North Penn Reverses Fortune and will Go to Hershey
Philadelphia, Pa., The North Penn Knights survived a late LaSalle rally with Steve Gozur’s interception off Matt Magarity and ticketed their way to Hershey with a hard fought 21-14 win over the LaSalle Explorers at Northeast High’s Charles Martin stadium and a date in the AAAA state championship next week versus Central Dauphin.
The Knights had lost four games in two years and three of those were to LaSalle. Each of those losses came as a result of second half turnovers and they were outscored in those three second halves by a combined 76-20. If there was a plan in this game to reverse their fortunes, the Knights needed to protect the ball.
After a quiet first quarter, fumbles or touchdowns were a part of the next five possessions going into the half. The Explorers were forced to punt on their next two possessions after recovering a Dan Gevirtz fumble but a second Knight fumble at their own 29 (this one by Matt Smith and recovered by Mike Piscopo) allowed LaSalle to score one play later when Magarity found Jared Hermann in the end zone giving them a 7-0 lead.
North Penn came right back with an 80 yard, ten-play drive and Ralph Reeves tied the game at 7 with a one yard run. Their good fortune continued when Magarity lost a fumble on LaSalle’s next possession and the Knights chipped in with another drive culminating with Reeves 10 yard touchdown. LaSalle answered swiftly with their own ten play drive and Magarity’s second touchdown pass found Colin Buckley. Both teams entered the locker room tied at 14.
The Knights needed to play second half, mistake free football and they knew it. If there was a time for this to happen, Knight Coach Dick Beck knew that it had to be on this day and at this time. Losing two of their first three games to open the season and eventually getting into the District One playoffs as the 11 seed, North Penn came into the second season as a wounded lion. The talk of not being able to get by the Explorers in big games was an added reminder. If there was a time to put all of this to rest, it was here and now for the next 24 minutes.
Seven minutes into the third quarter and on their 17, quarterback Corey Ernst found Gevirtz for a 40 yard gain putting the ball on the LaSalle 43. Two plays later Smith atoned for his earlier fumble with a 23 yard gain putting Reeves in position to score his third touchdown from the one giving the Knights a 21-14 lead. The game then took on a defensive posture with little offensive penetration from either team. It was now time for the Knight defense to stand firm.
With four minutes left the Explorers had two opportunities to tie the game. Facing fourth and one at the 50, LaSalle lined up star running back Tim Wade as their lead back in the I formation and tried a quick hitter. North Penn played it perfect and gang tackled Wade for no gain giving the Knights the ball back.
LaSalle had one last chance after the Knights failed on their own fourth and one and Magarity connected on passes to Sean Coleman and Casey Eidenshink putting the ball on the North Penn 37. Magarity’s last pass as an Explorer was then picked off by Gozur and the Knight defense and mistake free second half gave them the eastern AAAA championship.
As the celebration began, Beck chest bump some of the assistants. Reeves, who has started for this team for four years shook everyone’s hand from LaSalle then finally realizing what they had accomplished ran back and was engulfed by the Knight fan base (who by this time was parked around the 50 yard line) to celebrate with those who have cheered for him the last four years. It was quite a scene. Many of the Knight faithful stayed on the field for about an hour afterward.
LaSalle ends their season 12-2 and just missed out on their third consecutive trip to Hershey. They won the state AAAA title in 2009 and should be in strong contention next year with a lot of key players returning.
An hour after the game Route 73 west was congested with traffic as the Knight contingent made their way back to Towamencin Township. Next week’s trip to the concrete palace (Hersheypark stadium, which sits on concrete) will be a welcome thought.
Notes: LaSalle used a lot of pistol formations with Wade lined up behind Magarity in the shotgun. They used some toss sweeps to Wade in the first half which was effective. James Fielder carried the running load for the Knights toting 20 times for 103 yards. Derek Brandt played a stellar game on the defensive front for North Penn. Kyle Mayfield, who ran for over 200 yards in their opener against LaSalle only had nine yards on three carries. He was nursing a sore shoulder. Matt Maginnis and Sean O’Hara played solid games on the defensive end for the Explorers. Sean Coleman was plagued by an injured foot and was not a major factor.
Scoring By Quarter
LS: Jared Hermann: 29 pass from Matt Magarity: PAT: Ryan Winslow: 11:46
NP: Ralph Reeves: 1 yard run: PAT: Brandon Mandes: 7:15
NP: Ralph Reeves: 10 yard run: PAT: Brandon Mandes: 2:39
LS: Colin Buckley: 12 pass from Matt Magarity: PAT: Ryan Winslow: :35
NP: Ralph Reeves: 1 yard run: PAT: Brandon Mandes: 3:55
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