NEWTOWN – Council Rock North entered the season with three goals in mind. Two of them were to win the division and beat sister school CR South, neither of which it did last year.
On Saturday night (Nov. 7) in front of a packed house at Walt Snyder Stadium, the Indians accomplished both with one stroke, outpacing the Golden Hawks 35-14 to take sole possession of the Suburban One League (SOL) Continental Conference trophy on the last day of the regular season.
With the win – which was accomplished with four touchdowns in the second half – North (7-3, 6-1: SOL) takes the Unity Cup back from South (6-4, 5-2: SOL) and heads into the District 1 AAAA Tournament with a full head of steam, having defeated its last four league foes including an upset win over previously unbeaten Quakertown eight days prior to beating the Hawks.
North actually trailed South 14-7 early on in the second half. But after allowing the Hawks to erase a 7-6 halftime deficit with five-play, 65-yard touchdown drive that was capped with a 32-yard scoring jaunt by South senior Brandon Patterson (23-175, TD), the Indian defense shut the door.
“We’ve been behind before and that wasn’t going to stop us,” said CR North defensive back Seth Leuz. “We just kept pushing and pushing until we tied it up and took the lead.”
Leuz was the one that came through with perhaps one of the biggest plays on defense, blocking a punt with the Indians holding onto a 21-14 edge late in the third quarter. The block by Leuz and ensuing recovery by classmate Sean Yoder gave North the ball at the Hawks’ 7 yard line.
From there, it took South Carolina-bound senior quarterback Brandon McIlwain only two plays to score his fourth rushing touchdown of the night. Just like that, the Indians were on top 28-14 with 2:05 to go in the third quarter.
Like he was the week before in the big 41-31 win at Quakertown, McIlwain was the man, rushing for 152 yards and four TDs while tossing another through the air on his way to a 198-yard passing performance.
After South took their only lead in the game on Patterson’s run, North tied things up at 14-all on a 13-play, 62-yard scoring drive, that was capped by McIlwain’s second rushing TD if the night.
While three straight rushes by Indians senior RB Brian Choi (11-56) put the ball at the Hawks’ 13 yard line, two straight holding penalties on North set the Indians back 20 yards. A rush by Nowmos got eight yards of it back and a facemask penalty on South put North back where it started at the 13. From there, it took McIlwain just three rushes to reach paydirt again.
McIlwain hit classmate Devon Bibbens with two straight passes that were good for 16 yards on the drive. After the Indian defense forced a 3-and-out, Bibbens – who caught seven passes for 99 yards – gathered in a 20-yard aerial on the second play of the next scoring drive that put North on top for good.
“Me and Brandon, we’ve been working together since forever. We saw a weakness in the defense and we just attacked it,” said Bibbens. “They were manning up on us and we saw that so we took the top off the defense.
“He makes the throws, I make the catch; it works out.”
Coincidentally, Bibbens caught the same number of passes in the Quakertown game, good for 101 yards in that one. North entered the battle with the previously unbeaten Panthers huge underdogs but returned to Newtown with a 41-31 triumph. Eight days later with a chance to capture their first division trophy in many years when Q-town was stunned again in a 24-23 loss to CB East, the Indians took advantage of the opportunity.
“When you start believing in yourselves and each other, great things happen,” added Bibbens. “That Quakertown game, no one believed in us but we believed in ourselves.
“It was good to come in as the underdog, upset them at their own house and cut off their energy.
“Now look at us – league champs.”
With 14 minutes left in the game and trailing by two touchdowns, South still had a chance in this one. On the second play of the fourth quarter, Patterson – who led all rushers with 175 yards on 23 carries – ripped off a 12-yard gainer that put the Hawks on North’s end of the field. But a personal foul on the Hawks returned the ball to South’s side and the drive fizzled out from there.
That’s when Indians took complete control of the game, assembling a nine-play, 75-yard scoring drive that was capped by a 26-yard touchdown pass from McIlwain to classmate Tyler Nowmos. The senior split end gathered the ball in at the three and raced home for a 35-14 lead that was insurmountable.
While the offense gets credit for the four touchdowns after the break on its way to a 432-yard performance, the defense set it all up with the stops. On their next series, the Hawks drove the ball down to the Indians’ 30 yard line, but a sack by junior linebacker Mason Luff helped set up a 4th-and-17 at the 37 and Jackson Parker’s interception in the end zone ended the threat for good.
“We were swarming to the ball and we were getting stops. The blocked punt – that was a big deal,” stated Bibbens. “When you have faith in your defense to get the stop, our offense gains confidence and we feel we can do anything.”
The way this game started out, it was hard to imagine a second half as electric as it was. Neither team scored in the first quarter and North was forced to punt on its first two possessions. But on a drive that started late in the first quarter, the Indians capped a 10-play, 81-yard scoring drive with McIlwain’s first rushing TD of the night.
After allowing a first down on the Hawks’ next series, North’s defense stiffened and forced a punt. The Indians couldn’t advance the ball at all on their next possession, fumbling a pitch that was covered by Pat Bartlett and tossing an interception that was gathered in at the 45 yard line by South senior DB Kyle Hickey, who returned the turnover 15 yards to North’s 30.
It only took the Hawks five plays to make the Indians pay for the mistake with South senior QB Shaun Stackhouse rumbling up the middle for what looked like a game-tying touchdown.
But when the Hawks missed the extra point, it looked like that might be the difference in the game. No one knew at that point what the Indians had in store for South in the second half.
Before the season started, North had another goal in mind and that was to win a playoff game. Now, it looks like they’ll get the chance to make that dream a reality, too.
NOTES: >> Someone was flying a drone that hovered just beyond the goal post on the South side of Walt Snyder Stadium throughout the contest. Shortly after South took its only lead in the second half, a fan in a green suit raced across the gridiron and escaped along the north perimeter. Students, presumably from CR North, jumped the fence and swarmed the Indians immediately following the final gun.
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Council Rock North 35, Council Rock South 14
(Nov. 7 at CR North)
CR NORTH 0 7 21 7 – 35
CR SOUTH 0 6 8 0 – 14
CRN — McIlwain 2 run (Nowmos kick)
CRS — Stackhouse 1 run (kick failed)
CRS — Patterson 32 run (Patterson run)
CRN — McIlwain 3 run (Nowmos kick)
CRN — McIlwain 22 run (Nowmos kick)
CRN — McIlwain 2 run (Nowmos kick)
CRN — Nowmos 26 pass from McIlwain (Nowmos kick)
First Downs 15 20
Yards Rushing 233 233
Yards Passing 30 199
Total Offense 263 432
Comp. Passes, Int 5-16-1 19-25-1
Fumbles-lost 1-0 2-1
Penalties-yards 5-60 2-23
Punts-Avg. 5-33.8 2-36.5
Sacked-Yds. Lost 1-10 2-13
Council Rock South
RUSHING: Patterson 23-175, TD; Stackhouse 9-33, TD; Stock 6-25; Hickey 4-9; Broe 1-2
PASSING: Stackhouse 5-16-1, 30 yards
RECEIVING: Hickey 3-18; Mackin 1-7; Murray 1-5
Council Rock North
RUSHING: McIlwain 30-152, 4 TDs; Choi 11-56; Bibbens 4-22; Nowmos 1-3
PASSING: McIlwain 19-25-1, 199 yards, TD
RECEIVING: Bibbens 7-99; Nowmos 7-70, TD; Gibson 1-12; Choi 2-8; Kelly 1-7; Hewitt 1-3
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