THORNDIKE >> With his team in a jubilant mood in the post-game huddle, Lee football coach Keith Thomson had one word for his team — breathe.
After two losses to open the season, the Wildcats got one in the win column with a 31-0 shut out of Pathfinder on Friday night at St. Joseph's Park. Lee held Pathfinder to minus-9 yards rushing in the contest, and it took until the fourth quarter before the Pioneers could produce a first down.
"That first win, it's a monkey off your back," Thomson said. "Defensively, I couldn't be happier. [Pathfinder], at one point late in the game, I don't even think they had a yard. Defensively, they got after it."
With the defensive line clogging the line of scrimmage and the Lee linebackers swarming to sweeps on the outside, Pathfinder had very few options to try and get the offense going. When quarterback Andrew Roman tried to throw, the Lee secondary played as ballhawks and Ben Harding came up with two interceptions — both of which led to Lee scores.
"I was just reading the quarterback," sophomore Harding said. "The line was doing a good job of spreading the field and I could just read where he was going with his receivers."
Offensively, the Wildcats (1-2) had hiccups throughout the game, but behind a whopping 43 rushing attempts the team was able to grind out enough offense — and chew enough clock – to keep putting points up on the board.
Lee had eight ballcarriers in the game, led by Lukas Loehr, who rushed for 69 yards on 18 carries for one touchdown. Ryan Ruef added 48 yards on nine carries with a score, Nick Castillo rushed for 40 yards and a score in the first half and then Omar Pichardo came in late to record a score of his own.
The final score came through the air, as Harding capped off his stellar day with a 19-yard touchdown catch from Homer Winston (6-for-8, 91 yards).
"That felt good," Harding said of the touchdown catch. "That was my first varsity touchdown. We called the play earlier in the game and it didn't work, so we called it again and it worked pretty good."
But for all the offensive scoring, everyone on the Lee sideline was more impressed with the defensive effort.
Pathfinder had minus-16 yards of offense at halftime, and the team's initial first down came to start the fourth quarter — but it was on a Lee penalty.
"We saw some film on them, we thought we could kind of predict what they were going to do. We knew the dual threat," Thomson said, referencing Roman and tailback Keanon Decker. "Those were our two focal points tonight and our guys stepped up to the challenge. I think their pride was hurt a little bit last week, and they stepped up tonight and did a great job of shutting them down."
Thomson also heaped praise on Harding.
"Not only did he get the interceptions, he brought us down into the red zone both times," Thomson said. "He did a great job breaking to the ball. I think he's another one, he's a sophomore, first year starting, and he's continuing to grow as a football player and something like this you can see the confidence growing in him."
Lee now sets its sights on another road game, a Friday trip to Mohawk.
L — Ryan Ruef 4 run (run failed), 4:44
L — Nick Castillo 1 run (pass failed), 2:26
L — Lukas Loehr 9 run (pass failed), :30
L — Ben Harding 87 pass from Homer Winston (Nico Chacon kick), 1:21
L — Omar Pichardo 1 run (kick failed), 2:48.
RUSHING — Lee: Ryan Ruef 9-48, Homer Winston 4-19, Lukas Loehr 18-69, Nick Castillo 5-40, Michael Hurley 2-14, Omar Pichardo 5-22. Pathfinder: Keanon Decker 7-(minus 5), Andrew Roman 7-(minus 4).
PASSING — Lee: Winston 6-8-91-1-0. Pathfinder: Roman 6-16-73-0-2.
RECEIVING — Lee: Ben Harding 2-62-1, Castillo 3-26, Ruef 1-3. Pathfinder: Barry Goodreau 3-47, Marcus Malone 1-18, Decker 1-(minus 2), N/A 1-10.
Contact Geoff Smith at 413-496-6250.