Pennridge Football Stays Hot in P-W Win
By Don Leypoldt
To run in September 23rd Bucks County Herald
Call it Four-ward progress.
Pennridge (2-1) senior running back Ian Walbridge, #4 in your program, gashed Plymouth-Whitemarsh (0-3) for 220 rushing yards and two long touchdown runs in the Rams’ convincing 42-6 win on Thursday night.
Football games last 48 minutes, but it took just the first five plays to set the tone. The Rams’ defense opened the game by dominating the line of scrimmage and holding P-W to a quick three and out.
On Pennridge’s second offensive play, Walbridge found a seam in the left side on a buck sweep and sprinted 53 yards for the opening score.
“Honestly, I didn’t have to do anything,” Walbridge said modestly. “I got the ball and followed the line. They blocked perfectly and I just ran it in.” The 185 pounder averaged nearly 16 yards per rush attempt.
P-W downed a second quarter punt at the one, but the Rams promptly marched the 99 yards in 10 plays. Walbridge lugged four times for 62 yards on the drive; Pete Leatherman’s three yard counter produced the second Ram touchdown.
Getting the ball back and facing a third and one at the P-W 23, quarterback Kyle Peters hit wide out Drew Smith on a beautiful play action pass for a touchdown. One drive later, Peters hit Smith on a slant pattern for his second TD throw. It gave Pennridge a 28-0 lead at the half.
Walbridge broke into the open field and burst 61 yards for his second touchdown run early in the third quarter. It matched his total from last year’s game, a 21-7 Pennridge victory at P-W, where Walbridge also ran for a pair of scores.
After taking over on downs, sophomore Andrew Littrell highlighted an 11 play Rams drive by rushing for 40 of his 47 yards. With the ball at the P-W 4, Carter Peters swept left for Pennridge’s final touchdown.
The Rams averaged 9.4 yards a carry and outrushed P-W 386 yards to 99. Jesse Knepp, who ran for 159 yards last week, picked up 66 yards on 11 carries to compliment Walbridge’s performance.
Pennridge lost half of their 2008 total offense when quarterback Brad Herrmann graduated. Walbridge and Knepp both prepared for the responsibilities that they would have to shoulder.
“I tried helping out during preseason and in the offseason,” stated Walbridge. “Trying to help the guys stay motivated. (To help the team) lift, to keep their heads on straight and to keep everyone on board like a family.”
“They’re both fast. Jesse runs through a lot of tackles. He’s deceptively fast. You can’t run him down. Ian is just tough,” is how Pennridge coach Randy Cuthbert compared his two main running backs.
“Ian is probably as tough as any running back I’ve ever had in terms of north-south. He runs through people. There isn’t much dancing. He makes a quick cut and goes.”
While Pennridge’s ground game is formidable, Peters’ arm keeps opposing defenses honest. The junior has completed 61% of his 36 attempts while throwing six touchdowns and more importantly- zero interceptions on the year.
It was the second consecutive stellar effort for the Pennridge defense, who had pitched a shutout the week before at Bensalem. P-W didn’t score until 3:30 left in the fourth quarter. Xavier Ellington’s excellent kickoff return gave the Colonials a short field. P-W exploited that when quarterback David O’Neill (7 carries for 42 yards) hit Justin Brown in the end zone on a nine yard pass.
“Coming into the season, we felt the defense really had a shot to be as good as we’ve had in a while,” commented Cuthbert. “We had a lot of linebackers. We have a lot guys we can rotate in the D Line and in the secondary we have guys who are pretty quick who can cover. We played more man to man this year than we have in the past because of that.”
The defense’s effort in the last eight quarters has helped to erase the memory of Pennridge’s tough opening 34-21 loss to Pottsgrove. “Our first game we didn’t tackle at all so that was our problem. But lately we’ve been wrapping up better. We played two great teams and we just remained committed to running to the ball,” offered Pennridge standout linebacker Brandon Cope.
“The first guy gets him down and then four or five guys are chasing right after him. It’s good to see.”
Despite P-W’s running the majority of their wing-T plays away from his side, Cope still made two tackles for loss, registered two quarterback hurries and broke up a pass.
“I lifted a lot,” recalled the junior co-captain. “I spent a lot of time in the weight room and just talked to the team and got everybody fired up. We played a great team in Pottsgrove but we bounced back and that is what Coach told us to do.”
The Colonials program has struggled of late. This was the 15th loss in a row for P-W, dating back to November 2007.
“We talked about focusing on what we do,” offered Cuthbert. “(P-W) has had some tough luck and they lost to two good teams. Our teams were excited about the opportunity and we talked a lot about taking the next step.
“Last week we beat a team and now we wanted to pull away from somebody and finish them early. They were able to do that so hopefully that momentum is going to continue for us.”
The Rams travel to defending AAA state finalist Archbishop Wood on Saturday. Pennridge won last year’s crazy game in a triple overtime shootout. Wood will be a formidable foe who Pennridge will worry about soon enough. But tonight let the Rams focus on savoring a strong win.
“Two weeks ago, it was a lot different,” noted Cope, “but now it’s all smiles.”
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