Noah Spence's quest for a college will have to wait a little longer, not that Bishop McDevitt High School's defensive star minds.
"I don't mind it at all. I love it,'' Spence said.
Taking official visits for the next week is out of the question for Spence, the Gatorade high school football player of the year for Pennsylvania. He and his Crusader teammates will be busy preparing for a showdown with Archbishop Wood in the PIAA Class AAA championship game after McDevitt erased a two-touchdown late-first-half deficit with a big third quarter that led the District 3 champs to a 41-32 victory over Montour on Friday night at Mansion Park.
"We want a ring this year,'' said Spence, whose team fell to Allentown Central Catholic in last year's final. "[This game makes the statement] that we can do it.''
A lightning-fast 6-foot-4, 245-pound defensive end, Spence showed why he is regarded as the best college football prospect in the state and one of the best in the entire country by living in the Montour backfield and eventually wearing down talented Spartan passer Dillon Buechel. Spence finished with seven tackles, including three for loss, two pass deflections and a sack for an 11-yard loss. One of the passes he deflected was intercepted.
"We haven't seen a player like him all year. He's a special player,'' Montour coach Lou Cerro said. "He makes plays from behind. He rushes the quarterback. He's a tough kid. He's on the sideline. I looked up. I said, 'Geez, he's a man.'''
Spence has declared his intention to announce his college choice at Jan. 5's Under Armour All-America Game in St. Petersburg, Fla. He listed Florida, Ohio State, Penn State, LSU and Maryland on Friday night as some of the schools at the top of his list.
"I'm taking an official visit to Ohio State on the 17th, hopefully after we get a ring,'' Spence said with a smile. "[I'm looking for a] family atmosphere, first off, God-fearing coaches and teammates. They've got to want to win. We've got to be a winning program, and I've got to be able to play.''
Penn State was well-represented at the game: Nittany Lion assistant coaches Larry Johnson Sr. and Elijah Robinson were present, as were defensive tackle Jordan Hill (who is from the Harrisburg area) and wide receiver Justin Brown.
Despite the recent upheaval in Happy Valley as a result of the charges against former Lion assistant Jerry Sandusky related to child sexual abuse, Spence said Penn State still is in the running.
"Definitely. I love my home school,'' Spence said.
Ironically, Spence was his least visible when McDevitt took control of the game with four straight touchdowns in a 10-minute span beginning with 34 seconds left in the second quarter.
Underclassman running backs Andre Robinson and Darnell Holland scored two touchdowns apiece as McDevitt (13-2) turned a 26-14 deficit into a 41-26 lead by the 3:10 mark of the third quarter. However, the biggest thorn in the side of the Montour defense was Crusader junior wide receiver Brian Lemelle; also considered a Penn State recruiting target for 2013, Lemelle hauled in seven passes for 137 yards and touchdowns of 36 and 34 yards.
"This is one of my breakout games. It was a good game. But we've got one bigger goal, and that's to win the state championship. I'm not satisfied until we do that,'' Lemelle said. "We just got that fire [in the third quarter]. We want to win it all.''
Both teams surpassed 400 yards in total offense. Buechel threw for 326 yards and two scores, while Darren Massey caught nine passes for 201 yards and Julian Durden rushed for 95 yards and two touchdowns for Montour (12-3).
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Montour12 14 0 6 - 32
Bishop McDevitt7 13 21 0 - 41
M-Reed 30 pass from Buechel (kick failed), 8:03.
BM-Lemelle 36 pass from Werner (Maloney kick), 1:55.
M-Massey 47 pass from Buechel (run failed), 0:50.
BM-Lemelle 34 pass from Werner (Maloney), 11:14.
M-Durden 25 run (Jackowski kick), 7:02.
M-Durden 16 run (Jackowski kick), 2:19.
BM-Robinson 5 run (kick failed), 0:34.
BM-Robinson 10 pass from Werner (Maloney kick), 9:44.
BM-Holland 3 run (Maloney kick), 4:43.
BM-Holland 5 run (Maloney kick), 3:10.
M-Wilson 4 pass from Buechel (kick failed), 10:52.
RUSHING: Montour-Durden 24-95, Rippole 1-0, Buechel 1-(-11). Bishop McDevitt-Lawson 13-71, Holland 13-54, Robinson 6-49, Werner 2-4.
PASSING: Montour-Buechel 22-33-3-326. Bishop McDevitt-Werner 18-28-0-228.
RECEIVING: Montour-Wilson 11-102, Massey 9-201, Durden 2-18, Reed 0-5. Bishop McDevitt-Lemelle 7-137, Seif 7-59, Showalter 2-20, Robinson 1-10, Marsico 1-2.
INTERCEPTIONS: Montour-. Bishop McDevitt-Monroe, Geter, Perloski.