Pennridge Dominates Norristown in Season Opener
Call it Cloak and Jagger.
Pennridge senior quarterback Jagger Hartshorn ran for 208 yards and five touchdowns- in the first half alone- as the Rams routed the host Norristown Eagles 49-20 on Saturday.
“You don’t think so much about a quarterback being a threat inside and you have to defend our speed because we have good speed on the edge,” pointed out Pennridge coach Jeff Hollenbach. “When they go to defend that, they are opening up the middle where the quarterback has some speed. (Jagger) really did an awesome job.”
“It feels good to be back with this team,” said Hartshorn, who made his first start. “I grew up with these guys.”
It was the season opener for both teams. It was also the debut of Norristown as a Pioneer Athletic Conference member, after years in the Suburban One.
Pennridge, who out rushed their hosts 351 yards to negative 8, needed only the game’s opening eight plays to establish dominance in all three phases of football.
Hartshorn started the game with a 42-yard keeper and scored three players later. Kicker Matt Mauer converted all seven point after tries, and pinned Norristown on the ensuing kickoff with his first of three touchbacks.
“The first play, I saw a huge hole and hit it. It really set the tone for the whole team,” Hartshorn noted. “We all got excited and built off of there.”
“I had a torn meniscus this summer so I wasn’t able to do too much, but I was able to get back into camp and work with my coaches,” said Mauer, an All-League incumbent. “I did field goals from all of the hashes. I did anything crazy that I could. I was a little sore at first but now I’m fine.”
Defensively, Ram senior linebacker and co-captain Joe Robinson’s opening tackle resulted in 2-and-19 and ultimately, a Norristown three-and-out. The Rams recorded seven first half tackles for loss.
“It was great coming on the field and taking them off right away,” said Robinson. “We just want to win. We let up some big plays that we’re going to correct this week before Neshaminy and we’re preparing right now.
“I think our defense is well connected. We had some communication issues a little bit but we’re going to get there,” he predicted.
Hartshorn scored on a 17-yard keeper and followed it with a 26-yard touchdown scramble to stake Pennridge to a 21-0 lead just 6:39 into the game. Hartshorn had lots of success on inside runs when it looked like the Rams would run a sweep.
“The holes were huge. We worked as a team,” said Hartshorn. “We competed as a team.”
Norristown responded when Joe Gionnone snagged a screen pass on third-and-22 and raced 93 yards for a touchdown. Pennridge answered with a 25-yard Josh Pinckney touchdown run, and then Hartshorn’s roaring 56 yards for a score to put the Rams up 35-6.
Norristown again struck through the air. Izaiah Webb found Boubacar Diawara on a 68-yard slant and the two-point conversion to put the score 35-14. But when Hartshorn kept and ran 28 yards for a score, it not only marked the third touchdown in five plays, but it tied a Rams’ record. Hartshorn joined Jason Rhodes and former Buffalo Bill Louis Riddick with five touchdowns in a game.
Austin Herrlinger ended a seven play, 66-yard drive with a three-yard touchdown run, putting the game at 49-14 with 1:07 left in the first half and enabling a running clock in the second.
The Rams ran for nearly 200 yards per game last season yet it was running back by committee. Six different Rams had over 25 carries and their leading rusher, Judens Desrosiers, didn’t get 500 yards.
“It probably will be the same because we have a number of running backs with really good speed,” Hollenbach shared. “In seven-on-seven this summer, all we do is throw and Jagger really opened a lot of eyes throwing the ball.”
Pinkney carried six times for 44 yards and Herrlinger had five touches for 30 yards. Webb completed nine-of-fifteen passes for 126 yards for Norristown.
The finale of the 2015 season did not treat Pennridge kindly. They were the first team to miss the District One playoffs…and did so by the tiniest of power point margins. On Thanksgiving, they took a 21-0 lead into halftime at home only to see nemesis Quakertown storm back to win 28-21.
“The upperclassmen remember walking off the field on the Thanksgiving and how horrible it felt,” Hollenbach reminded. “I told them it was time to turn it around. We were ready to play. With the heat the way it was, it may not have seemed like that much energy, but they were really ready to play.”
On a 90 degree Saturday more suited for baseball than football, Pennridge served notice that those November ghosts were purged.
“The heat was terrible. Honestly, the first half felt like it was a year,” Robinson stated. “But those are the things you have to overcome. It’s just an obstacle that you have to get over.”
Pennridge overcame those obstacles in impressive style.
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