Penn HS and Jesuit HS needed all their national championship savvy and experience to hold on to win quarterfinal matches Thursday at the Boys National High School Invitational in Elkhart, Ind.
Also winning in the single-school bracket were #1-ranked Gonzaga, taking a tough Chapin squad down 55-14, and #2-ranked Xavier, which rode a strong first half to a 47-25 victory over 2012 winners Dixon.
But the other two single-school quarterfinals were much, much closer. Charlotte Catholic pushed Penn to the limit. Charlotte took an early 6-0, lead Penn dominate the next 20 minutes and take the lead 21-6, only to see, in the space of the final eight minutes or so of the first half, Charlotte score three converted tries.
Charlotte Catholic led 27-21 at halftime.
In the second half, the Penn forwards decided to take control. Keeping it in tight and daring Charlotte to stop them, Penn pulled ahead, only to see Charlotte Catholic come back with another series of late scores. Penn held on in dramatic fashion, 40-37.
For Penn, flanker Nick Farber was excellent on poaching the ball, while outside center Teddy Terezis kicked five of seven conversions, a key addition to the scoreboard seeing as Penn won by only three. Man of the Match for Penn was tighthead prop Jackson Day, who scored two tries.
Penn will face Gonzaga in tomorrow’s semifinal.
Meanwhile Jesuit and Herriman were in the other candidate for game of the day. The two very well-matched teams battled it out to the death. Jesuit led 18-12 with about eight minutes to go, and spent the rest of that time defending in their own 22. Herriman were right under the posts, but couldn’t punch it in. Eventually the Utah team did manage to get the ball over the line for a try, but time was up and the touchdown was in the corner. This left a hugely difficult sideline kick that Herriman missed. Jesuit 18, Herriman 17.
“This was a great game,” said Jesuit Head Coach John Shorey. “I told the Herriman coaches afterward that we now have an official rivalry. We would love to play them again. There was nothing in it. I know their scrumhalf went down injured, and that didn’t help them, but they are out-and-out the best athletes we have seen.”
Herriman won “about 99 percent” of Jesuit’s lineouts, said Shorey, and put the Marauders under all sorts of pressure. But Jesuit’s defensive line speed wasn’t bad, either, and both teams, used to scoring a lot, struggled to find points.
Flyhalf Matt Ternan played a strong game for Jesuit, ably supported by flanker Connor Rock, who led the team’s defensive effort.
Hit by injuries themselves, Jesuit was able to call on their depth, and they will need to as they were not able to rest starters, Meanwhile Xavier cruised to a win against Dixon and subbed out liberally in the second half – disrupting their continuity somewhat, but resting players for Friday.
Flyhalf Jim Wolfer helped oversee a potent Xavier attack that for 30 minutes fired on all cylinders.
Head Coach Joe Sweeney said Dixon battled, but his squad had done too much early to be overhauled.
So Xavier plays Jesuit in the semis.
In the consolation brackets, Herriman plays Dixon, and Chapin plays Charlotte Catholic. There’s much to play for in this bracket, as the winner gets 5th, and bragging rights on a 2-1 record.