In a game matching old city rivals, Bishop McCort and Westmont Hilltop were not only looking for momentum to begin Saturday night’s game at Point Stadium.
Each schools was looking for its first victory to springboard into the second half of the season.
It was the Crushers who came out swinging and hit a home run in the first quarter behind the trio of Luke DiFrancesco, Marc Smith and Levi Cook, as McCort rolled to 35 first-half points en route to a 55-20 homecoming victory over the Hilltoppers.
DiFrancesco was the killer in the first, rushing for 133 yards on nine carries. He scored two touchdowns in the first quarter – his first coming on a 17-yard run on the third play of the game, while his second was on a 40-yard reception from Cook on the Crushers’ next possession. Smith, in his first varsity start, rushed for two first-half scores, while Cook threw for 101 yards and two scores as McCort jumped out to a 35-7 lead at the break.
“We approached this game as one against a city rival. It was homecoming, a big-game atmosphere,” McCort coach Kevin Sheridan said. “Our defense has played well all year and we made a couple of big plays early.
“Offensively, we were getting off the ball well and I think we were able to control the line of scrimmage. DiFrancesco ran well, and so did Smith in his first start. And Levi Cook did an excellent job of executing the offense.”
The Crushers (1-5) were on the board three plays into the game, as a pair of Smith and DiFrancesco runs and a Westmont personal foul penalty moved the ball to the Hilltoppers 17. There, DiFrancesco scooted in from 17 out at 11:11 for McCort’s 7-0 lead.
Westmont (0-6) rebounded to knot the score at 7, when it marched on a 14-play, 80-yard drive which resulted in Sam Curry’s 10-yard run up the middle for the score. Four plays later, Cook found DiFrancesco cutting toward the pylon for a 40-yard strike with 3:39 to go in the first.
Down 14-7 with the ball at his own 18, Westmont quarterback Liam Moran tried to lay up a ball to receiver Colin Barron, which was picked off by McCort’s Corey Hall at the Hilltopper 42 and returned to the 10. Three plays later, Smith bounced in from 2 yards out as the Crushers took a
20-7 lead after one.
The Hilltoppers then mounted another 12-play drive to inside the Crusher 10 early in the second quarter, only to have McCort snuff it out with Moran’s second interception inside the 3. McCort changed the momentum for the rest of the game when it went 97 yards on 12 plays, with Smith capping the drive with a 3-yard plunge with 4:49 to go before the half. DiFrancesco ran in for two more points as McCort extended its lead to 21.
After holding Westmont at its own 42 on its next possession, McCort got the ball back on its own 36 with under two minutes to go in the half. The Crushers moved the ball to midfield on two plays before Cook found a streaking Nemo Trexler for a 49-yard strike with 45 seconds left to give McCort a 28-point advantage at the break.
Before the homecoming queen was announced at halftime, McCort had amassed 269 yards of offense. And after the Hilltoppers’ opening drive, the Crushers defense allowed a scant 54 yards to Westmont over the final 16 minutes of the first half – including the interceptions in which McCort turned into touchdowns.
“That’s been our problem all year,” Westmont coach Pat Barron said. “We can’t seem to get the kids in the right position to make a play. “Those turnovers were key. We were mounting drives to get back into the game ... it’s frustrating. But we can’t constantly give up 40 or 50 points a game and expect win.”
Cook’s 18-yard run with 4:25 to go in the third put the Crushers up 42-7, while Westmont drove 76 yards on seven plays as Curry scored his second TD of the night with 30 seconds left. Ian Valente became the Hilltoppers’ workhorse in the fourth when he carried the ball eight straight times for 69 yards, scoring from a yard out with five minutes left in the game.
McCort’s backup quarterback Zef Leech helped the Crushers to two TDs in the fourth, as he connected with Michael Stem on a 28-yard passing strike to open the frame and scored on a 5-yard run with 1:10 remaining.