Quakertown bests Pennridge in Thanksgiving Classic
Article to run in the 12/3 Edition of the Bucks County Herald
As we enter the holiday season, Quakertown may have a new twist on a familiar Adam Sandler seasonal jingle:
“So much fun-i-ca! To celebrate Latronica!”
Panther running back Tony Latronica ran for 214 yards, scored 2 of his 3 touchdowns through the air and paced a hard fought Quakertown (9-3, 5-2) 34-29 win over the neighboring Pennridge Rams (6-6, 3-4) in the 79th installment of this classic Thanksgiving rivalry.
The win also completes a season in which Quakertown improved from 1-11 in 2007 to a nine win squad in 2008.
“Everyone knew that during the last four years, (Pennridge) has taken it to us. We kept that in the back of out mind. We wanted to work hard and get to 9-3,” said Latronica.
“There is no better feeling then going from 1-11 to 9-3,” said senior lineman Josh Barndt. “We set a goal to make ourselves much better and insure that last season would never happen again. I feel like we committed to that and obviously we did it.”
On a day where food is on everyone’s mind, Latronica’s output was the meat in this sandwich game. Two Pennridge kickoff returns for touchdowns- one to open the game and one to close it- were the bread.
Ram Ryan Metzler fielded the opening kickoff, saw a seam on the right side and streaked 86 yards for a touchdown, giving Pennridge a 7-0 lead just 12 seconds into the game.
The Panthers refused to let Pennridge monopolize razzle-dazzle special teams plays. On a fourth down from the P-47 on the next drive, punter Geoff DeLan fielded a pitch from his upman and swept 26 yards around the right side on the fake kick.
Four plays later Quakertown quarterback Ryan Tincknell (5 for 12, 73 yards; 70 yards on 10 carries) hit wide receiver Kurtis Roberts in the left flat on another fourth down; Roberts muscled 18 yards and just broke the plane of the goal.
Pennridge sophomore running back Jesse Knepp punctuated the next drive with an exclamation point. He took a handoff around the right side of the line and streaked 35 yards for a touchdown, capping a seven play, 66 yard Ram scoring march.
The lead was short lived. On a fourth and seven, Tincknell rifled an 11 yard pass over the middle to Latronica for a touchdown to even the game at 14. Latronica’s earlier 27 yard run keyed the 8 play, 53 yard scoring drive.
The defenses settled down until 5:00 left in the second quarter. Pennridge quarterback Brad Herrmann (7 for 12, 92 yards) burst through a hole on the right side of the line and sprinted untouched 44 yards to paydirt. This made the game 21-14, the halftime score.
“I think overall we did a pretty good job of containing Herrmann. You need to stop his feet first but he throws the ball very well,” commented Quakertown head coach John Donnelly. “We did enough today.”
Herrmann led the Rams with 110 yards on 16 carries; Knepp rushed for 94 yards and a 7.2 yards per carry average.
Latronica fielded the second half’s opening kickoff and returned it 32 yards to midfield. But sophomore standout linebacker Brandon Cope picked off a tipped Tincknell pass at the P-18. It was the Panthers’ second turnover inside the Pennridge 20; a second quarter fumble at the 20 killed an earlier drive.
After Panther linebacker Edwin Gonzalez stuffed Knepp on a fourth and 1 at the Q-29 early in the fourth quarter, Latronica took advantage of a chance to shine. His 32 yard rumble brought the ball to the Pennridge 10. A holding penalty proved to be no obstacle as Tincknell lofted a perfect 20 yard floater to Latronica on the left sideline for a touchdown which tied it at 21.
“Ryan had a great ball and put it on the spot. I just went up and got it. Ryan is a great quarterback,” said Latronica.
The Panthers got the ball back at their own 26 with 6:03 left. Running behind monster linemen Barndt and Ryan Beach- both of whom are at listed at 250+ pounds- Latronica and Tyler Burke used a steady diet of nine handoffs to drive to the 1.
Pennridge co-captain Chris McCabe, who had a standout game, stuffed Latronica for a two yard loss, but Latronica swept left for a three yard touchdown scamper on the next play.
“We knew they were smaller than we were and that (Pennridge) would angle block a lot,” said Barndt. “That is one of the things we focused on in practice. I think we executed very well. We got hats on hats, locked everybody up and were able to run the ball today.”
Metzler broke another impressive kickoff return- this one of 46 yards- to the Panther 38. Pennridge moved the ball to the 17. But Roberts snared a Herrmann pass at the Q-4 with 30 seconds left and sprinted 96 yards for a touchdown. The missed PAT kept the score at 34-21.
“Kurtis is the unsung hero of this team,” declared Donnelly.
But Pennridge’s seniors would not go easy. Zach Knepp fielded the kickoff and although apparently stopped in a human pile at the P-30, burst free and sprinted the distance for a touchdown. Herrmann hit Daniel Pasquale for the two point conversion.
“I think one of their guys busted through the pile and it pushed me out. That got me in the open field,” said Zach Knepp.
Quakertown’s Eric Fath pounced on the ensuing on-side kick, cementing the win.
“This was disappointing and I’m upset that our seniors had to go out with a loss but I’m proud of their effort,” said Pennridge coach Randy Cuthbert.
Although the two squads combined for 15 wins this year, the margin of victory was 8 points or less in 11 of them. Both teams had plenty of experience in down to the wire matches.
Quakertown and Pennridge have met every year since 1930 when Sellersville-Perkasie High School scored 13 and shutout their neighbor 6 miles to the North; Pennridge now leads the series 48-26-5.
If you weren’t here at least half an hour before kickoff, chances are you couldn’t find a seat.
Panther fans can point to 1970 when Quakertown poured 66 points on an overmatched Pennridge defense. Ram fans need only look to 2003- and their 42 point win- for their most decisive victory of the series. And both defenses can look to the scoreless tie that they played in 1989…the last tie of the series.
Pennridge has won 9 of the last 13 meetings- yet each of Quakertown’s last 4 wins has come in a Presidential election year. Perhaps you heard that America elected a President in 2008, possibly foreshadowing the game’s outcome?
2008 also marks a year in which both squads can claim victory. Cuthbert took a Ram squad that was 3-9 last year to a .500 season and a playoff appearance.
“We’re excited about the future,” said Cuthbert. “I told the seniors that they played a big role in bringing them in and helping them develop. Certainly we’re going to miss our seniors but we have a lot of guys returning with playing experience.”
“The younger guys are always pushing the older guys, trying to make them better,” said Zach Knepp.
Pennridge’s future however doesn’t include the first team all-SOL Continental Herrmann. “There will be some minor tweaks,” predicted Cuthbert. “Brad was our primary ball carrier this year at the quarterback position and I don’t think that is normal. We’ll want to spread people out and run the ball with the whole backfield coming back. I think you’ll see the ball distributed a little more evenly next year.”
Donnelly’s eight game turnaround and playoff berth are even more dramatic. “It’s starting to sink in,” admitted Donnelly. “A lot of people have said congratulations when we still had work to do. But we’re going to end up with the third best record in the 88 years of Quakertown football. We’re extremely proud of these guys.”
The chance to participate in a rivalry that spans generations while capping a successful season no matter what the Turkey Bowl outcome were definitely reasons to be Thankful.
Of note: QB Brad Herrmann and DE Matt Pattison were the two Pennridge Rams selected to the SOL Continental All-League First team. Six Quakertown Panthers accounted for nine spots on the League’s second team, including three named to both the Offense and Defense: Eric Fath (TE/LB), Tony Latronica (RB/DB) and Josh Barndt (OL/DL). Four Rams garnered second team honors.
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