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Regular St. Rita quarterback John Kelley was sidelined with a concussion suffered in last week’s loss to Brother Rice.
Even so, nobody could have seen this coming.
The Providence defensive unit dominated so thoroughly in Friday night’s Catholic League Blue match-up in New Lenox that the No. 25 Celtics easily could have won by a wider margin than the 14-0 final.
The Celtics (4-1, 1-1) ran 60 offensive plays to St. Rita’s 37. They held a 287-78 advantage in total yards and a 17-3 edge in first downs.
And for good measure, Kyle Crawford forced a fumble early in the fourth quarter that Joshua Pericht recovered, leading to the clinching touchdown, and Noah Cralle intercepted a pass on St. Rita’s final possession.
“We didn’t have any consistency on offense,” St. Rita coach Todd Kuska said. “Our defense played well but we can’t have them out there the whole game.”
“Any time you can shut out a St. Rita with the potent running attack they have, it’s a great defensive effort,” Providence coach Mark Coglianese said. “Everyone controlled his gap.
“Our offense did a great job, too. We just sputtered a couple times when we got down close. But it was huge that they were able to grind the clock the way they did.”
When St. Rita (2-3, 0-2) appeared on the verge of tying it 7-7 early in the fourth quarter, Providence cornerback Tony Petta delivered the play of the game.
St. Rita wide receiver Julian Crum broke free on a double reverse and had four blockers out front. Petta was the last hope to prevent an 83-yard touchdown run, and he delivered with an open-field tackle after a 19-yard gain.
“I came from the opposite side and got through the blocks,” Petta said. “He (Crum) didn’t cut back. I’m glad he didn’t. I went right at him.”
Petta tipped the pass that Cralle intercepted to close out the game, and he also unloaded a huge hit on Crum on a pass in the flat seconds after preventing the potential long touchdown run.
“We didn’t play well last week (in a loss at Loyola),” Petta said. “We didn’t finish. This week we did.”