Knights Bounce Titans in Playoffs
To run in the November 7th Bucks County Herald.=
If this is a “down year” for #9 North Penn, what does an “up” year look like?
In Friday night’s District One Class AAAAAA first round game, the Knights (8-3) ran 71 plays to host #8 CB South’s 38 and gained 25 first downs to the Titans’ four in a 35-7 victory.
“Tonight was North Penn being North Penn. They were able to run the ball effectively, load the box up and keep us from running the ball,” assessed South coach Tom Hetrick. “We took some shots. We didn’t hit the shots that we took. It’s a lot of credit to them.
“They got pressure on our quarterback and they didn’t give us the time to get the plays off that we needed to get off,” Hetrick concluded. “They’re a good football team.”
Delaware-commit R.J. MacNamara gave North Penn a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter on a touchdown plunge. The Titan defense held North Penn scoreless for the rest of the half. Dylan Cedotal snuffed out a fake punt on North Penn’s next possession. Sean Smith broke up a fourth down pass to end the next Knight drive.
North Penn’s final first half offensive stand brought them to the Titan-7 but linebacker Cole Cenci stopped quarterback Kolby Barrow for no gain. A penalty and fumble forced North Penn to attempt- and miss- a 35-yard field goal.
Cedotal’s play gave the Titans the ball at the NP-21 early in the second quarter. The Knights turned away South on fourth down.
North Penn broke through after halftime, opening the third quarter with touchdown drives of six and eight plays. Fordham-commit Evan Spann followed his 47-yard run with a two-yard touchdown dash with 6:24 remaining in the game. The Knights exploited a short field from a South fumble, the game’s only turnover, to add a late score and go up 35-0.
Smith hauled in a 43-yard bomb from Carter Hallgren, putting South on the board with 44 seconds left.
“That was probably the saddest moment of my career. I don’t even know how to explain it,” Smith said. “I just ran.”
Hallgren completed nine of his 14 second half attempts for 105 yards. Smith caught four balls for 78 yards. Tyler Robinson had three catches for 34 yards.
Smith racked up nearly 1,200 receiving yards on 62 grabs this Fall. “We came back with a completely different offense this year so that changed a lot for us,” Smith shared. “We had confidence in the players on the field on every single play.”
The Titans (7-4) went 6-1 when they held opponents to 24 or fewer points. Cenci paced South with a dozen tackles, including three for loss or no gain.
“It was sticking together as a team, working hard and practicing every day,” said Michael McCuen, who had ten tackles and half a sack.
Two weeks ago, South rallied from two scores down to beat North Penn 36-35.
“We liked our game plan. The kids felt confident. We just didn’t get it done tonight. And that’s credit to them,” Hetrick stated. “We were able to get the run game going a couple of weeks ago and we just weren’t able to get that done tonight.”
South’s pass defense was effective on Friday; North Penn was sacked twice and gained only 93 yards through the air on 18 pass attempts.
The Knights’ rushing attack was another story. Spann and Khalani Eaton combined for 276 yards on 31 carries. North Penn advances to #1 Downingtown West on Friday
“I don’t know, at the beginning of the season, if I would have predicted we’d have a home playoff game,” Hetrick admitted. “We had a lot of inexperienced guys coming back and they continued to surprise us with their ability to re-focus. We came away with some nice wins against some very good competition. I’m proud of how they stuck with us. We finished the regular season strong and I couldn’t be more proud of them for that.”
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