CB East Plays Spoiler…Again.
The Central Bucks East Patriot defense almost didn’t need Owen Griffin’s heroics. Almost.
East (8-2) clung to a 24-21 lead with 1:50 left in the fourth quarter. The host Quakertown Panthers (8-2) faced a fourth-and-five at the Patriot 36. A stop would end the game.
Panther quarterback Tom Garlick got five yards and an inch.
So on the next play, when Griffin did intercept a Garlick bomb, the game was salted away in dramatic fashion. East won 24-23.
“I’m kind of speechless at the moment,” Griffin confessed. “I saw it coming up, I backpedaled, went for it and I caught it.”
With the win, East may have locked up a home game in the first round of the District One AAAA playoffs. With a win, Quakertown could have clinched a share of the SOL Continental title.
It marked the second straight year that the Patriots spoiled a Panther season. East’s 14 unanswered fourth quarter points in 2014 gave them a 35-21 upset over previously 9-0 Quakertown.
The Panther offense opened with a three-and-out after picking off an East pass. When Quakertown recovered an East fumble on the Patriots’ second drive, they weren’t going to squander it again. Star senior running back Rob Burns broke two tackles and took it 39 yards to the end zone to stake the Panthers to a 7-0 lead.
East responded, marching 66 yards on eight plays and tying the game at 7; substitute quarterback Matt Szczypiorski hit senior Logan Nelsen on a 22 yard touchdown pass on the first quarter’s penultimate play.
“They had me line up on the left side,” remembered Nelsen, who caught four balls for 70 yards. “We had our tackle over and there was a seam down the middle. Matt threw a great ball.”
The Patriots’ next drive could have been a morale breaker: a 10 play, 89 yard march helped by two big Jack Lamb to Nelsen passes on third down. Lamb muscled his way 31 yards to the end zone on a fourth down fake sweep to put East up 13-7. Lamb’s 149 yards on 28 carries led all rushers.
“He is just a winner. How many other kids are wearing 45, playing quarterback and doing what he is doing?” asked Donnelly about Lamb, who is also one of his leading tacklers at linebacker. “He is a phenomenal football player. He is a warrior and our catalyst. This was a big win for our program.”
But Quakertown coolly responded, converting three third downs once they got the ball back. Garlick called his number from four yards out and the touchdown gave the Panthers a 14-13 lead at the break, a half that was penalty-free.
East junior cornerback Myles King pounced on a Quakertown fumble three plays into the second half and Lamb’s eight-yard touchdown run on third-and-five put East back on top. Senior Alex Gibson, a Columbia commit, converted the two-point try and the Patriot lead grew to 21-14.
Garlick found senior Jon Potynski on an 18 yard completion on third-and-15, and escaped a certain sack to convert another third down pass three plays later. Garlick, who completed 7 of 11 passes for 58 yards, ended the 14 play drive by punching it in from the foot line. The game was tied at 21 with 1:51 left in the third.
But all of the time East’s offense- they ran 62 plays to Quakertown’s 44- started to take their toll on the Panthers. East recovered a Quakertown fumble at midfield early in the fourth and ran 11 plays down to the Panther 6. Kiel Kittleson’s 24 yard field goal with 4:14 left put the Patriots up 24-21. Lamb’s intentional safety with 26 seconds left marked the game’s final points.
“I attribute tonight to our offensive line, and how hard they work every day in practice,” Nelsen praised. “We didn’t have that many big plays. It was a grind. (Quakertown) is a good team. But we willed ourselves to win and we rode the offensive line’s backs tonight the entire time.”
In their 20 games, the East and Quakertown defenses surrendered 24 points or less 16 times. “Everyone has doubted us all year,” said Griffin. “Our defense came ready and we knew we were going to get it done.”
“I think we’re solid across the board on defense,” mused Quakertown head coach George Banas. “We play assignment football and we typically tackle well. It comes down to reading your keys and playing aggressively downhill. If all eleven guys are doing their job, it sort of bottlenecks the offense.”
There were personal milestones at stake as well for two of Bucks County’s best backs. Burns’ 120 yards on 16 carries put him over 1,500 for the year. Gibson got 93 yards on 20 touches and put him over the 1,000 yard mark.
“We tried to limit Rob as much as we could,” said Donnelly. “He is such a strong runner. His legs never stop moving. He got us a couple of times but I thought we did a nice job of bottling him up a couple of times as well.”
CB East debuted their new stadium in week one after a decades-long battle. After tonight, their season might be rewarded with an extra playoff game at that field.
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