Football: “New” Seniors Play Clutch Roles for West, Pennridge
To run in the October 28th Bucks County Herald
Facing third-and-six on C.B. West’s opening drive Friday night while hosting Pennridge, senior QB Ward Udinski calmly found classmate and WR Bill Bell for a 20 yard gain.
Two plays later, RB Rashaad Williams sprinted 25 yards through a crease for a touchdown. It was all of the scoring West needed as the Bucks (6-2, 3-2) edged the Rams (4-4, 1-3) 13-3.
“The first couple of runs I saw it was open. Once I got past the ‘backers, I knew I was going,” said Williams.
Pennridge’s most effective offensive weapon proved to be senior fullback Brandon Cope. His 15 touches for 86 yards accounted for half of the Rams’ yardage.
And it was Pennridge’s go-to senior WR Rocky Ferrier’s 20-yard catch late in the fourth quarter that resulted in their longest gain of the night.
Williams, Bell, Ferrier and Cope all have something in common besides being seniors.
All four are likely to make all-conference…yet none of them played their current offensive position last year for their current school.
In 2009 Cope was primarily an elite all-conference linebacker who played tight end.
Ferrier wasn’t even on the football team; instead the 6’1” upperclassman was prepping for the upcoming basketball season, where he played guard.
Both have morphed into key weapons for Coach Randy Cuthbert’s offense this season.
Cope plays a power fullback that nicely compliments quicksilver tailback Jesse Knepp; Knepp ran for nearly 1,100 yards last season as the Rams’ leading rusher.
“Brandon is a great athlete. (Our size on the line) enabled us to move him back,” Cuthbert assessed. “He is a tough runner, he is smart and a solid runner. We try to mix it up with him and Jesse.”
On the season, Cope has rushed for 511 yards, six touchdowns and a 5.6 yards per carry average. He has also snagged ten balls while serving as QB Kyle Peters’ safety valve.
But he hasn’t been nearly the receiver that Ferrier has.
In Ferrier, Cuthbert saw a tall, fast athlete with good hands. After breaking out against C.B. East, where he caught eight passes for almost 150 yards, Ferrier is now Pennridge’s leading pass catcher.
He recently caught a 30-yard pass in four straight games. “This is the first time I’ve ever played football. The physicality is a lot different from basketball and baseball that I played,” Ferrier noted. “Other than that, I just got right into it.”
Across the sideline at West, coach Brian Hensel “discovered” a new receiver of his own. Bell started last season at C.B. South and transferred to West in the middle of the year.
In their wins over C.B. South and two-loss Upper Dublin, the 6’3” Bell combined for eight catches, 200 yards and two touchdowns. His size and speed gives Udinski a downfield threat.
But most high school teams run to set up the pass. A wise strategy for West, who has a blur in Williams.
Williams ran for over 1,300 yards as a sophomore but an off-the-field situation prevented him from playing football during his junior year.
Now a senior, Williams has rushed for 1137 yards and 11 touchdowns. He has rushed for 115 yards in seven of his eight games, including 158 against Pennridge, while averaging nearly eight yards per carry.
“It was definitely hard getting my wind back and the physical- the hitting- back,” admitted Williams. “But I’ve worked my way up to it.”
“Being able to stretch the field with a guy with the speed and height of Bill Bell allows for many possibilities. In doing so, he is a compliment to what Rashaad’s speed and strength offers an offensive attack,” offered Hensel in an email.
“The unselfish nature of each individual is the strength behind each of their individual accomplishments on the field,” Hensel continued. “They trained together and lifted weights together, but they also hang out together. The bond that these players have forged has carried over to the field on Friday Nights.”
But despite the playmaking abilities of the four, Friday night belonged to the defenses. Pennridge and West combined to hold quarterbacks to just 83 yards on 28 pass attempts.
“Our game plan coming in was to make sure we could slow down their running attack,” said Hensel post-game. “They have two very good running backs in Brandon Cope and Jesse Knepp. We had to control them. The defense made some key stops at certain points that helped us.”
Early in the third quarter, blitzing Pennridge DE John Dubyk forced a fumble that the Rams recovered at the West-4. The Bucks morphed into a brick wall, forcing Pennridge’s Dan Caya to kick a 27-yard field goal instead.
West responded with a 5 play, 74 yard drive culminating with fullback Jake Poeske’s 23-yard belly touchdown run.
It looked like West might get some momentum going when Seth Ehlo picked off a pass on Pennridge’s next possession. It was then when a stout Ram defense forced a three-and-out, the second time of the night West was unable to capitalize on a Pennridge turnover.
For hard luck Pennridge, it marks their third loss where they held an opponent to under 14 points. Players such as junior DL Anthony Fecondo continue to make big tackles.
“Anthony has done a great job. He might be one of the best D-lineman I’ve ever had,” said Cuthbert candidly. “Between him and Brandon, that is a real solid anchor for the middle of the defense.”
It is West’s second straight win where they scored 13 points. They averaged 47 points in their first four victories.
“Keep in mind that as you get further along in the season, I think our level of competition continues to step up and become greater,” Hensel reminded. At least he and Cuthbert can turn to a pair of “new veterans” to help meet those challenges.
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