BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Phil O'Connor is the latest in a group of stalwart defenders who have earned the right to wear the coveted No. 10 jersey as a senior for St. Joseph's Prep.
Previously, that recognition has gone to such players as James Johnson (class of 2017), Nick Vandevere (2016), Jake Strain (2015), Ryan McNulty (2014) and Todd Jones (2013).
O'Connor, a middle linebacker and third-year starter, has certainly lived up to the expectations that go along with the honor.
On Saturday afternoon, the 6-foot, 210-pound captain turned in another rock-solid showing as the Hawks dominated previously undefeated Parkland and cruised to a 49-14 victory in a PIAA Class 6A quarterfinal at Bethlehem Liberty's Frank Banko Field.
O'Connor was involved in seven tackles, including a second-quarter sack, and deflected a pass. In the second quarter, on a Trojans' fourth-and-1 play at the Prep 33, he teamed up with fellow linebacker Bradley Cobaugh to stop bullish halfback Jahan Worth for no gain.
"Phil is smart, tough, extremely versatile, and he's got good range," Hawks coach Gabe Infante said. "He's our quarterback on defense."
The Prep (12-0) will take on District 1's Coatesville (13-1) in a state semifinal tentatively scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday at Downingtown West's Kottmeyer Stadium.
O'Connor and Co. held District 11's Parkland, of Allentown, to 30 yards rushing on 22 attempts. The Hawks forced a pair of turnovers and sacked quarterback Michael Ruisch five times for a total loss of 34 yards.
"On defense, we're really comfortable with each other, trust each other, and play for each other," said O'Connor, a first-team all-Catholic League Red Division selection who will continue his career at Richmond.
Ruisch connected on only 16 of 36 passes for 159 yards. "From playing them last year, we knew they were to going pass a lot against us," O'Connor said.
The Prep's Marques Mason rushed nine times for 57 yards and scored four touchdowns. His third first-quarter tally, a 95-yard kickoff return, put the overwhelmed Trojans (13-1) in a 21-7 hole.
"He keeps doing good things every week," O'Connor said of Mason. "You know he's going to get the job done."
The Hawks' Marquez McCray hit on 9 of 14 throws for 187 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He connected with wideouts Brandon Sanders and Anthony Rightley for scores of 26 and 45 yards, respectively.
Mason found pay dirt on runs of 12 and 2 yards in the opening five minutes. Backfield partner Kolbe Burrell (10 carries for 88 yards) set up the latter with a 58-yard burst to the Parkland 10.
The Prep's Rayshad Wallace registered three sacks; fellow end Jake Feehery posted a sack and a fumble recovery; and cornerback Zach Bougess made an interception.
O'Connor has totaled 68 tackles, with seven sacks, this season. The 18-year-old from Roxborough, who is a utility player in baseball, plans to major in business in college
St. Joseph's Prep 21 14 14 0 – 49
Parkland 7 0 0 7 – 14
SJP: Marques Mason 12 run (Anthony Tigano kick)
SJP: Mason 2 run (Tigano kick)
P: Jahan Worth 1 run (Brian Hanton kick)
SJP: Mason 95 kickoff return (Tigano kick)
SJP: Kolbe Burrell 4 run (Tigano kick)
SJP: Brandon Sanders 26 pass from Marquez McCray (Tigano kick)
SJP: Mason 2 run (Tigano kick)
SJP: Anthony Rightly 45 pass from McCray (Tigano kick)