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Pennsbury, Neshaminy favored road warriors in District 1-AAAA quarterfinals

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Last Friday, it was discussed how Suburban One teams have historically dominated the 16-team PIAA District 1 Class AAAA football playoffs.

Sure enough, five Sub One teams advanced to the quarterfinals and another one nearly did when No. 16 seed Plymouth-Whitemarsh came up just short by the score of 35-28 against No. 1 seed Downingtown East.

Among the teams that advanced to the round of eight are defending district champion Pennsbury as well as 2013 champ Neshaminy.

“Pennsbury, Neshaminy and North Penn are mega schools, and they play tough big boy football,” said Downingtown West coach Mike Merlino after his second-seeded Whippets were knocked off by the 15th-seeded Falcons. “We knew it was going to be a war, and it was.”

Don’t be surprised if this week produces three Sub One teams advancing to the semifinals.

Neshaminy (8-3) at Quakertown (9-2), Friday night, 7 p.m.

Although Quakertown drew rave reviews after it crushed its first eight opponents, there were always questions about its schedule. The doubts as to just how strong Quakertown really is proved to be real when it then lost to Council Rock North and Central Bucks East. Just like that, the Panthers didn’t even earn a share of a Sub One Continental title.

Quakertown did rebound in its playoff opener last week, but it wasn’t exactly impressive in a revenge 7-6 win over Central Bucks East.

At the helm of the Quakertown show is Archbishop Wood transfer Tom Garlick, who stands 6-4 and has completed 75 of 129 passes for 1,080 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Although Quakertown can throw it, running back Rob Burns is the guy Neshaminy must stop most of all. Burns has 181 carries for 1,560 yards and a whopping 26 touchdowns.

Three different receivers have at least 20 receptions, including 6-4, 210-pounder Kyle Baskin, who has hauled in 28 passes for 517 yards and nine touchdowns. Linebacker John Lilley (6-4) leads the Quakertown defense with 10 sacks.

Quakertown is a good team and it will be on its home field, but battle-tested Neshaminy should advance.

The Redskin offensive line has become a dominant force and the Neshaminy running game should click. Neshaminy also has the athletes in the secondary to limit Quakertown’s attempts at big plays as the game goes along.

Pennsbury (8-3) at Perkiomen Valley (10-1), Saturday night, 7 p.m.

Just when some people wanted to count out Pennsbury, it showed up big time last week by beating No. 2 seed Downingtown West, 35-28, in overtime.

With a rebuilt offensive line, the Ground and Pound was back in form as rugged fullback Chris Rupprecht went over the 1,000-yard rushing mark, Rob Daly spread the defense on pitch plays and quarterback Mike Alley also picked up his usual share of yardage.

Perkiomen Valley is 10-1, but it hasn’t played a schedule nearly as tough as Pennsbury’s. Its lone loss was on the final day of the regular season to Spring-Ford, which was just soundly beaten by Neshaminy.

Perkiomen Valley does have a potent offense. Quarterback Stephen Sturm can wing it and spreads it around to a variety of receivers, including Justin Jaworski. Pennsbury must also put the clamps on all-purpose back Ronnie Arch.

Truth be told, Pennsbury probably should have beaten Downingtown West more easily than it did. The Falcons had two costly fumbles and failed to covert a fourth-and-one play that could have iced the game late in the fourth quarter.

Should it win, Pennsbury could very well end up traveling to Upper Dublin, which some are touting as the team to beat in the entire field.

Pennsbury is not as potent as the team that won it all last year and is not a complete package, but the bottom line is if they play well, the Falcons have the capability of beating anyone in the district.

PIAA District 1 Class AAAA Quarterfinal Pairings

No. 9 North Penn (9-2) at No. 1 Downingtown East (11-0), 7 p.m. Friday night

No. 13 Neshaminy (8-3) at No. 12 Quakertown (9-2), 7 p.m. Friday night

No. 15 Pennsbury (8-3) at No. 10 Perkiomen Valley (10-1), 7 p.m. Saturday night

No. 6 Upper Darby (10-1) at No. 3 Upper Dublin (11-0), 7 p.m. Friday night

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