By: John Lohn, Delco Daily Times
Despite the outcome, Cardinal O'Hara took its football program to another level Friday night when it competed in the Kirk Herbstreit Ohio vs. USA Challenge at Nippert Stadium on the campus of the University of Cincinnati. The two-site showcase, featuring nine games, has been billed as the greatest high school football event ever assembled.
Invited to participate in January, O'Hara was bested by Colerain, 28-0, in a game that started at 9:40 p.m., more than an hour after its scheduled starting time. Ranked 25th in the nation by USA Today, the Cardinals ran their winning streak to four games and have outscored the opposition this season, 190-14. Colerain is annually one of the top programs in Ohio.
The loss was O'Hara's second in three games, but the Lions certainly have prepared themselves for their Catholic League Red Division schedule, which gets under way next weekend against Father Judge.
Before playing Colerain, O'Hara faced Easton and North Penn, a pair of highly respected Pennsylvania squads. By competing on a national-level stage, O'Hara enhanced its growing profile.
"I thought we played one hell of a game," said coach Danny Algeo, in his third year in charge. "But that was a tremendous team we faced. They have a lot of talent."
Colerain got on the board in the first quarter when Doug Reynolds tossed a 28-yard touchdown pass to Derick Tabar. That score was followed by a 10-yard touchdown run by Je'Sean Godfrey midway through the second quarter. Colerain added two more scores in the third quarter when Reynolds found the end zone on a 1-yard run and connected with Gary Pride for a 13-yard touchdown.
Reynolds was named the MVP of the game after going 7-for-9 for 113 yards and also rushing for 38 yards. Trammell Williams added 98 yards on the ground and Colerain finished with 389 yards in total offense, including 276 from its backfield.
O'Hara was limited to 179 yards and played without running back John Dempsey, who continued to nurse an injured ankle. Starting quarterback Tom Savage left the game in the second quarter after taking a hit.
"It was a first-class event all the way," Algeo said. "They treated us great. We're going to be better for it in the long run. I'd do it again."
On a side note, I was invited to Cincinnati to photograph the game for the team. I was welcomed into the highly respected "O'Hara Football Family" and I felt accepted by all. I thought I was going to be capturing pictures that would last a lifetime for the young men who had this wonderful opportunity presented to them. I left Ohio knowing that the pictures I took would last everyone involved a lifetime.
This experience was not just one for the players to enjoy and remember. It was one that the fans, participants, sponsors and coaches will take with them too.. I have been on the sidelines during O'Hara games quite a few times over the past few years to cover games for the paper. The O'Hara program is one that is held with high regard. I spent alot of time observing the team and I had the opportunity to speak to most of the players and coaches during our trip. I knew some of the boys before we left Springfield because of close relationships between our families. The boys were respectful and considerate at all times (even when they didn't think I was watching....I was.) The teams were treated like royalty over the weekend. This weekend's event featured nine games at two different sites with seven teams from the Super 25 rankings.
Everything we encountered was first class from meeing our host, Matt at the airport to greet us, to the last boxed lunch we had on the luxury bus. The accomodations and the staff for the tournament were fantastic. The atmosphere was incredible. I tried to blend in as much as possible, and I even carried around 2 platefuls of food like the boys. I think everyone was proud of me for not jumping out of my seat when we received a police escort to our big game too. I had to put my game face on as well. Even though they would not allow the bus driver to pull into several of the malls we passed so I could shop, I want to thank O'Hara for allowing me to accompany them on their trip. To watch an event of this magnitude was special, to be included in it was amazing and something I will never forget.
The O'Hara staff and school can be very proud of the way the players conducted themselves. When the boys took the field Friday night, I felt the excitement for them. They knew going into this that Colerain averaged 51 points a game, and it did not deter them. O'Hara entered the game shorthanded with running back John Dempsey out with an ankle sprain and they started eight underclassmen on offense and seven on defense. Sophomore quarterback Tom Savage left the game late in the first half with a concussion.
They left everything they had on the field. I could not help but to feel pride for the kids and the effort they put forth. To observe some of the most elite athletes in the country during this tournament was incredible. To be among them for a brief time was an honor.
They made a remarkable impression on everyone that we met in Ohio and are a testament to the class and the dignity of the O'Hara Football Organization.