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High Schools - West Catholic beats Lancaster Catholic to get spot in Class AA final

HIS CURRENT position is quarterback. At Penn State, ostensibly, he'll serve at wide receiver. Why not add another position to the discussion? Running back, anyone?

HIS CURRENT position is quarterback. At Penn State, ostensibly, he'll serve at wide receiver.

Why not add another position to the discussion? Running back, anyone?

When that subject was broached with Curtis Drake, first magnitude star for West Catholic High's football team, he opted for a vanilla response.

"Whatever I can do to help my team win," he said.

And then there was Brian Fluck, West's coach.

"He could play anywhere he wants!" he gushed.

OK, so nose tackle might be a stretch. But at any spot that involves moves and speed and savvy and the ever-desirable magic touch, Drake is definitely the answer.

With a shade over 4 minutes remaining last night in a PIAA Class AA state semifinal at chilly Northeast High, West's cheerleaders, symbolically, began throwing Hershey Kisses into the stands.

Chocolatetown is the Burrs' next stop.

With Drake, a 6-foot, 165-pound senior accounting for four of the five touchdowns with his feet or arm, West bested Lancaster Catholic, 37-14. West will play for the state title next Saturday at 1 o'clock at Hersheypark Stadium vs. Wilmington, of District 10.

Drake finished with nine carries for 186 yards and three TDs. His first two, covering 20 yards and then one, were normal. The last was anything but.

West was in semi-comfortable territory at 30-14. Then again, LC was not only knocking on the door thanks to passing whiz Kyle Smith, but about to crash through.

Then it happened. Smith, a lefty, rolled to his left toward LC's sideline. He looked back toward the middle of the field and thought he saw a golden opportunity. Instead, Haleem "P-Nut" Hayward posted an interception on the 2 and returned the ball to the 6.

Next stop, end zone. The one way down the other end of the field.

Drake faked a handoff to tailback Rob Hollomon and took off to his left. Ninety-two yards later, he still had the energy to exchange a mile-high chest bump with teammates.

"We went with that play because they were really stacking the middle," Fluck said. "If we could just get the block on the end, that would leave Curt one-on-one against a safety."

More like one-on-none.

"Honestly, they played good defense," Drake said. "They didn't let us break the long plays as much as we wanted to. To get that one . . . It felt good to finally get loose.

"They'd been doing a great job of staying away from turnovers. Once Haleem got that interception, we knew it was over. Just a matter of capitalizing."

West entered the contest with the city record for points in a season, with 704, and had averaged 57.7 over its last nine games.

This time, however, perhaps the slogan on the recently printed T-shirts should have been altered to "Enjoy the Occasional Show." There were good moments before Drake's burst. Even a few that stirred the juices. But the Burrs had not yet toyed with their opposition in the manner to which they'd become so accustomed.

Not a surprise, actually. This was not some scrimmage against an inferior foe. This was a state semifinal and the opposition had a QB who already had thrown for 3,000-plus yards and 41 TDs.

"That kid was good," Drake said. "It was like he was completing every pass. We were kind of going slow on offense because they were dangerous with the ball, too."

West always led. The first score, capping the game's first possession, necessitated six plays. Drake, the first quarterback in city history to surpass 1,000 yards passing and rushing in the same season, tallied the TD on a 20-yard, right-side keeper and then roared as he returned to the sideline, "That's what we do!"

A 41-yard burst by shared-time tailback Raymond "Syrup" Maples set up the score that made it 14-0 on Drake's 1-yard sneak. A partially deflected punt gave LC the impetus for a get-close TD on a 38-yard pass to Tyler Purvis.

Soon thereafter, it also caused Fluck to show brass fourth-and-2 on West's 31. Maples squirted through the middle of the line for a 4-yard gain 1:57 before halftime. From there it was 9 yards for Maples, 19 for Drake, 7 on a pass from Drake to Quran Kent and . . . drum roll, please . . . a 30-yard score on a pass to Hollomon at 25.

Not the usual kind, though. This one was a shovel job.

"Actually, we ran that play more last year," Drake said. "This year? Maybe once every two games. Rob made a great play."

Of the go-for-it decision, Fluck said, "I've got all these great players. Somebody just had to make a play. You saw what happened on the punt."

Might have been rust. That punt was just the 11th of the season for Ed Colon.

Hollomon finished with 11 carries for 79 yards and one TD. His 35th of the season, that tied him with St. Joseph's Prep's Pat Kaiser (in 2002) in that category. Maples posted 112 yards on eight totes.

Smith went 16-for-24, for 178 yards. He suffered five sacks, with Artis Carroll, Covisia Wilson, Jake Zuzek and Dwayne Shaw recording one apiece. The losses totaled 49 yards. And, yes, some of the defensive guys can motor a little, too.

"I don't think any of our opponents have matched our team speed," Drake said.

Not only can he run. He's a master of understatement. *