DOWNINGTOWN >> Pumping his legs, driving forward and stretching for the final eight yards of a masterful 247-yard performance, North Penn’s Nyfease West picked up one final first down for the Knights Friday night, enabling them to lock down a 27-14 victory over top-seeded Downingtown East.
Of West’s 34 carries, on this freezing night at Downingtown West High School’s Kottmeyer Stadium, this final one may have been the most satisfying.
“It was very satisfying,” West said with a big smile. “I’m glad we got that first down. We really wanted to put those guys away.”
West and the Knights are headed home, as their win over the Cougars sends them back to Crawford Stadium next week, to host rival Neshaminy in a District One Class AAAA Semifinal.
No. 9 North Penn (10-2) did all the scoring it needed in the first half and the defense put too much pressure on Cougar quarterback Saunders Healy for East (11-1) to mount a comeback in the second half.
“I thought Nyfease would have a big night,” North Penn coach Dick Beck said. “I thought the line blocked real well.
“I’m really proud of them. It was probably our best night defensively, without a doubt.”
North Penn piled up a full night’s worth of offense in the first half alone.
The Knights needed just three plays to take a 7-0 lead, as Nick Isabella ran left and broke free down the sideline, scoring on a 44-yard run to put North Penn in front.
“(The fast start) was huge for us,” West said. “Our line was firing off the ball, Izzy (Isabella) had some great blocks for me and Reece was throwing some great balls. Our offense was firing on all cylinders.”
An offensive line that included seniors Danny Lare (6-0, 221), Daniel Liberio (5-10, 240) and Mark Shadle (6-3, 210) would dominate throughout the evening.
The Knights would extend their lead to 13-0 on their third drive, as quarterback Reece Udinski (11-for-17, 227, 2 TDs) found a wide open Owen Thomas on a short crossing pattern, and Thomas would rumble 27 yards for the score with 3:51 left in the first quarter.
“I thought Reece had a great night,” Beck said. “I thought maybe I should have been more aggressive in the second half throwing the ball because Reece was on fire. But you get a lead and you don’t want to turn the ball over or give up a sack.”
The Knights took advantage of a muffed punt by the Cougars early in the second quarter, cashing in when West battled his way in from five yards out, giving North Penn a 19-0 lead.
Wide receiver Ricky Johns (7 rec/166 yds) would catch the two-point conversion pass from Udinski, and the two were just getting started.
After East got on the board with a 61-yard scoring strike from Healy to Jeremy Jennings, Udinski hit Johns twice on slants to set up an eight-yard TD pass from Udinski to Justin Ostopowicz, giving NP a 27-7 advantage.
Udinski would finish the first half 8-of-12 for 187 yards and two scores, with Johns hauling in five catches for 141 yards.
West was already over the 100-yard mark, carrying the ball 13 times for 103 yards and a touchdown.
“I thought we had opportunities in the second half but we just kept shooting ourselves in the foot,” Beck said.
North Penn’s 20-point lead at the break may have been even greater had it not been for three turnovers, but the defense kept Downingtown from getting close.
Jack Kincade scored on an eight-yard run with 8:01 left in the third to keep East in it, 27-14, but on the Cougars’ next and final three possessions, the North Penn defense forced a turnover, a punt, and a turnover on downs, with Keith Earle coming up with a pair of big sacks.
The Knights took over at the East 44 with five minutes to play, and six consecutive runs by West, including the eight yarder on 4th-and-2, sealed it up for North Penn.
“It feels great. We know we just beat the No. 1 seed, and they’re a great team,” West said. “We just wanted it since the third week (when East won 28-24 over NP). We just wanted it.”
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