DOWNINGTOWN >> Kottmeyer Stadium was where the North Penn team tasted defeated this season.
Eight straight victories earned the Knights a return trip and Friday night their defense was ready, limiting Downingtown East to its fewest points this year as North Penn knocked off the top-seeded Cougars 27-14 in the District 1-AAAA quarterfinals.
“On this stage, it’s great,” Knights senior Keith Earle said. “We obviously wanted to play them the moment we lost to them and have to play their at home field, same place, same time, it’s great.”
Earle putting the final touches on the defensive unit’s s solid night of work, getting around the right edge to sack East quarterback Saunders Healy for the fourth time, forcing a turnover on downs late in the fourth quarter. NP ran out the clock from there to avenge Week 3’s 28-24 loss and reach the district semifinals for first time since 2013.
“I thought tonight, by far, was our best night defensively,” North Penn coach Dick Beck said. “We were just so aggressive and penetrating and the linebackers were all over the place. And we covered the tight end (Cary Angeline) real well. I was pretty proud about us defensively.”
In their first meeting of 2015, the Knights jumped out a 14-0, but East outscored NP 28-7 the rest of the way – including 14-3 after halftime – to have North Penn sit at 1-2 after its first three games.
The Knights were outscored again in the second half (7-0), but the offense did its part early – building a 27-7 advantage before Jack Kincade’s eight-yard touchdown run had East within 13 at 8:01 in the third quarter.
North Penn was stopped on fourth down in East territory and the momentum looking to be tipping when Healy hit Angeline over the middle and the 6-foot-7 USC commit began rumbling down the field. But the ball was knocked out of Angeline’s hand and the Knights recovered at their own five.
“They did the same thing to Ricky (Johns), so it was Even Steven,” Beck said. “You know, all’s fair, right.”
Downingtown East never truly threatened after the turnover and after averaging 35.1 points per game in winning their first 11 games, the Cougars were bounced after posting just 14, their lowest total since falling to Coatesville 31-12 in last year’s district semifinals.
“It was a nice, cold night, so we didn’t get heated up like last time it was real hot,” Beck said. “It was really hot so our kids started to gas a little bit in the heat. And that was not an issue tonight.”
Both the temperature and East’s rushing yards dropped from the previous encounter. After compiling 212 yards on the ground in Week 3, the Cougars could muster just 51 yards on 33 carries, an average of just 1.6 yards per carry.
“When knew we had to stop the running game,” Earle said. “Obviously, they have great receivers on that side, but we knew that in order to move the ball, you got to run the ball. That’s the game of football, I believe. You know, I think we performed at a high level tonight.”
Healy threw for 200 yards, but completed just 41 percent of his passes (9-of-22) and was under constant pressure from the Knights’ defensive front.
“Last time we played them we really didn’t use our pass rush as much as we should of,” Earle said. “We obviously improved during the season and we have plenty of guys on the defensive line (that) can get some sacks.”
North Penn contained Healy on QB draws as he finished with negative sevens yards on 13 rushing attempts.
“They like to spread us out and run the quarterback,” said North Penn’s Nyfease West, who ran for 247 yards and a score. “He runs up the middle, he carves teams up. We knew we had to stop him in order to beat them.”
Angeline finished with 103 yards on four receptions, but North Penn kept him out of the end zone after he hauled in three of Healy’s five touchdown passes in East’s 35-28 first-round win over Plymouth Whitemarsh.
“Dante Watson played the whole game on Angeline and he’s a little taller defender, really can run and I thought he had a great night tonight,” Beck said.
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