Rams Fall in District Semis; Prep for Turkey Bowl
To run in the November 23rd Bucks County Herald
Triple option teams aren’t known for their “quick strike” capabilities.
But the host #3 Garnet Valley Jaguars hung 21 points in a 4:42 span early in the third quarter. The Jaguars held on to defeat #7 Pennridge 28-20 in Friday night’s District One 6A semifinal.
“That’s a great team,” praised Pennridge coach Jeff Hollenbach. “They are big, strong and tough to stop with that offense.”
The Jaguars (12-1) advance to host #4 Coatesville next Friday for the District One championship. Pennridge (10-3) is the third SOL Continental team that Garnet Valley beat in District play. Friday marked the Rams’ fifth District semi-final.
Pennridge attempted to replicate the triple option in practice but the Rams’ JV is not the same as Garnet Valley’s varsity. “With their speed and size,” Hollenback pointed out, “it’s a whole different ball game. I am totally proud of how my players played. We gave an incredible effort. Except for a couple of plays, it could be a whole different game.”
“We expected this,” said linebacker and running back Evan Exner. “We studied this whole entire offense. If I had to change one thing, it would be to fill the holes better.”
The Jags struck first on Cade Brennan’s 12-yard scoop and score after the defensive end recovered a Pennridge fumble. The Rams forced a punt and turned in a 16 play, 71-yard drive keyed when two Zak Kantor to Joey Devine receptions converted two third-and-longs.
“The quarterbacks and receivers are pretty comfortable with the cold,” Hollenbach said. “They have some secondary guys who shut us out at times but Zak found some open guys and Joey Devine had another good game.”
Kantor’s quarterback sneak tied it at 7 early in the second quarter.
Randy Bahnmueller recovered a Garnet Valley fumble on the Jaguars’ ensuing drive. Pennridge moved 58 yards on nine rushes with Kyle Schetter scoring on a five-yard touchdown. The Pennridge defense swallowed Garnet Valley quarterback Ryan Gallagher at the Ram four to end the half.
The Jaguars posted three 40+ yard plays in barely six minutes. Matt Lassik’s double dive resulted in a 40-yard touchdown run on the half’s fifth play. Ram punter Oliver Jervis pinned Garnet Valley deep after a Pennridge three-and-out but Danny Guy fielded the kick, raced across field, found the seal and took it 90 yards for a touchdown and a 21-14 Garnet Valley lead.
After another Ram three-and-out, Lassik scored on a three-yard run, two plays after a 55-yard rush.
“Instead of using a football, we used a tennis ball so you couldn’t see it,” said Ram safety Cooper Chaikin on prepping for Garnet Valley’s option. “Every man had to wrap their guy. We did our best. There is nothing to cry about. We played for our brothers and balled out today.”
Chaikin cut the lead to 28-20 with his 30-yard touchdown reception at the game’s 2:00 mark. “It was hard to enough to learn safety as a sophomore to be honest,” Chaikin said, “so I hadn’t played offense much. We had to make a big play.” Garnet Valley recovered the onside kick attempt.
“A big part was Ryan Rapp getting hurt,” said Exner, who ran for 45 yards on five carries. “And not having Nick hurt us. But we gave everything we had.”
Defensive tackle Rapp, hurt in the second quarter, was a key loss to the Rams. Pennridge was also forced to play without star linebacker Nick Tarburton, although Shane Hartzell – just a freshman – filled in admirably. “Shane played a whale of a game,” Hollenbach commended.
The Pennridge defense posted consecutive shutouts to start District play, and was only responsible for 14 points on Friday. “We’re a family,” Exner declared. “We work together and worked really hard to get up here. I wouldn’t want to play for any other team.”
Chaikin did not play until week eight but had five interceptions in his five games. “It was great to come back,” he said. “I love the sport of football and when I wasn’t playing, it was almost like I was depressed. They’re my brothers: We do it as a team.”
Lassik’s 168 yards paced all players while Guy added 136 yards on 25 carries. Ryan Garner’s 80 yards on 17 carries led Pennridge. Kantor completed 12 of 19 passes for 140 yards. Devine’s six grabs for 68 yards led the Rams while Chaikin caught three balls for 47 yards. Garnet Valley outgained Pennridge by just 34 yards: 365 to 331.
The salve of Turkey Bowl soothed the sting of the loss. Pennridge can close their season with a win in the 88th edition of their Thanksgiving rivalry with Quakertown (7-3). Pennridge shutout Quakertown 24-0 in the first round of District playoffs.
“For most playoff teams, they lose this and their done,” Hollenbach said. “For us to have another game is an awesome thing.”
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