By the time Steinert’s football team started to make mistakes, it had built up more than enough equity to survive any potential crash.
Playing what may have been their best all-around game since Thanksgiving of 2018, the Spartans rode a huge game by Cody Young to a 29-13 victory over visiting Allentown Saturday.
Steinert carried a 29-0 lead into the fourth quarter before two fumbles led to two Redbird touchdowns. But the Spartans (2-3) regained their grip on the ball and the game and ran out the final 7:24 for their second straight win.
“I think we’re starting to find our identity, so that’s a good thing,” coach Dan Caruso said. “We’re starting to jell a little bit. Hopefully we can continue this trend.”
Young had a career day, rushing for 217 yards and three touchdowns while also making some big plays defensively at linebacker. In becoming the second straight Spartan to gain over 200 against the Redbirds (Will Laster did it last year), Young credited his line of center Cameron Kemler, guards Jack Pattik and Ezekiel Breza, and tackles Duvel Joasil, Jack Lambert and Colin James.
“The o-line did a great job, I can’t thank them enough for it,” Young said. “They pushed everybody, made holes for me and I just went through them. We figured we just had to go. Put our heads down and run.”
Arise Ceide added 67 rushing yards while Liam Ramirez was an efficient 4-for-8 for 67 yards and a touchdown.
Steinert’s defense held the Redbirds to just 19 rushing yards and harassed Dan Merkel into a 10-for-26 passing day with two
interceptions. Young, Deklin Smith, Lambert and Anthony DiMeglio were among the many who made big plays.
“We know Merkel’s a special talent and every year he comes out and performs as we expect,” said Smith, who was all over the place at linebacker. “He’s an athlete, he’s a baller. But our defense really showed up today. We did our job as (defensive coordinator Bill) James stresses, every day, every week. When we do that we’re a dangerous team.
“We knew we had to shut down the run. If they have the run game going that’s when Merkel gets going. Once we shut down the run, we left it up to Merkel and their receivers to make plays. Our secondary came up big today and played good for us.”
Merkel threw for 216 yards, with Jake Raff catching five passes for 121 and a TD. But Allentown (1-4) could not take advantage of consistent good field condition, coming up empty on possessions that started at their 31, 46, 45, 45 and 38.
“The defense did what they were coached to do,” Caruso said. “Everybody did their job, we didn’t try to win games by ourselves. Especially playing against a quarterback of this kid’s caliber. If you give him anything, if you get out of your pass rush lane and try to do too much he’s gonna absolutely take advantage of that.”
Steinert took a 6-0 lead when a wide open Josh James grabbed a 16-yard touchdown pass from Ramirez. Allentown drove to the Spartans 14 before stalling on the ensuing possession.
Young’s 8-yard TD run capped an 86-yard scoring drive and Steinert was on its way. Two more scores by Young – the first after DiMeglio’s interception return for a TD was called back for holding — made it 27-0. The Spartans were going in for the kill on a second-goal at the 2 but fumbled it away. With Merkel out for a play due to injury, the Spartans defense rose to the occasion for a safety.
“I knew how much pressure we were getting on them and Merkel was out on that play, unfortunately, with an injury,” Smith said. “I said to the guys going out there ‘Let’s get a safety here.’ Sure enough we got the pressure on them.”
With 12 minutes remaining, all Steinert had to do was hold on to the ball. But Allentown converted two straight fumbles into touchdowns by Raff and Dan Cruz to make it 29-13 with 7:27 left.
The Spartans regained composure and picked up three first downs on their last series to run out the clock.
“I told the kids I’m not proud of turning the ball over like that,” Caruso said. “But once we got the ball back we were able to go down the field and run the clock out and that’s the mark of a character team.”
Another mark of character is the fact Steinert had just two practices due to having to attend the viewing and funeral of teammate Kevin Szenczi, who was honored after the game with a brick in Steinert’s Walk of Fame.
“Kevin is always here,” Young said. “We all feel him, we all still know he’s here, we all still play for him.”