Different Exit, Same Result for North Penn
By Don Leypoldt
To run in the October 22nd Bucks County Herald
Professional wrestling- hardly the source of profound axioms.
But credit Ric Flair for spouting one truism- “To be The Man, you gotta beat The Man.”
For the last two years, “The Man” in the SOL Continental has been the mighty North Penn Knights (7-0, 4-0) – the defending District One champions. They showed that again in tonight’s 43-13 win over the Quakertown Panthers.
North Penn even outscored Mother Nature and her 42 degree kickoff temperature on the raw and rainy night.
For the last two years, Quakertown (5-2, 1-2) has taken a 5-1 record into their match-up with the Knights. The Knights won handily in 2008.
This year, North Penn went up the Northeast Extension one exit to duplicate the result.
When you play the number one team in the state- as some media have ranked the Knights- you need to play a near-perfect game to beat them. Early Panther mistakes proved to be costly.
“I’m a little surprised at how we played tonight,” admitted Quakertown head coach John Donnelly. “I thought we were ready. I’m pretty confident that we’re a better football team that that. We just did not show it tonight.”
“They’re the number one team in the state for a reason,” he added.
On the opening series, a Quakertown illegal procedure turned a 3 and inches into a 3rd and 5. The Panthers had to punt; North Penn marched 65 yards in seven plays. Todd Smolinsky’s (7 for 9, 116 yards; 61 yards rushing) 5-yard quarterback keeper gave the Knights a 6-0 lead.
“It was really critical to get out and have a good start and chew some clock,” remarked Donnelly. “Unfortunately, we didn’t do that.”
Knight defensive back Jason Wrigley recovered a fumble on Quakertown’s next series. Wide receiver Dom Taggart (7 touches, 142 yards) took a double reverse 18 yards for a touchdown- the conversion pass to running back Craig Needhammer (10 carries, 73 yards) put the Knights up 14-0.
It was indeed Wrigley’s Field one drive later when he picked off a Panther pass at midfield. Needhammer’s 13 yard run put North Penn up 21-0.
The Knights’ big play of the evening occurred on the next series when Taggart snared a pass over the middle and raced 47 yards for a touchdown.
“It was a curl and Todd put the ball right where only I could catch it,” Taggart explained. “He fit it right between two defenders; I caught the ball and made the play.”
A Needhammer one yard run one drive later made the margin 34-0. With 46 seconds left in the first half, North Penn exploited a short field for a second series in a row- fullback Mike Culbreath took it to the end zone on a 10-yard run up the middle.
Though down 41-0, the Panthers came out swinging in the second half. Although North Penn substituted liberally, Quakertown held North Penn to a three and out. Panther running back Tony Latronica (16 carries, 107 yards) made sure it didn’t go to waste. His five touches moved the ball 65 yards and climaxed with his one yard touchdown run.
“It was us just trying to come back. We had too many self-inflicted wounds,” said Latronica. “We didn’t come out like we should have. We should have come out in the first half like we did in the second half but that’s not any excuse.”
On the next drive, Latronica burst through a hole on the left side and sprinted 30 yards for another touchdown. A Knight safety on the game’s penultimate play ended the scoring.
North Penn outgained Quakertown 294 yards to 31 through the first 23 minutes of the first half. The Knight line showed excellent athleticism and speed on both sides of the ball. In addition to averaging over 9 yards per carry in the first half, North Penn has also out-sacked their opponents 12-0 in their four conference games this year.
“Dan Schenck is our line coach and he busts their butt every day,” credited North Penn coach Dick Beck. “It’s all about coaching consistently and never being satisfied with those guys up front.
“From game to game, they don’t relax. They know that they have to prove every game and that is what he gets them to do.”
One highlight for Quakertown came in the second quarter. Standout LB Rob Basile broke the school’s all time tackle record.
“That record is not indicative of just me. It shows that I have a great line who keeps guys off of me and that I have a great linebacker in Edwin Gonzalez who forces plays back to me,” Basile humbly noted.
North Penn’s regular season winning streak currently stands at 17; they’ve won their last 11 SOL Continental contests, outscoring their opponents by an average of 30 points per game. North Penn’s out of conference schedule is as brutally difficult as anybody’s.
Those are impressive numbers that North Penn has earned fair and square. Every coach in the Continental would echo that.
But another statistic stands out.
1,659 to 826.
According to the PIAA’s website, that is North Penn’s male enrollment (1,659) compared with the rest of the conference’s average (826). With literally twice as many students to chose from, the bigger pool creates advantages in Towamencin.
North Penn next hosts a hot Souderton team- winners of four in a row.
But the Panthers, hosting C.B. East next week, are still in a strong position for their second consecutive playoff berth. Donnelly reminded Quakertown that they control their own destiny for making the post-season.
Declared Basile, “We thought we got better but they’re a great team. We didn’t come to play. We have a lot of work to do still. We thought we could handle them, but the score shows we couldn’t. We have a lot of hard work ahead of us.”
“We have to play a lot harder- we have a lot of good teams coming up,” said Latronica. “But we’re going to keep working hard and come back ready to work.”
Say this about the Panthers’ senior leaders Latronica and Basile- those words won’t ring hollow.
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