TOWAMENCIN >> With their playoff dreams on the ropes, North Penn responded the way a champion should, driving the ball 71 yards in 11 plays, capped by a three-yard touchdown run by Nyfease West, to earn a come-from-behind, 22-17 win over arch rival Neshaminy Friday night at chilly Crawford Stadium.
The win clinched at least a share of the Suburban One League National Conference crown for North Penn, which took the lead for good with just 1 minute and 2 seconds left to play.
“We know that’s a great team out there,” West said of Neshaminy, “and we worked extremely hard to beat them. That’s a great team over there.
“We just wanted to drive it down their throats at the end. We knew we could pass it a little bit, but our line is just incredible, man — I give all the praise to them on that.”
It was a night where North Penn overcame a rugged Neshaminy defense as well as its own miscues to win its sixth in a row and improve to 7-2 overall, including a perfect 6-0 mark in the conference.
The Skins took a one-point lead on a 10-yard run by Will Dogba with 3:47 to go, setting up NP’s winning drive. Key plays included a fourth-down completion to Keith Earle as well as a 44-yard connection down the sideline to Jake Hubler.
“Reece (Udinski) threw a strike on the double move (by Jake), and I thought it was a great catch by Keith (on 4th-and-5) — he got hit on it, got the first down,” Knights coach Dick Beck said. “I thought Ricky (Johns) made a nice catch on the out.
“And I thought Reece had a good night. He was under duress a little bit, but for the most part I thought he had a real good night.”
Earlier in the fourth, North Penn drove the ball 72 yards in 10 plays, crossing the goal line with a relentless, 12-yard charge by West, to take a 16-10 lead with 7:16 to go. A bad snap would lead to a failed conversion attempt, leaving the margin at six.
Neshaminy had tied the game, 10-10, early in the fourth on a 23-yard run by Dogba.
Amidst all the scoring in the fourth, a bevy of penalty flags made for a bizarre scene – nine penalties were assessed, several others called, adding to the hectic finish.
But through it all, North Penn kept plugging and got the win it needed as it tries to clinch the title outright next week against Abington.
“It’s nice to clinch at least a tie and now we gotta go out next week and beat Abington to seal up our spot in the playoffs,” Beck said.
Midway through the second quarter, a tight spiral by Udinski found Johns down the left sideline, and West broke free a few plays later, as North Penn had pushed ahead, 10-3.
Defense dominated the first quarter, with the only points coming off the toe of Dylan McDonald, his 40-yard field goal providing the Skins (6-3, 4-2 conference) a 3-0 lead.
North Penn turned the ball over on each of its first two possessions, but had a sustained drive that began towards the end of the first quarter and extended into the second.
When the Skins’ defense stiffened, Brett Bealer kicked a 32-yard field goal to even the score at three apiece.
Penalties began to pile up for both teams — four for Neshaminy and five for NP in the first half — but the Knights pushed ahead on a seven-play, 74-yard drive, leaving 3 minutes and 25 seconds to go in the half.
After a sack and an incompletion led to 3rd-and-18 for the Knights, Udinski hit Johns for the 37-yard gain that set up 1st-and-10 at the Neshaminy 45.
Three plays later, a delay screen to Justin Ostopowicz gained 18, and then West took a handoff from Udinski, broke left, made a cut and was gone, pushing the Knights in front for the first time.
“Nyfease really got his feet under him and was really running hard,” Beck said.
North Penn had a chance to extend its lead just before the break, but the Skins got their third takeaway of the half, as Denzel Hughes intercepted Udinski around the goal line and took off down the sideline, a touchdown-saving tackle by Udinski keeping the score at 10-3.
In a three-touchdown performance, West would go on to carry the ball 14 times for 103 yards, including a crucial 12-yard gain on 4th-and-1, part of the the 10-play drive that provided a 16-10 lead early in the fourth.
Neshaminy took the lead one last time before North Penn drove to victory. Fittingly, Neshaminy’s last-second, desperation heave on 4th-and-10 would be knocked down by West in the end zone.
“Neshaminy’s always a tough team, year in and year out,” West said of the Skins, who were fighting for their playoff lives. “They’re always good and they fight us to the end, all the time.”
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