FORT WASHINGTON – It was the end of the line for one of most successful groups of seniors in the history of Pennsbury’s illustrious football program Friday night, but it took a quality undefeated team and a college-bound quarterback operating on a very high level to do it.
Playing in the PIAA District 1 Class AAAA semifinals, Upper Dublin defeated Pennsbury, 24-14, in a well-played game in front of a full house at Cardinal Stadium.
With the victory, Upper Dublin improved to 13-0 and advanced into the district final at 12, noon next Saturday at Souderton against North Penn, which knocked off Neshaminy, 28-7, in the other semifinal.
Defending district champion Pennsbury, meanwhile, finished up yet another strong year with a record of 9-4.
Two things doomed Pennsbury against the Suburban One American League Cardinals.
Pennsbury’s trademark Ground and Pound attack never got going at all as Upper Dublin took away the inside run. As a result, Pennsbury was not able to control the clock and had the ball for only six minutes in the entire second half.
The other was Upper Dublin quarterback Ryan Stover. Whether he did it with his arm or his feet, Stover made one big play after another and consistently was able to convert on third downs as Upper Dublin pretty much moved the ball at will.
Despite all that, Pennsbury was still very much in the game until Todd Spirt drilled a 34-yard field goal with 2:11 remaining in the fourth quarter to seal the fate of the Falcons.
Upper Dublin gave Pennsbury all it could handle last year in the semifinals and once again it came out strong. The result was it took the lead in the first quarter when Stover rolled around right end and raced into the end zone on a 24-yard keeper.
Pennsbury tied the game late in the first quarter when it took over at the Upper Dublin 21 yard line after recovering a fumble. This eventually led to a 1-yard TD plunge by fullback Chris Rupprecht.
After the teams exchanged punts, Upper Dublin took a lead it would never relinquish with a 62-yard drive late in the second quarter. This time the Cardinals scored on a 2-yard run by Kaleif Lee.
A killer drive followed to start the third quarter with Upper Dublin going the distance with a 65-yard drive on 15 plays. Several times Pennsbury nearly got the defensive stop, but Stover kept finding a receiver for just enough yardage to keep the chains moving. The Falcons were also called for pass interference on a third-and-nine play that started at the 29 yard line.
When Jack Rapine then hauled in an 11-yard TD pass from Stover to make the score 21-7, it looked Pennsbury was finished.
There’s a reason, however, Pennsbury won the district last year and a league title in three out of the last four years.
It’s called character and sure enough Pennsbury refused to go away as it quickly roared down the field and cut the lead to 21-14 on a 15-yard pass from Mike Alley to Greg Lichtenstein. The key play in this drive was a 46-yard pass from Alley to Luke Snyder.
Once again, Upper Dublin moved the ball against a Pennsbury defense that was back on its heels, but this time, it came up empty when Lichtenstein made a beautiful interception in the end zone. Pennsbury then nearly made it even more interesting on a long pass to midfield in which Lichtenstein nearly made a diving catch.
After forcing a punt, Upper Dublin then put the game away by taking another six minutes off the clock and a 10-point lead on the field goal by Spirt.
Upper Dublin 24, Pennsbury 14
(Nov. 27 at Upper Dublin)
PENNSBURY (9-4) 7 0 7 0 – 14
UPPER DUBLIN (13-0) 7 7 7 3 – 24
UD — Stover 24 run (Spirt kick)
P — Rupprecht 1 run (Knop kick)
UD — Lee 2 run (Spirt kick)
UD — Rapine 11 pass from Stover (Spirt kick)
P — Lichenstein 5 pass from Alley (Knop kick)
UD — Spirt 34 field goal
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