Pennridge Nips Quakertown in Turkey Day Thriller
By Don Leypoldt
To run in the December 6th Bucks County Herald
Pennridge junior RB Jesse Knepp was the hero on Thanksgiving when his Rams hosted Quakertown. Knepp ran for exactly 200 yards.
Wait, Knepp may have to cede the hero crown to Panther DB Kurtis Roberts. Roberts returned a punt 62 yards for a touchdown midway through the third quarter to give Quakertown a 21-20 lead.
On second thought, the hero is now the Rams’ QB Kyle Peters. Facing third and six, Peters (5-for-10, 88 yards) fired off a long completion to WR Dylan Moore a nanosecond before getting crunched by Quakertown’s standout LB Rob Basile. Moore shook a tackler and took it 64 yards to the Q-6.
Knepp’s (29 carries/200 yards) touchdown sweep on the next play and Peters’ conversion pass made it 28-21 Pennridge with barely four minutes left in the game.
But that’s old news. The new hero is Panther senior QB Ryan Tincknell (6-for-10, 129 yards). The lefty rifles a completion over the middle to WR Mike Olimpo, who takes it 37 yards to the house with 1:54 left and ties the game at 28.
It is the eighth tie or lead change. The 80th installment of this Thanksgiving Day classic has lived up its name.
Pennridge kicker Dan Caya ultimately got the biggest slice of pumpkin pie. His 33-yard field goal as time expired gave Pennridge (6-6, 3-4) a dramatic 31-28 win over their archrival Panthers (8-4, 4-3). Caya’s third field goal of the game was the biggest of the year.
“(This means) Tons. Especially the way it ended. That was just unbelievable,” exclaimed Pennridge senior lineman and captain Andrew Rice.
There wasn’t a lot of glamour in the Rams’ win- they just controlled the line of scrimmage, running 70 plays to the Panthers’ 41. Sophomore RB Carter Peters (15 carries/92 yards) did a commendable job spelling Knepp.
“We all pushed as hard as we could,” Rice offered. “Every time we tried to run, we just tried our best. It’s tough in the trenches. You get dirty sometimes but all in all, we just beat them off the ball.”
“We did some different sets that we haven’t done before,” explained Pennridge head coach Randy Cuthbert. “The one thing that we moved to- because it has rained almost every week this season- is getting out of the shotgun. We felt that even though we’re smaller, we could control the line of scrimmage.
“We tried to keep them guessing: inside, outside, off tackle. Our kids really executed well.”
The coach- a former running back- praised his two-horse backfield: “Jesse has been kind of hampered by injuries all year. He had a great year considering how banged up he was.
“Carter has really gotten comfortable. We had a situation where we asked him to get in there at fullback and he responded,” concluded Cuthbert.
Yet it was the aforementioned Peters’ pass that might have been the game’s other signature play. He recalled, “It was third down. I saw the rush coming but you have to keep your eyes up. I saw (Moore) break away and I wanted to give him a chance to catch it. I knew I was going to get hit but I’ll take the victory and get hit every time.”
RB Tony Latronica’s 106 yards on 17 carries paced the Panthers.
The magic number in Thursday’s game was 230. The Rams, who ran for 319 yards on Thursday, are 6-1 when they rush for 230 yards and 0-5 when they don’t. Knepp has five 100-yard games on the season while Ian Walbridge thrice hit the century mark.
Pennridge has won ten of the series’ last 13 but it was the Panthers who prevailed in 2008’s 34-29 shootout.
The Panther seniors suffered through a one-win season as sophomores, and rebounded to post consecutive eight win campaigns. Latronica leaves as the ’09 Panthers’ rushing leader, receiving leader and all time touchdown scorer.
Although Quakertown’s offense relied more on the ground than last year’s unit, senior QB Tincknell significantly improved his efficiency. The southpaw tossed 8 picks last season; he threw just three in 2009.
“These guys are responsible for 17 wins over the last two years. They’re disappointed,” Quakertown head coach John Donnelly said somberly. “We haven’t won here since 1991 and we wanted to finish things right. We told them that we are still proud of the effort that they gave and how they turned this thing around from when they were sophomores.
“There is a lot to be proud of, but it is difficult to console these guys right now.”
Both teams now go into their offseason. Concluded Peters, one of many returning Ram skill players, “We have to work in the offseason- hit the weight room and get bigger. Get faster. We see teams like North Penn who are getting better. But we have high hopes. We hope to come back and build off of this year.”
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Here is something to be Thankful for: Jim Church broadcast the Turkey Bowl classic.
Church anchors WNPV’s football coverage and has been enthusiastically calling Bux-Mont games for 40 years. Both schools honored him at halftime.
Church is a man who could give positive thinking lessons to Norman Vincent Peale. While some things have slowed him down a bit, the list of people who have promoted high school football and its values more than Church is very, very short. Area football fans were thankful that he was back in the broadcast booth where he belongs.
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