Pine-Richland rallies from 2 scores down to beat Cathedral Prep in PIAA quarterfinals

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Friday, November 25, 2022 | 10:59 PM


One week removed from the WPIAL Class 5A championship, the Pine-Richland Rams ran their winning streak to 10 with a 21-14 victory over Cathedral Prep in the PIAA quarterfinals Friday night.

The Rams (11-3) were down 14-0, but battled back, scoring 21 unanswered points.

Quarterback Ryan Palmieri led the charge, completing 10 of 17 passes for 147 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for 92 yards on 26 carries with a touchdown.

“They came out and hit us in the mouth and we didn’t know what to do for a little bit,” Palmieri said. “We made some adjustments about the ball movement on offense, completed a couple of good passes, a couple of great catches, and then just try to get that momentum going to the half.”

The Rams moved the ball in the second half behind running back Ethan Pillar, who picked up 92 yards on 22 carries. Pillar and Palmieri combined for 186 rushing yards, with 60 of those yards coming on the Rams’ last drive.

“We started to get something going there and we just tried to ride with it,” Palmieri said. “Go quick, get on the ball and just keep pounding the ball.”

Wide receivers Brad Gelly and Luke Rudolph tallied back-to-back touchdowns from Palmieri to tie the game at 14 in the first half.

“We were down 14-0, so we needed something to come back,” Rudolph said. “First of all, Brad scored. It was a great play, and then we got the ball back driving down before half. (Ryan and I were) talking before the play. He said, ‘You’re gonna score a touchdown,’ and we did that right before the half. I feel like that momentum just carried on for the rest of the game.”

Gelly’s touchdown was the first score after four scoreless drives that went inside the Ramblers’ 30-yard line. Gelly finished with 92 receiving yards on three catches, including the touchdown.

“I want to give credit to the whole team, the whole line,” Gelly said. “Ryan, he played a great game. We needed a touchdown. I knew that the ball was coming my way on my touchdown. Ryan looked at me, and I just knew it was coming to me. I knew I had to make a play. I made a move on him, and I was open for the touchdown.”

Gelly said the crowd, the time of possession, and the team’s ability to shut down the big play led to the come-from-behind win.

“The crowd was a huge part,” he said. “I don’t know if we win without the crowd. We would make a big play and I don’t even know how many minutes came off the clock every drive. It was huge. Cathedral Prep has a good offense. They make big plays. That’s what they live on, but we shut that down.”

The game began with a quick three and out from the Rams. Cathedral Prep (8-3) drove down the field and struck first with a Dajoure Hollingsworth 3-yard touchdown run. Cole Constable nailed the PAT, making it 7-0.

On the Rams’ next drive, Palmieri was stuffed on fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line.

In the second quarter, Pine-Richland failed on a field goal attempt after a low snap. The Ramblers capitalized and Hollingsworth took it to the house for 66 yards, making it 14-0.

The rest of the half was all green and white.

Pine-Richland had four drives without a score within the 30-yard line, with two trips being in the red zone.

However, Pine-Richland broke through after recovering a Cathedral Prep fumble at the 8-yard line. Three plays later, Palmieri found Gelly on a 6-yard touchdown pass. Grant Agiro made the extra point, making it 14-7.

With under a minute left, the Rams wanted more. After early struggles, Pine-Richland was in rhythm.

Palmieri threw a dart to Andrew Mellis for 36 yards, getting the Rams to the red zone.

Deep into Ramblers territory, the Rams capped off the drive with an 8-yard touchdown pass from Palmieri to Rudolph, tying the game 14-14 going into halftime.

In the second half, neither team got inside the red zone. After the big 66-yard play, the Pine-Richland defense hunkered down.

The Rams set up shop at their own 40-yard line and manufactured a drive that ended with an 8-yard run by Palmieri, taking the lead at 21-14 with 2:01 left.

Ramblers quarterback Luke Costello threw an interception to Bryce O’Brien that sealed the game. Pine-Richland knelt on it to run out the clock.

Palmieri credited the defense with the big win.

“They held USC last week to three points,” Palmieri said. “This team scored 40 a game and they had 14 points. That’s just a testament to them. They’ve been playing well all year, and that was huge at the end.”

Despite the loss, Cathedral Prep coach Mike Krahe said he liked what he saw from his team, battling in a competitive game.

“I’m extremely proud,” Krahe said. “It was definitely a tough situation having a month off. But again, I told them, that’s not an excuse. It’s just one of those ones where we got some positives out of that month, but we just didn’t feel like we executed on both sides of the ball.”

Krahe added that he is grateful for his senior class.

“I can’t thank them enough,” Krahe said. “It would be very easy to come in and see a first-year head coach after following a guy like coach (Mike) Mischler and all the things he accomplished, then coming in and saying, ‘Who is this guy?’ But they bought into the program and what we’re doing and I think we laid a good foundation on what we’re hoping to continue to build here.”

As for the Rams, they turn their attention to the semifinals and a meeting with Cocalico with a trip to the state championship game on the line.

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