BETHLEHEM - They say football is the ultimate team sport.
. . . And sometimes they're wrong.
If ever one guy made the difference in a game, again and again and again, Brendan Nosovitch did so last night in a PIAA Class AAA semifinal at chilly Frank Banko Field.
That name is not familiar to most of you, no doubt, so, yes, that's a bad sign. Nosovitch does not play for Archbishop Wood, whose football season is now over.
His school is Allentown Central Catholic, though it's hard to imagine he could not be performing miracles somewhere right now for a glamour school at the Division I level.
Though just a junior, Nosovitch already has racked up two seasons with 2,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards. And Gatorade recently announced that he's Pennsylvania's Player of the Year for 2010.
What did he do last night? Everything.
Central Catholic bested Wood, 49-27, on the strength of a tremendous second-half run that was halted only on the final play of the game, when Joey Monaghan hit Kyle Adkins for a 19-yard touchdown. Beforehand, the kinda-upstate Vikings (that's also Woods nickname) had ch-chinged their way to 28 consecutive points while leaving way behind a 21-21 halftime score.
As for Nosovitch's accomplishments . . . please make sure you are sitting down. Our new owners aren't in the mood to get slapped with lawsuits because you cracked open your head while fainting.
ACC finished with 599 yards from scrimmage. Nosovitch had 602 of 'em. Yes, he outgained his team.
The victorious Vikings ran 52 plays. Nosovitch passed or ran on 49. His flingin' totals were 17-for-28 for 419 yards and five touchdowns. His scamperin' totals were 183 yards and two TDs on 21 carries.
"We knew he was that good," Wood coach Steve Devlin said.
"We knew he was that good," echoed two defensive linemen, Rory Clark and Colin Thompson, and Adkins, whose defensive position is secondary.
Wait. Who knows anyone is that good? A shade more than 600 yards of total offense?
"He had what? More than 600 yards?" Thompson said, when the number was repeated to him. "No he didn't. He did?
"He's a phenomenal player. They run their offense so well. They have a great line and they spread you out like crazy. They put all the receivers out and that leaves their five linemen against the five defensive guys. If they're doing their job, there's no one there to tackle the quarterback."
Sounds simple, right?
Almost all of Nosovitch's passes, if not right on the money, were worth 99 cents on the dollar. And his feet/instincts on draw plays were as good as any running back's.
Maybe after he sees the tape, Clark will admit that. He found it hard to do so shortly after the game, however.
"It's our own fault," he said. "We had lots of chances to tackle him, but didn't do it. We had good shots at him, but let him get away."
Clark acknowledged that the competitive nature of football keeps guys on losing teams from saying too many positive things about the guys on winning teams.
"We knew what was coming," he said. "Just by how they lined up, we could tell when he was going to run those draws. We failed to execute."
Exhibit A: On Central Catholic's very first play, defensive coordinator Mike Carey yelled "Draw!" at least three times, if not seven. Nosovitch zipped for 25 yards. Just when that disappointment was registering, Nosovitch hit Kevin Gulyas for a 70-yard TD.
His other TD passes covered 54, 7, 64 and 64 again. His rushing TDs went for 1 and 25 yards.
Twice this past week at practice, Wood enlisted the help of Sean McCartney, star QB of the '08 squad that advanced to the state final. His job was to impersonate Nosovitch. Watching this game from the sideline, he said he passed in those sessions almost every single time.
When asked for his thoughts on Nosovitch, he shot back, "He's the real deal."
Wood's defense was without two mainstays going in. Cornerback Desmon Peoples, also the star rusher, and end Brian Butler had been injured in recent games. And then linebacker Sam McCain, also a key receiver, injured his right ankle shortly before halftime.
Fighting back tears on occasion, McCain watched the second half from a training table or while hobbling along the sideline with crutches.
At halftime, Devlin said he tried to remind his team that 21-21 was just like 0-0. Central Catholic's next score came on Nosovitch's 1-yard burst 2:07 before the end of the third quarter. Wood experienced a three-and-out and, zip, Nosovitch hit Jalen Snyder-Scipio with a 64-yarder. The downstate Vikings' next two possessions were terminated by a lost fumble and an interception, enabling bad to become worse.
As the final minutes melted away, some of the players actually smiled while talking with one another. They knew they'd had a great season. They also knew - well, most of them - they'd been blitzed by some kind of amazing force.
"These seniors did a great job of putting our program on the map," said Devlin, speaking of three straight semis appearances. "For the guys coming back, we'll use this as fuel. We're not finished yet."