TOWAMENCIN >> It took six tries before North Penn completed a pass Friday night. But Ricky Johns made it worth the wait.
The senior West Virginia commit hauled in a throw from Reece Udinski over the middle, spun out of the tackle and outran the Central Bucks West defense for a 57-yard touchdown as the Knights doubled their lead to 14-0 in the first quarter.
“Felt good. Just me and Reece clicking again,” Johns said.
Udinski connected with Johns for scores two more times as the passing game shook off the slow start. North Penn’s defense, meanwhile, never gave the visiting Bucks’ offense a chance to get going in the matchup of 3-0 sides at Crawford Stadium.
It took until the fourth quarter for CB West to get on the scoreboard and by that time the Knights had already amassed 35 points and tacked on a few more in rolling to a 48-20 victory in the Suburban One League Continental Conference opener for both sides.
“We’re just playing our defense,” Knights coach Dick Beck said. “D-line’s doing a nice job penetrating, and linebackers are cleaning up. I thought our d-backs did a great job covering. I think Kevin O’Hanlon one of the best receivers in the league, so he was a concentration for us and I thought we did a decent job against him.”
A week after shutting out Pennsbury, North Penn held the Bucks to just 59 yards in the first half – 53 coming from O’Hanlon on a screen pass late in the second quarter – as the Knights claimed their 13 straight conference victory.
“I think our defense came fired up today. I thought we had an impressive night tonight,” NP senior Nick Vasger said. “I thought our offense was a little slow, but our defense bailed us out.”
So far in 2016, the Knights (4-0, 1-0 SOL Continental) have given up 51 points, the fewest through four games since the 2010 NP squad that reached the PIAA Class AAAA semifinals allowed 46.
“We knew they had a couple athletes on their team, so we came in game-planning for them,” Vasger said. “Everyone did their job again, so I feel like when we play team defense, you can’t beat us.”
The Bucks (3-1, 0-1) finished with 221 yards of offense, most of that coming from Luka Munari’s 138 yards and two touchdowns on 10 fourth-quarter carries.
“North Penn is a good football program. Coach Beck’s doing a good job with those guys and that’s a pretty high-caliber football team,” CB West coach Chas Cathers said. “I think we have a good football team, as well. We started off with going 3-0, we knew this was going to be a challenge. One of our goals was going into this game 3-0.
“Our kids never gave up, they fought, but you got to stop big plays and we got to get a little momentum on offense. That came back to haunt us a little bit.”
— Mike Cabrey (@mpcabrey) September 17, 2016
Udinski rebounded from his 0-for-5 start to throw for 229 yards on 13-of-23 passing with three touchdowns and one interception.
“Early on, maybe we were throwing the ball deep a little. I blame myself a little bit. We kept taking shots and I thought maybe we could of thrown it underneath a little bit more,” Beck said. “I kind of blame myself, maybe I was pressing a little bit, but I felt most part we ran the ball with real good consistency and I thought in the second quarter on we really threw the ball well.”
Johns finished with five receptions for 108 yards, scoring twice in the first half before collecting his third TD at 7:27 in the third to make it 35-0, starting the mercy-rule running clock.
“It was my night,” Johns said. “He spread the ball around between Justis (Henley) and (Jake) Hubler, but Justis did a great job on defense.”
North Penn ran 27 times for 319 yards – for a total of 558 yards of offense – Nick Dillon pacing the Knights with 87 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries.
North Penn took a 7-0 lead on the games’ third series – Anthony Andrews breaking away for a 50-yard touchdown run at 6:44 of the opening quarter.
After forcing a West 3-and-out, the Knights needed just one play to make it 14-0 on Johns’ 57-yard TD catch at 5:18.
A TJ Rakowsky interception set Central Bucks West at the NP 32 with four minutes to go in the first quarter. But after picking a first down, the Bucks had two plays of negative yardage before Henley picked off Ryan Moylan.
“I thought our offensive line did a nice job opening holes. We had a couple trips that hurt us where the hole was there, our guy just needed to get to the second level. We were put in some situations with bad penalties or tackles in the backfield which hurt us and put us in (a) bad situation, but the kids know when we face a little adversity like that we need to step up and execute.
“And I know they can do that. More importantly they know they can do that. We’re going to come back and refocus for next week.”
North Penn pushed its advantage to 21-0 in the second quarter, Dillon capping a 10-play, 80-yard drive with a 4-yard touchdown run at 6:49.
The Knights scored on their next drive, going 65 yards on eight plays, the last an Udinski to Johns 9-yard touchdown pass with 2:08 left in the half.
Johns’ third TD catch made it 35-0 in the third with the teams combining for five touchdowns in the fourth.
— Mike Cabrey (@mpcabrey) September 17, 2016
The Bucks used a fumble recovered at the NP 38 to end the shutout, with Ryan Moylan hitting Ryan Bradley in the end zone from four yards out.
Xzavier Gorski’s 53-yard touchdown run had the Knights up 41-7. West replied with a 10-play, 57-yard drive ended by Munari crossing the goal line on a 7-yard run.
The teams then traded long touchdown runs — David Riccardi scoring from 77 yards out for a 48-14 Knights lead while Munari picked his second TD with a 70-yard dash.