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Pennridge shakes off slow start, rallies past Souderton in 2nd half

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FRANCONIA >> The reasons for its first-half struggles in recent weeks remain a mystery to the Pennridge football team.

But Friday night, the Rams figured things out when they needed to.

After being shutout in the first half and trailing host Souderton by eight in the third quarter, Pennridge found the end zone twice to keep its District 1 playoff hopes alive with a 14-8 Suburban One League National Conference win.

Bob Raines--Montgomery Media Souderton's Koby Khan tracks down Pennridge quarterback Devon Balmer for a sack Oct. 30, 2015.

Souderton’s Koby Khan tracks down Pennridge quarterback Devon Balmer for a sack during their game on Friday, Oct. 30, 2015. (Bob Raines/Montgomery Media)

“I don’t know what it is in the first half, we just got to make sure we come off the ball. Just a little more fired up, especially next week,” Rams quarterback Devon Balmer said. “But when we go down, when we get down at halftime, we just come out and make sure we handle business, especially when we play that way in the first half.”

Ryan Cuthbert jump-started Pennridge’s comeback with a 53-yard touchdown run on a wide receiver reverse at 4:36 in the third. Balmer, meanwhile, was clutch on the Rams’ go-ahead drive, dashing 39 yards down the Souderton 1, where Judens Desrosiers punched it in one play later. Balmer then hit Kurt West in the back of the end zone to convert the two-point conversion for a 14-8 lead with 3:42 remaining.

The Indians picked up a pair of first downs on the ensuing drive, but on a 4th-and-11 from the Souderton 36, Hockman intercepted Joey Curotto. Balmer ran for 4 on a 3rd-and-2 and two kneel downs later, Pennridge (6-3, 4-2 conference) had its second straight win.

“This is huge,” Rams coach Jeff Hollenbach said. “Last week beating CB South was huge and tonight to be able to win here. And the seniors, two years ago, we lost a really tough game here, they made a great play at the end, a nail biter Souderton wins. So for us to come off this field with a win is terrific.”

Souderton (4-5, 2-4) kept the Pennridge ground game under wraps for most of the night and picked off Balmer twice, but the Indians’ inability in the red zone came back to haunt them. Big Red had three drives inside the 20 – including on in the third that started at the Rams 17 – but came away with just six points.

“Our defense played great, the entire game,” Souderton coach Ed Gallagher said. “I thought our defensive coordinator Mike Heath did a great job scheming. We took away the things they like to do in their three base sets. And they hit three plays, but they executed those plays and as I said to the kids in the huddle afterwards, you can’t fault the effort.

“We played with great effort, great intensity the entire game and when you have two evenly-matched teams that play in a rivalry like this and it comes down to who’s going to make those plays. And their kids made the plays at the end, so they deserve it.”

Friday was the third straight week Pennridge has surging in the second half after a sluggish first two quarters.

Against Pennsbury Oct. 16, the Rams were down 30-6 at the half and 38-6 in the third, then scored the next 26 points before ultimately falling 38-32. The next week, Pennridge was down 17-7 to Central Bucks South but rallied for a 28-17 win.

Bob Raines--Montgomery Media Souderton's Koby Khan turns up field following Blake Gular during the Oct. 30, 2015 home game against Pennridge.

Souderton’s Koby Khan turns up field following Blake Gular during their Indians’ game against Pennridge on Friday, Oct. 30, 2015. (Bob Raines/Montgomery Media)

Two Souderton field goals had the Rams trailing 6-0 at intermission, then 8-0 at 6:09 in the third quarter when Indians were given a safety when Balmer was called for intentional grounding in the end zone.

“I think emotionally we were ready to play, they know how big this was,” Hollenbach said. “And to Souderton’s credit, they did some nice things on the opening drive, they get that field goal, then another one. So, they did some really good things.

“And we could not offensively just get on track, couldn’t find anything until Ryan’s reverse and that was the play of the game as far as I’m concerned. And Devon’s run.”

Despite just that one carry, Cuthbert was the leader rusher on the night with 53 yards. Balmer had 13 carries for 38 yards and was 3-of-9 passing for 50 yards.

Koby Khan paced Souderton with 45 yards on 13 carries while Jamar White had 35 yards on 14 carries. Matt Halteman had four receptions for 41 yards.

The win keeps Pennridge in the hunt for a spot in District 1-AAAA’s 16-team playoff field, having entered Friday’s contest 18th in the latest power rankings. The Rams end the regular season at Bensalem.

“We have to keep doing what we’re doing, have a good week at practice. Do what we have to do to keep us alive,” Cuthbert said.

Souderton is also on the road for Week 10, visiting Central Bucks South.

“If we can beat South, we’re 5-5,” Gallagher said. “That’s what we’re looking at, you know, 5-5’s better than 4-6. We kind of hit a little bit of a drop in the program a couple years ago. We went 2-8, then we went 4-6 last year. So, if we can beat South and get to 5-5, it’s not what we  wanted, but it’s a step in the right direction.”

The Indians appeared in control after forcing the safety, but two plays after receiving the kickoff fumbled away possession and Cuthbert helped the Rams take advantage. The junior took a wide receiver reverse around the right side, picked up  yards down the sideline then cut towards the middle and dashed into the end zone for a 53-yard TD run at 4:36 in the third.

“They started pushing me too far to the sideline, I saw the linemen just blocking down, saw a lane back and it worked out,” Cuthbert said.

Bob Raines--Montgomery Media Souderton's Jamar White faces Judens Desrosiers and Mark Weichel as he tries to turn up field during the Oct. 30, 2015 home game against Pennridge.

Souderton’s Jamar White faces Judens Desrosiers and Mark Weichel as he tries to turn up field during their games against Pennridge on Friday, Oct. 30, 2015. (Bob Raines/Montgomery Media)

The Rams could not convert the two-point conversion, keeping the Indians ahead 8-6. Pennridge was still down two when it got the ball back at its own 28 with 6:12 left in the fourth. Balmer kept the drive going with a 24-yard pass to Hockman on 3rd-and-14. Two plays later, Balmer carried the ball 39 yards down the Indians’ one, were Desrosiers scored from to put the Rams ahead.

“It wan option to go right,” said Balmer of his run. “Their outside linebacker – a heck of a player, No. 7 (Khan) – he kind of bit on the fake and I found a crease to the left. I just went with it.”

Souderton took a 3-0 lead on the opening drive of the game. Nate Verso’s 26-yard field goal was blocked, but an inadvertent whistle on the play gave him another shot. He made the second try from the same distance at 8:28 in the first quarter.

A Khan interception set the Indians up the Rams’ 30, with Souderton ending the drive with a Verso 25-yard field for a 6-0 lead at 11:15 in the second quarter

Camerin Carroll picked off Balmer on the opening series of the third quarter and returned the ball down to the Pennridge 17. Souderton, however, came away empty on the drive – the Rams holding Big Red a yard shot on 4th-and-Goal from the three.

The Indians did get points three plays later, as pressure from linebacker Matt Pierce forced an intentional grounding in the end zone for a safety.

Results

Team1234T
Pennridge006814
Souderton33208

Pennridge

Player Comp Att Yds TD Int. Rush Att. Rush Yds Rush TD Rec Rec Yds Rec. TD Sacks Def. Int XPM XPA FGM FGA Longest
Dan Hockman000003-1012400000000
Ryan Cuthbert00000153111800000000
Judens Desrosiers000005310000000000
Devon Balmer395002133800000000000
Ryan Gordon0000072600000000000
Connor Hansen0000031900000000000
Kurt Wiest000000001800000000
Total39500232138235000000000

Souderton

Player Comp Att Yds TD Int. Rush Att. Rush Yds Rush TD Rec Rec Yds Rec. TD Sacks Def. Int XPM XPA FGM FGA Longest
Justin Russell5789006-1300000000000
Joey Curotto2512011100000000000
Koby Khan00000134500000000000
Camerin Carroll000001200000000000
Jamar White000001435022800000000
Blake Gular0000082700000000000
Matt Halteman0000000044600000000
Matt Pierce0000000012700000000
Bryce Collingwood010000000000000000
Total7131010143970710100000000

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