we are. We’re a speed team. The size is always something. If we don’t keep our offense out there a lot longer than we did, eventually they will hurt us and wear us down.”

That last part did happen. Robinson, gaining 109 yards on 19 carries, was the second-half workhorse for the Crusaders (12-2), who won their fourth D3-AAA title and ninth overall. The prize is a PIAA Class AAA semifinal date with WPIAL champion Montour Friday. Getting to that point, however, was the problem. The second-seeded Pioneers (12-2) were anything but McD’s 10th-straight mercy-rule victim. And Groff’s scoring run to cap a nine-play series on Lampeter-Strasburg’s first possession proved it.

The Pioneers ran step for step, challenged McD’s vaunted passing game and then seized control when Shank turned a backside waggle to Groff into a 23-yard scoring strike and 14-7 L-S advantage with 6:24 left in the half.
Soon after, Seif seized the moment. “When I get the ball I’m always trying to run to daylight. I saw the hole and just hit it,” Seif said. “We started out a little sluggish, but once we got the sideline and our crowd pumped up we were fine.”

In fact, it was another special team’s play, this time a punt return by Brian Lemelle, which helped pull the Crusaders ahead for good. Even though Lemelle finished in the endzone, a block in the back penalty still set up McD at the Pioneers 42 late in the opening half. Seven plays later, Holland swerved up the middle for a 21-14 McD lead at the break. Robinson and the ballyhooed War Eagle defense took care of the rest.

“We came out sloppy and they came out hard. The kickoff return really got us back in the game,” Robinson said. “That got us hyped up. It was a great play.”

Behind the mobile Shank, who totaled 205 all-purpose yards, Groff and fellow running back Dan Neff, the Pioneers missed a golden opportunity early in the second half. Helped along by a beautiful back screen to Matt McCrudden, L-S drove to Bishop McDevitt’s 17 before Neff was stripped of the ball and linebacker Brock Dean returned it to McD’s 33. The Crusaders’ drive would stall, but Lemelle’s 50-yard punt forced L-S to start again at its own 1.Handed solid field position after a three-and-out, the Crusaders worked seven plays into a game-sealing 44-yard drive, capped by Robinson’s dive.

“Give them credit. They had a good game plan,” McD coach Jeff Weachter said. “The big thing is we gutted it out. I was a little worried because we haven’t played four quarters since the Susquehanna Twp. (week 4) game, so in that sense it was good.”

Lampeter-Strasburg outgained the Crusaders 275-247 and put up 18 first downs to 16 for the repeat champions. Although quarterback Alec Werner closed McD’s first series with a 2-yard TD strike to Lemelle, the Crusaders’ high-octane pass game was limited to 75 yards on eight completions.

“We had our share of 10-yard gains and 5-yard gains, but they are the first team that made plays in our backfield,” Manion said. “We got inside the red zone a few times and didn’t come away with points. In those situations, we had to play close to perfect.”

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