Blocked punt shows BG’s fight
HERSHEY — In a PIAA Class 1A state football championship game in which its offense had been manacled for more than three quarters and time was winding down, it was a single play on Thursday afternoon at Hersheypark Stadium that exemplified the fight and spirit that the Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic High School Marauders have shown all season.
With his team trailing defending state champion Farrell, 7-0, BG junior Cameron Maloney broke through the line and blocked a punt by the Steelers’ Brian Hilton Jr., and senior Jack Donoughe grabbed the deflection, giving the Marauders a first down at the Farrell 5 with 10:21 left in the game.
The sequence set up a 1-yard scoring run three plays later by star junior back Keegan Myrick, followed by a game-tying conversion kick by sophomore Deven Weyandt, that tied the score 7-7 and forced an eventual overtime period.
Although Farrell would win the game, and the state title, 10-7 on Hilton Jr.’s 22-yard field goal in the overtime session, there was no contesting the fact that the Marauders (12-3) had left everything they had on the field.
“So close,” said BG coach Justin Wheeler, whose program was making its fourth appearance in the state title game in six years, after having won three state titles from 2014-16. “We came here to win the championship, so it’s a little disappointing. But there is no shame in this for our players.
“I told the guys that as much as this hurts now, they’re going to look back at how they fought and battled,” Wheeler said. “This pain will go away, but this legendary run will be remembered.”
Donoughe, a starter at center and linebacker and one of the Marauders’ senior leaders, quickly stormed to the loose ball after Maloney’s block on what Wheeler termed the “play of the game” for BG.
“It happened so fast,” Donoughe said. “I just remember Cameron breaking through the line and blocking the ball. I turned around and got it, and ran as far as I could with it before I got knocked out of bounds.”
Maloney, a two-way starting lineman for BG, saw an opportunity and seized it.
“We had nothing going for us in the first half,” Maloney said. “I knew that we had to come up with a big play. I knew what I had to do to get to the ball. I got a wide-open shot and took it.”
In the overtime session, prior to Hilton Jr.’s game-winning field goal, Farrell came up with a big defensive play of its own by blocking Weyandt’s 23-yard field goal attempt.
“Their block changed the momentum,” Farrell coach Anthony Pegues said of the efforts by Maloney and Donoughe. “But defense wins championships, and we played good defense today.”
BG junior Adrian Johnson, who was all over the field making stops at his defensive tackle position for the Marauders, felt that BG put forth a gallant effort against Farrell, who sported a significant size advantage in the trenches and finished a 14-2 season by winning its 14th straight game.
“We put up a good fight,” Johnson said. “We fell a little short, but we came together as brothers and gave it our all.”
This was a BG team that withstood injuries to key players and continued to thrive during the regular season. Myrick, who led the Mirror coverage area in rushing this season with 1,777 yards despite missing some games with a leg injury in midseason, was visibly emotional after Thursday’s game.
“It hurts right now,” Myrick said. “All the hard work and all the heart that we showed proved that we deserved the chance to be here, and we deserved the chance to win.”
Even though the consensus opinion in other quarters didn’t give the Marauders much more than a puncher’s chance against a Farrell team which averaged 290 pounds per player across its offensive line.
“Coming into this game, nobody gave us a chance,” said Donoughe, who is headed for either the Naval Academy or Coast Guard after graduating from BG next spring. “We came out tonight and fought hard, but we just came up short by three points.”