EAST ROCKHILL >> It was 4th-and-Goal at the five, with Central Bucks West trying to reach the end zone on its first drive of the contest.
Enter Joe Robinson, into the Bucks’ backfield.
“I was just so pumped up — I had a blitz and hit it hard,” said Robinson, the Rams’ senior outside linebacker, who sacked West quarterback Ryan Moylan for a loss of nine, stopping the scoring threat cold. “It’s a great feeling. You’re getting so pumped up, the crowd’s going crazy, you’re running to the sideline — definitely a great experience.
“I like to think of our defense as a very good defense,” Robinson said. “There were some games early in the season where we let some things go, but I think some teams are starting to realize that we have a legitimate defense.”
West would again drive inside the 10 on its next series, but back-to-back sacks by Robinson pushed the Bucks all the way back to the 25-yard-line, forcing a missed field goal and keeping the game scoreless.
In a game where points came in bunches later on, it’s the points that weren’t scored that maybe loomed largest on this beautiful fall night at Helman Field. On two separate drives in the first quarter, CB West had the ball at the Pennridge one-yard-line, and both times, the Rams’ defense slammed the door shut, ultimately pointing the way to a 30-21 victory in the Suburban One League Continental Conference contest.
“They were huge,” Robinson said of the stops. “They got us so much momentum and good thing it carried over to the offense.”
The Ram offense found its way in the second quarter, a 27-yard run by quarterback Jagger Hartshorn getting Pennridge going and setting up a 41-yard field goal by Matt Mauer, who split the uprights for a 3-0 lead with 6 minutes, 47 seconds to go before the half.
A nice punt return by Ryan Cuthbert coupled with a West penalty gave the Rams a 1st-and-10 at the Buck 12, and three plays later Nick Tarburton dove over for a one-yard touchdown run and a 10-0 Pennridge lead.
Scoring on their third straight possession of the quarter, the playoff-minded Rams boosted the margin to 17-0 just before the half when Hartshorn lofted a perfect strike down the left sideline to Austin Herrlinger — on a wheel route — to put Pennridge further out in front.
“Jagger came to play tonight,” said Ram coach Jeff Hollenbach, who saw his team improve to 4-3 overall and 2-1 in the conference. “He threw better tonight. I tried to get him to stand in the pocket a little more, read the defense, because teams are trying to take away our run. And he did a little bit more of that tonight and that really helps a lot.
“He played great.”
After the Bucks cut the deficit to 17-7 midway through the third when Moylan hit Kevin O’Hanlon deep in the corner of the end zone on a fade route — the play covering 11 yards, Hartshorn went right back to work.
A 12-play drive was capped off when Hartshorn found wide receiver Anthony Kelly on a down-out-and-go, the 27-yard score making it a 24-7 game entering the fourth quarter.
Hartshorn, who completed 7-of-16 passes for 147 yards and a pair of scores, added another dimension to his performance when he sprinted up the middle for a 21-yard touchdown, giving Pennridge a commanding 30-7 lead with 1:53 to play.
The Bucks (4-3, 1-2 conference) added a pair of two-yard touchdown runs by Max Ojert and Jake Reichwein in the final three minutes, but it was the two touchdowns runs they didn’t get early that proved costly.
“We have to be able to find a way to score there and not have the two mental mistakes,” Bucks coach Chas Cathers said of the false start penalties on each of the Bucks’ trips inside the 10. “It kills the momentum. We gave (Pennridge) some momentum with their defense and we just can’t allow that to happen.
“We’re gonna have to re-evaluate this weekend and see what we have to do to make it to the playoffs. We have three really good teams coming up (CB South, CB East, at Souderton) and two of our rivals right in a row so we need to right the ship and make sure our kids stay focused.
“We have to focus up and understand that we have the team right now to get in the playoffs.”
The Bucks’ first drive started with gusto, with running back T.J. Rakowsky throwing to quarterback Ryan Moylan for a 15-yard gain.
On the very next play, Griffin Shields broke free for a 29-yard gain and West was on the move. The Bucks would ultimately have a 3rd-and-Goal at the one, had it moved back to the six on a false start, and then Luka Munari was stopped for a gain of one, making it 4th-and-Goal at the five.
Then, Robinson came racing in.
“Robinson and Nick (Tarburton) — when they’re stunting, they’re just a handful,” Hollenbach said. “And (West) couldn’t catch up with them. The first quarter, to keep (West) off the board, and our defense, the way they’re playing…We have some aggressive, strong kids in there, and they’re showing up.”
The Rams have William Tennent at home next week, followed by trips to CB South and CB East.
“Having played some of the teams we played really helps us right now,” Hollenbach said. “I think we’re battle-tested. And we’re ready to play with anybody.”
Top Photo: Pennridge quarterback Jagger Hartshorn carries the ball during the Rams’ game against Central Bucks West on Friday, Oct. 7, 2016. (Jeff Davis/For Digital First Media)