ALTOONA, Pa. – From Mansion Park Stadium’s pressbox, one can hear the whistles from passing freight trains on the Main Line, one of the busiest freight rail lines in Pennsylvania.
The Holy Name defense ran into a freight train of a different sort – the Bishop Carroll ground game. And it was a freight train without brakes.
Bishop Carroll (11-2) pounded and pounded and pounded the Holy Name (11-2) defense for 392 rushing yards and put the game away with a 6:36 scoring drive in the fourth quarter for a 34-21 victory in a PIAA Class A Eastern Quarterfinal game from frigid Mansion Park Stadium.
With the victory, the Huskies advance to their fifth PIAA Class A semifinal in school history (first Eastern semifinal appearance) opposite District 2 champion Riverside, a 41-0 victor over District 11 champion Schuylkill Haven. Riverside last played in a PIAA semifinal in 1997.
If Bishop Carroll was a freight train this night, then Husky senior tailback Ryan Woo was the fuel. Entering the contest with 1,775 rushing yards, Woo was already having a very solid season for the blue and white. And his performance against the Blue Jays only piled onto that succesful season.
Woo finished with 244 yards on 28 carries and scored two touchdowns on runs of 44 and 47 yards. The 44-yard run in the second quarter broke a 7-7 tie and the 47-yarder pushed the Huskies’ lead to 26-14 as time expired in the third quarter. Woo now has 2,019 yards and 18 rushing touchdowns this year.
Credit for Woo’s effort, though, started up front with linemen Tyler Strong, Andrew Stiles, Matt Dillon, Nicholas Maruca and Vinnie Tranquillo. Tranquillo, the lone senior, is the biggest of the bunch at 225 pounds. But the quintet opened up hole after hole after hole, not only for Woo, but also for David Kephart, Josh Chumrik and Josh Barzdo all game long.
“They did a super job,” Bishop Carroll coach Craig Sponsky said of his offensive line. “They executed the scheme we wanted to do tonight. They make a lot of room for us.”
That space created was evidenced by Carroll’s ground attack, which broke 11 running plays of 10 yards or more. The Huskies only had to attempt three passes this night, and they completed two for 18 yards.
“They were very physical up front,” Holy Name head coach Rick Keeley said of the Huskies. “My hat’s off to their offensive and defensive lines. We were able to execute our offense at times, but sometimes their defense was just better. And for that, you have to give them credit.”
Holy Name, though, came out like gangbusters to open the contest. Senior feature back Freddy Caruso broke a 70-yard run to the Carroll 1 yard line on the Blue Jays’ first play from scrimmage, then crashed into the end zone on the very next play. Just 32 seconds into the game, Holy Name led, 7-0.
Defensively, too, Holy Name appeared to be up to the task. In Carroll’s first 11 plays, the Huskies only ran for 33 yards. Holy Name helped the Huskies by committing three offsides penalties and a five-yard facemask foul, but Carroll’s first two possessions ended with a punt and a lost fumble, recovered by Caruso.
But that all changed in the second quarter. Carroll marched 40 yards on six plays, capped by a Kephart 2-yard scoring run to knot the scoreboard at 7s with 8:57 left in the half. Woo’s big run pushed the Huskies into the lead 4:47 of game clock later, and Carroll never trailed again.
A Barzdo 10-yard scoring run with 7:56 left in the third quarter capped a string of 20 unanswered points for the Huskies, pushing the lead to 20-7. But Holy Name struck back when Brian Eliff (11-of-15, 81 yards, TD) hooked up with Pietro Gaspari for a 15-yard scoring pass, slicing the Huskies’ lead to just 20-14.
After Woo’s 47-yard scoring run, Caruso capped Holy Name’s scoring with a 41-yard run down the home sideline. That score, with 10:40 left in the game, moved the Jays to within five points, at 26-21. But they got no closer.
The Huskies answered the Holy Name touchdown with an impressive 12-play, 70-yard, 6:36 march, capped by Barzdo’s second scoring run of the night – a 1-yard plunge with 3:54 left in the game.
Holy Name had two more possessions, but turned the ball over on downs each time. Two Husky knees ended the game.
Caruso finished with 179 yards rushing on 15 carries. Fullback Jeremy Figura added 50 yards on 10 carries. Holy Name finished with 289 yards of offense (208 rushing) and 14 first downs.
Bishop Carroll, beyond Woo’s effort on the ground, was also paced by Chumrik (9 rushes, 71 yards), Barzdo (13 rushes, 36 yards, 2 TD) and Kephart (9 rushes, 38 yards). As a team, the Huskies posted 392 rushing yards on 59 carries and amassed 23 first downs.
Even in defeat, Keeley said the only thing he would change were the final numbers on the scoreboard.
“I wouldn’t change anything about this season,” Keeley said. “These young men gave everything they had, and that’s all you can ask of your team. They brought a lot of pride to the Holy Name football program.”