Saturday just wasn’t North Penn’s day. More precisely, it just wasn’t the Knights second half.
After going down 14-0 to Upper Dublin in the first quarter of the District 1-AAAA final, North Penn rebounded with three straight touchdown drives to take a 21-14 lead – the 21 points the most the Cardinals had allowed all season.
But UD got down to North Penn’s 11 in the final minute and although the Cardinals had to settle for a 28-yard Tom Spirt field goal, the momentum had shifted.
And while Upper Dublin trailed at halftime for the first time in 2015, it lessened North Penn’s grip on the contest.
“That hurt,” North Penn coach Dick Beck said. “It was funny, the kid (Jack Rapine) that broke the long pass, it probably should have been intercepted. Ricky (Johns), that was off of Ricky’s fingertips. I though he was going to intercept it when he threw it. So, that was a huge play.
“And them getting a field goal at the end of the half gave them all the momentum to start the second half. So, it’s almost like a turnover.”
The Cardinals returned that third-quarter kickoff to its own 47. Four plays later, Stacey Gardner found the end zone from 13 yards out to give UD a lead it would not relinquish a second time.
Upper Dublin scored touchdowns on its next three drives then tacked a safety late to end North Penn’s season with a 46-21 defeat at Souderton Area High School.
“I respect them, they’re a great team,” North Penn senior Nyfease West said. “They beat us outright, so all props to them, they’re a great team.”
It was a tough end for a North Penn side that had won 10 straight games after a 1-2 start and had put together some of its best performances in the District 1 playoffs with wins over Unionville, Downingtown East and Neshaminy.
“As they started to get frustrated, we lost our composure,” Beck said. “Whatever was going on, we couldn’t keep control of it. And that’s heartbreaking.
And while it was not the Knights who handed Upper Dublin its first loss – the Cards, now face Parkland 1 p.m. Saturday in the PIAA semifinals at Souderton – 2015 was still a strong season for the North Penn program.
Finishing 11-3 gave the Knights their most wins since 2011 when NP went 13-3 as it reached the state final. North Penn also claimed a second straight Suburban One League National Conference title, winning it outright this season after splitting with Pennsbury in 2014.
North Penn throttled Unionville 48-7 on the road in the district first round for its largest margin of victory in the playoffs under Beck. The Knights upset top seed Downingtown East 27-14 on its home field in the quarterfinals, handing the Cougars its first defeat and avenging a 28-24 loss in Week 3.
A 28-7 win over Neshaminy – the second this season – put North Penn in the district title game for the first time since 2013 and the 10th time overall under Beck.
The Knights’ also had several strong individual performances in its 14 games.
West, who is committed to Delaware State, ended his NP career with a third-straight 1,000-yard rushing season despite missing three games due to injury. He compiled 1,399 yards – along with 17 touchdowns – on the ground, more than half (739) coming in the four playoff games. Twice in districts, West ran for over 200 yards – 247 against Downingtown East and 233 against Neshaminy.
Adding to the running attack were seniors Nick Isabella (94 carries, 656 yards, 15 TDs) and Justin Ostopowicz (83 carries, 667 yards, 7 TDs). Isabella ran for 104 in the playoff win over Unionville while Ostopowicz went over the century mark on the ground twice this season.
Junior quarterback Reece Udinski had 2,439 yards and 17 touchdowns passing, going over 100 yards in NP’s first 13 games, including a season-best 330 yards and five TDs in the Week 6 win over Souderton.
A deep receiving corps was led by junior Ricky Johns, who paced NP in catches (46), receiving yards (966) and receiving TDs (10). Juniors Jake Hubler, Nick Vasger and sophomore Owen Thomas and Justis Henley all came up with big receptions during the year.
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