BUCKINGHAM >> In between the rain drops and an inordinate amount of penalties, North Penn still made plenty of big plays and had a whole lot of defense in a convincing 33-14 victory over Central Bucks East at packed Patriot Field Saturday.
Quarterback Reece Udinski connected for three touchdown passes and a total of 316 yards, Jon Haynes had an interception at the goal line to stymie a Patriot scoring threat in the second quarter, and Jason Prince’s fumble recovery and TD return on special teams helped break the game open just before halftime.
North Penn overcame four sacks in the opening quarter by East and more than a football field of penalty yardage — 13 for 126 yards — to get to 7-0 on the season.
“Our effort’s gotta be better,” Knights coach Dick Beck said. “I wasn’t happy with our effort. We have some really good players and a chance to make plays, but if something doesn’t go right for us, we can’t worry about that. We have to go on to the next play.
“East played a nice game and I think they’re a good team, so it was a good win, but our energy was negative. I think we need to do a better job there.”
Each team forced the other into a three-and-out to start the contest but on the Knights’ second possession, Udinski broke free from the East pass rush and found a lane, running 37 yards to get North Penn going.
Ricky Johns’ two-yard run converted a fourth down into a first, and then three plays later, Udinski threw a 27-yard strike to wide receiver Justis Henley for a 7-0 North Penn lead.
Late in the first, CB East had a fumbled snap on a fourth-down play and Udinski immediately converted it into points for the Knights. On the very next play he found Jake Hubler on a deep post route, the 37-yard score doubling the North Penn lead to 14-0 in the Suburban One League Continental Conference match-up.
“We put a lot of pressure on him but once they picked up the pressure and had some time to throw — obviously (Udinski’s) a good quarterback — they got behind us,” Patriots coach John Donnelly said. “They ran a lot of verticals, benders, and it worked to their advantage because if we didn’t get to (Udinski), we were putting (our cover guys) on a bit of an island.”
North Penn HS female kicker had two FGs and and three XPs… and she had a decent hit on a kickoff 🏈🏈👍🏼👍🏼 pic.twitter.com/9KXDKpTLVP
— Keystone Sports (@keystonesports_) October 8, 2016
Udinski completed 17 of 27 passes to a variety of eight different targets. He had a half dozen pass plays go for more than 20 yards, with Hubler hauling in three catches for 115.
After a wide receiver pass for a score from Chris Lochetta to Matt Szczypiorski brought East within 14-7, Hubler’s catch-and-run on a bomb from Udinski went for 69 yards — the longest play of the day for either team. That set up a field goal for NP, with Kelly Macnamara splitting the uprights from 33 yards away to boost the margin to 10.
Then, the Knights began to pull away.
On the ensuing kickoff, strong coverage by the Knights had Wes Verbit hemmed in, running along the five-yard line, and a jarring hit by Andrew Roth made the ball squirt free.
Senior Jason Prince scooped it up, ran into the end zone and — just like that — had the first touchdown of his varsity career.
“I was just in the right place at the right time — Andrew forced the fumble — and it was just a great play by the whole unit,” Prince said. “Coach Beck spoke about making plays on special teams and we all just went down there fired up and it happened.”
The sudden score — with just 2:23 to go in the half — sent the Knights into the locker room up 23-7.
Intensity went up a few notches. Said Prince: “That’s when the fire came. We started making it happen.”
The Knights moved quickly downfield on their opening drive of the third quarter. Udinski hit Nick Dillon on a screen pass for 40 yards then — after a holding call against the Knights — Udinski lofted a 41-yard pass to Johns, setting up a 10-yard toss to Nick Vasger, giving the Knights a commanding 30-7 lead.
Another field goal by Macnamara made it 33-7 before Central Bucks East (5-2, 2-2 conference) closed out the scoring with a 28-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Evan O’Donnell to Jake Novroski.
The Knights improved their conference mark to 4-0, all alone atop the Continental.
“Hey it feels good,” Prince said of the 7-0 start, “but we want more. We gotta keep working hard at practice and we’ll get it. We’ll get there.”
Top Photo: North Penn’s Jason Prince scores after scooping up Central Bucks East’s fumble on a kickoff during their game on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)