QUAKERTOWN >> Central Bucks West spilled out every last drop of determination at packed Alumni Field Friday night and came away with the kind of victory worthy of producing a 3-0 start.
“It was a killer game,” said Bucks batterming ram, T.J. Rakowsky.
By the time Rakowsky followed senior lineman Chase Lorino through a hole on the left side for a gain of 11 on a crucial 3rd-and-7, the Bucks had taken the final, hard-charging steps to a 21-12 win over the Panthers in an entertaining non-conference battle.
“The intensity was insane,” said Rakowsky, drenched in sweat and wearing a victorious smile. “We hadn’t had a game like this all year.”
The Bucks are 3-0, and they’re 3-0 because of a tough ground attack, because of Corey Cepeda and a Buck defensive line that swallowed up Panther runs in crucial spots, and because of an offense that came out swinging — scoring on the game’s third play from scrimmage.
But West is thinking of the 3-0 start as only that — just a start.
“Our schedule’s gonna get tougher and tougher so we’re probably gonna have more games like this,” said Rakowsky, who gained 76 yards on 12 carries, “but we’re hoping to come out with ‘W’s’ in all of them.
“So hopefully it’s gonna be a good rest of the season. It’s only three wins so we have to keep working hard, keep the mentality up.”
That mentality was awful sharp in the early going, as a 42-yard kickoff return by Rakowsky gave the Bucks the ball at midfield. On 3rd-and-10 from the Panther 49, quarterback Ryan Moylan found Nicholas Ferrentino in the flat, and Ferrentino made a nifty cut in between two defenders and raced away, taking it all the way in for a score and a 7-0 lead.
The Bucks held Quakertown to just a single first down in the opening quarter and nearly increased their lead early in the second, but a 32-yard field goal by Kenny Doak sailed wide.
The Panthers’ offense came to life, with a 13-play, 80-yard drive that was capped off by Noah Wood’s five-yard touchdown run. The extra point was no good, but Quakertown was back in it, down 7-6.
Quakertown showed that it was very intent on getting its first win of the season, and Wood — who played through heat cramps for much of the second half, at one point bending over after every play and battling to stay in it — was the driving force.
“He’s just awesome. He’s just a great, great kid,” Panthers coach George Banas said of the senior. “You’re gonna get everything he’s got.
“Some guys have definitely grown up the last couple weeks,” Banas said of his predominantly young squad. “It’s sort of that two steps forward, one step back, and we gotta keep trying to take two steps forward, two steps forward, two steps forward…That’s what it comes down to.”
The score remained 7-6 into the break but then the Bucks — just like they did in the first half — started the second half with a score. After a Quakertown punt, West moved the ball 60 yards in eight plays, with Moylan scoring on a quarterback sneak to widen the margin to 14-6.
West would gain 174 yards on the ground.
“I thought it was really good. We definitely picked it up since the second and third quarter and we just started playing hard-nosed football — dropping our shoulders, going three yards and hoping to break one every once in a while,” Rakowsky said.
“In the second half, we just kept on grinding,” Bucks coach Chas Cathers said. “We just kept playing CB West football and got the job done.”
The Panthers would tighten things to 14-12 when Wood scored for the second time, capping another 13-play drive when he pushed his way in from five yards out.
But a pass on the two-point conversion attempt fell incomplete, leaving it a two-point game. With 9:16 left though, the Panthers still had life.
“I really thought we had an opportunity there — we punch it in, and I thought we had a really good two-point play set up and called,” Banas said. “And even after that, we should have been able to lock it down and get a three-and-out.
“We had (West) 3rd-and-long and they made a play. It’s gonna come down to ‘who’s gonna make a play? Who’s gonna make those couple big plays in a game like this where there’s no turnovers and it’s two pretty evenly matched teams.”
That 3rd-and-long was a 3rd-and-13 from the Quakertown 48 on West’s ensuing drive. Quarterback Joshua Crecca — the Bucks alternate QB’s — scrambled around, bought time, then found a wide open Michael Kilkenny behind the secondary for a 47-yard gain.
Two plays later, Jake Reichwein crashed in from a yard out, lifting the West advantage to 20-12, and then the extra-point kick by Kenny Doak split the uprights, making it a two-score game with 9:16 to play.
West was closing in.
“We worked so hard for this,” Rakowsky said. “And you never know what’s gonna happen going into a game. We definitely work on every aspect of the game and we’re prepared for everything.”
“I thought T.J. did a heck of a job running in between the tackles and our offensive line did a nice job of controlling them up front,” Cathers said. “That’s what we’re gonna have to do at times — grind the clock down and put the ball in our running back’s hands and have him hit the hole. Three yards is okay with me in the run game.”
West’s ball control had afforded the Panthers few opportunities in the second half — Quakertown had the ball just three times. Its final possession ended on a 4th-and-8, and a deep pass down the right sideline by quarterback Austin Clarke was covered tightly, falling incomplete in the end zone.
West took over at its own 31 and used 12 clock-consuming plays to lock things up, the 11-yard run by Rakowsky on 3rd-and-7 sending the Bucks to 3-0.
“I was aiming for the first down, maybe trying to break it,” Rakowsky said. “That was a great feeling, just closing up the game.”
Of the 90-degree heat at kickoff, Rakowsky said: “This whole day, I was carrying a jug around in school, drinking water — everyone was, Then I got out here and didn’t realize how hot it was gonna be…But it was awesome.”