YEADON >> Answered Gleplay has it down to an art form.
The Penn Wood junior running back will get the ball in the backfield, then patiently wait for his blocks to set up. He’ll eyeball the horizon for a crease, even if that means taking an extra fraction of a second, before decisively putting his foot in the ground and cutting upfield.
Gleplay’s combination of patience, vision, speed and cutback ability don’t always get to come together on one play, but when they do, it’s a nightmare for defenses. Archbishop Carroll found that out the hard way Saturday morning at Kerr Field.
After Penn Wood’s offense had sputtered for three-and-a-half quarters, Gleplay had the answer. He took a handoff, got a great block from pulling left guard Kenny Ngaima, and left a safety flailing for air with a nifty cut. From there…
“I trust my speed,” Gleplay said, “and I just bursted right through.”
A quick 38 yards later, Penn Wood had the final points it needed to knock off nonleague opponent Carroll, 14-7. It was far from the end of the game, but Penn Wood was finally able to breathe a sigh of relief when Carroll quarterback Steve Honick’s heave to the end zone with no time left fell to the ground thanks to coverage from Fatin Copper and Edmund Dennis.
Gleplay finished with 181 yards on 16 carries and both Penn Wood touchdowns. He eclipsed the 100-yard barrier for the third straight game after 105 yards against Bensalem and 144 against Overbrook, and it’s not hard to see why. Gleplay cites Pittsburgh Steeler running back Le’Veon Bell as someone he watches a lot of film of, and both do a superb job of being patient and letting running lanes open up. Sure, Bell is 6-1, 230 pounds and Gleplay is, well, not, but the similar ability to identify those cutback lanes is there.
“I’m a patient back,” Gleplay said. “It was a power set, which has made it even better. When I came through, they already knew I was coming to the right side. I took my time, watched the defense overpursue to the right side and Kenny blew out the defensive end and there was a crease right there. When I saw the crease and I knew we were losing at the time, there wasn’t any time to be dancing around.”
The combination of an 8:30 a.m. start and the stifling heat and humidity didn’t do anyone on the field any favors. Penn Wood had 17 penalties accepted for a mind-boggling 162 yards, including three illegal participation penalties at 15 yards a pop. Carroll picked off four passes — one apiece from Dahmir Ruffin, Bobby Ferry, Greg Natale and Steve DeFruscio — including a pair with Penn Wood in the red zone.
Yet in the end, it didn’t matter for Penn Wood, because Nick Lincoln’s team is 3-0. It’s the first time the Del Val’s Patriots have jumped out to that record since the Sam Mormando-led 2010 team got off to a hot start en route to a 9-2 mark and a berth in the then-AAAA District One playoffs.
“We made a lot of mistakes, but one thing I’m really proud of is I’ve been in this school for four years; everyone thinks we’re kind of talented, but not really disciplined,” Ngaima said. “We showed great discipline today. Our defense really held it down. We just got it done. I’m just so proud that we got it done after all of the mistakes.”
It got dicey for a brief time, though. The Catholic League Patriots (0-3) were driving before Jay Smiley (six catches, 60 yards) fumbled while fighting for more yardage. Penn Wood recovered, but turned the ball over on downs. Penn Wood defensive back Edmund Dennis then snagged a post route in Cover-3 to seemingly ice the game, but a deep shot that fell incomplete gave Carroll the ball back again.
Given one final chance, Honick tossed up a prayer to Roman Davis, who came down with a 42-yarder to give Carroll a chance from the Penn Wood 13-yard line. Honick got flushed from the pocket, and once his pass hit the ground, the celebration was on for Penn Wood.
Things don’t get any easier for Carroll, either, as it’ll get Catholic League titans La Salle and St. Joseph’s Prep in back-to-back weeks to open the league slate. Despite that, new coach Dan Connor is seeing progress.
“We have to stop the run, force the passing game and get better up front,” Connor said. “That comes with time. That comes with years in the weight room and it’s something we have to chip away at as a staff. They have an unbelievable running back. He’s about as explosive and electric a high school football player as there is in this area. Our gameplan was to try to keep him under control and prevent the deep shot, make them snap it another down, but he ripped off a couple long runs and that’s what a great player’s going to do.”