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Pennridge Goes Wire to Wire in Turkey Bowl Win

Written by: on Thursday, November 24th, 2016. Follow Don Leypoldt on Twitter.


To Run in the December 1st Bucks County Herald

donweek132016In a first half that saw both offenses overeat, Pennridge claimed the 87th version of their Thanksgiving Day classic at Quakertown. The Rams never trailed in their 55-28 standing room only win.

The victory snapped a three-game losing streak to the Panthers. Pennridge leads the series 54-28-5.

Quakertown’s opening three-and-out gave no indication of the first half about to follow. The teams combined for 55 points and 440 yards in the first two quarters.

The Rams capped their opening 35-yard drive with a Joe Robinson two-yard touchdown run. Austin Clarke’s 75-yard touchdown pitch and catch to Tim Shevlin two plays later knotted the score at 7. Pennridge reclaimed the lead four plays later with Josh Pinkney’s 40-yard touchdown sweep.

“Where they hurt is where I didn’t think they’d hurt us,” admitted Quakertown coach George Banas. “I thought they would line up and just chip away at us. I really didn’t see the big play explosion hurting us today. They made a bunch of plays. Credit goes to their players.”

Pennridge’s lead extended to 21-7 late in the first quarter when Jagger Hartshorn raced 38 yards on a scoop and score.

“Jackson Henry hit him and I thought he was going to get the ball but it came out, I popped up and I ran it back,” Hartshorn said. “I give all credit to Jackson since he was the one who made the play happen.”

Quakertown responded. Noah Wood raced 60 yards up the middle for a touchdown, which cut the lead to 21-13. When Nick Lefkoski pounced on a Pennridge fumble at the Quakertown-7, momentum was with the Panthers.

Ryan Cuthbert’s interception snuffed out the drive and quarterback Oliver Jervis connected with Anthony Kelly on a 29-yard touchdown pass. After swapping three-and-outs, the Panthers finally got the ball with good field position. Quakertown’s average start on their 25, versus the Rams’ average start on their 42, influenced the game.

But Cuthbert struck again, snagging an interception in his own end zone.

“We knew they were going to go to Shevlin’s side so Joey Devine, our cornerback, tried to take away the slant,” Cuthbert described. “I was playing inside. They tried to run a corner route but Joey was all over it. We got good pressure on the quarterback and flushed him out of the pocket. It was right there for me.”

Quakertown’s Jacob Barndt took a page from Cuthbert’s book, picking off a Jervis pass two plays later and returning it to the Pennridge-3. When Wood burrowed into the end zone one play later, the late was trimmed to 28-20 with 1:12 remaining in the half.

Pennridge calmly moved 61 yards on seven plays; Jervis hit Cuthbert in the corner for an 11-yard touchdown pass on the half’s penultimate play. Pennridge took a 35-20 lead into halftime.

The Ram offense gelled in the second half. “Once we found out how to work with each other, nothing could stop us,” Hartshorn said.

Cuthbert’s 60-yard catch set up Robinson’s three-yard touchdown run on the opening drive of the second half. Quakertown’s Christian Morano blocked the point after try.

“We started out with runs and kind of getting what we wanted,” Cuthbert said, “so (Quakertown) had to play to that. It was man on man on the outside and the quarterback threw some great balls.”

Robinson intercepted a Panther screen pass four plays later, giving the Rams a short field. Austin Herrlinger capitalized with a four-yard touchdown run. Pennridge forced a punt, and Hartshorn hit Herrlinger on an 11-yard scoring pass to make the game 55-20 with 3:28 left in the third quarter.

“In the first half, we gave them way too many penalties and way too many first downs that we shouldn’t have,” said Robinson, arguably the game’s defense MVP at linebacker. “We figured it out going into the second half. We were really confident in our game plan today and it worked out well.”

“The D-linemen were getting a little too deep in their penetration,” Pennridge coach Jeff Hollenbach explained. “They were kicking us out and getting up inside of us so we made that little adjustment where the defensive line was playing on the line. Once we did that, we took away their pulls.”

Wood capped his outstanding Quakertown career with his third touchdown of the game on a seven-yard run midway through the fourth quarter. The game’s leading rusher, he picked up 157 yards on 20 carries. Wood, one of the Panthers’ all-time leading tacklers at linebacker, went over 1,000 yards on the season.

Hartshorn, who already eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark, led Pennridge with 110 yards on 13 carries. Herrlinger picked up 78 yards on nine touches. Jervis completed four of ten passes for 137 yards.

Both teams end their year at 6-6. Quakertown started off 1-5, yet assembled a five-game win streak. Their signature victory was a 26-17 win over SOL American champ Plymouth-Whitemarsh.

“I think it was that senior group, that leadership,” Banas credited. “They said ‘We’re not going to let it go to 1-10’. I told them that they did not want this to be the memory. They came to work every day and kept pounding away to get that five-game winning streak. You get one or two, and then you get momentum and you feel positive.

“To be 1-5, and be able to say that they didn’t have a losing senior season speaks volumes to the type of kids we have,” Banas continued. “They’ve been classy throughout and that’s what I’m super happy about. In terms of how they play football, how they work in school both academically and behavior-wise, I couldn’t be more proud of the way they are turning out. They are going to do great things beyond football. “

Pennridge carried a three-game losing streak into the contest, although all six Ram losses were against the top 9 6A seeds in District One.

“Going into this game was really tough,” Robinson admitted. “There was a lot of emotion because of three losses here and they’re on a five-game win streak. But that doesn’t mean much now. We’re really happy.”

“Neshaminy was a bitter defeat for us because we had them on the ropes and couldn’t finish it,” Hollenbach said. “I’m so glad we had this game because otherwise we end on that loss. To redeem the emotions and redeem the fact that we’re a really good football team…I’m really thrilled of how these guys played.”

Postscript: Last Thanksgiving, Pennridge’s Iziah Lewis made several tackles and returned a punt in the Quakertown classic.

This Thanksgiving, Lewis’ family is still in mourning after his murder in late October.

Other sources can provide the details of the homicide. This column focuses on teenaged Pennridge Rams, dealing with the loss of a former teammate who worked, laughed and sweated with them.

“The team paid their respects at the viewing for Iziah on Nov. 4,” Hollenbach emailed prior to the Quakertown game. “We also had a team meeting later that day to discuss different stages of grief. This was a difficult situation for not only the team, but the whole community. My hope is that lessons about making appropriate life choices can be learned from this tragic incident.”

The situation reminds us that we can give thanks in all circumstances. Abraham Lincoln issued the first Thanksgiving Proclamation just three months after the horrors of Gettysburg. Martin Rickert wrote the classic hymn “Now Thank We All Our God” as the Thirty Years War ravaged his native Germany.

“These are respectful, competitive players who have worked hard and represent Pennridge well,” commented Hollenbach, a man who could give positive thinking lessons to Norman Vincent Peale. “I was especially proud of them at the Neshaminy game. They played with great energy and focus the same day they attended a funeral of a former teammate, which is not an easy thing to do. They demonstrated to many the kind of character this team has. We also bring a former player in on Thanksgiving morning to address the importance of the day. That will be another situation where we will reflect together on how much we have to be thankful for.”


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