Kid-Knepp-ed: Pennridge Runs Past Owls
For the September 15th Bucks County Herald
On host Pennridge’s fourth play from scrimmage- their first play after Ram senior fullback Brandon Cope ran 34 yards for a touchdown- Bensalem stopped senior tailback Jesse Knepp for a one yard loss.
Hope Bensalem enjoyed it while it lasted.
Knepp would run for 231 yards on his next 24 carries- including three scoring dashes of his own- as Pennridge (2-0) edged Bensalem (0-2) 34-24.
The 200 pound Cope- playing “Mr. Inside” to Knepp’s “Mr. Outside” also broke the century mark, finishing with 140 yards on 17 carries. Cope is a standout linebacker but with nearly 400 yards on the ground, the Rams’ defensive star and Knepp comprise a potent running back tandem.
“It was something (Brandon) was always joking about last year, asking when he was going to play fullback,” recalled Knepp. We finally got him in there and he is doing a great job both tonight and all summer too. He is a really hard runner.”
After Cope’s score put Pennridge up 7-0 with barely a minute gone by, it looked like Friday’s game would resemble Bensalem’s opener: an ugly, miscue-laden 26-7 loss to lightly regarded Overbrook.
Give the Owls credit. Despite Dan Caya’s booming kickoffs- the Owls started 8 of their 11 drives at their own 30 or worse- Coach Dan McShane’s no-huddle offense ate up yards and moved chains.
Bensalem senior quarterback Anthony Prisco completed 22 of 37 passes, mostly on hitches in the flat, for 253 yards. Junior wide outs Davonte Newkirk (10 catches, 116 yards) and Terrence Snetter (6 catches, 94 yards) were mostly contained- but still could break one.
Pennridge’s defense was able to keep Bensalem out of the end zone until Newkirk finally took a pass 65 yards for a touchdown midway through the second quarter.
The TD was sandwiched however between Knepp’s 10 yard toss sweep touchdown, a nifty 35-yard jitterbug for a second Knepp touchdown run and a seven yard Knepp sprint to paydirt with just 44 seconds left in the first half.
Pennridge took a comfortable 27-8 lead into the break. Senior DB Kyle McCabe picked off a Bensalem pass with 1:15 left in the second and Knepp’s third touchdown came just four plays later.
“They were driving on us and we had to do something. We did Cover Two. I saw what was coming, jumped up and got it,” McCabe described.
The Owls had other ideas in the third quarter. Prisco’s two yard keeper capped an eight play scoring drive and Snetter’s 49 yard catch and run set up Christian Fernandez’s (16 carries, 67 yards) touchdown plunge. After converting the two point tries, Pennridge’s end of quarter lead shrunk to 27-24.
“At halftime, we made some checks to stop them,” observed McCabe, who had several bone jarring hits and a forced fumble in addition to his pick. “On defense we tried different checks to keep them contained. We expected some of it (short passing game), but not as much as they showed.”
Front seven standouts like Cope and sophomore end John Dubyk made key tackles and pressured Prisco. It finally paid off midway through the fourth; sophomore linebacker McKenzie Crawford intercepted a rare Prisco mistake and returned it for a touchdown.
The Rams have now won four straight dating back to last season. In those four wins, they have tallied 146 points as co-captain Knepp has averaged 162 yards rushing per game.
“I want to give the praise to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He is the one who gave us the abilities to come out here,” Knepp said humbly. Knepp’s father Doug pastors a church in West Rockhill and currently serves as a chaplain in Fort Indiantown Gap with the National Guard.
Jesse continued, “Our offensive line did a great job opening the holes. I give a lot of credit to Stefan Krause. He is my pulling guard and he did a real good job tonight. Two of my touchdowns, he pushed the guy away so I could jump in.”
In Pennridge’s opening night win against Haverford School, coach Randy Cuthbert went to the air as senior quarterback Kyle Peters tossed four touchdown strikes. Tonight’s run-based game plan would have made Woody Hayes beam.
“Last week, the front they were playing and how tight they were playing their safeties, we had to throw. Tonight, we felt we had a little bit of a size advantage,” Cuthbert noted. “We’re also a little bigger this year up front so the plan was to pound it this week. The line and backs responded.”
This is a veteran Pennridge team who returned nine starters on offense and six on defense.
“Training camp was a lot easier. We had basically the whole offense and defense in in just five days. We’ve never been able to do that before,” replied Cuthbert. “We got to camp and we didn’t need to really install anything- just start working techniques.
“And we have a great group of kids this year. The seniors are really helping the underclassmen along and I think it’s a much tighter team then we’ve had in the past couple of years.”
Does winning lead to chemistry or vice versa is a chicken-and-egg argument. An argument that, thanks to their high octane offense, the Rams may have the luxury of debating for a while.
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