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Despite sluggish start, Springfield remains perfect

SPRINGFIELD >> The No. 1 team in Delaware County scored six touchdowns, gave up two, and forced a running clock early in the fourth quarter.

Yet, it wasn’t nearly that easy. Sure, Springfield took care of Penncrest, 42-14, Friday to advance to 8-0 overall and 7-0 in the Central League. Sure, it yielded 196 yards of total offense — 116 with the starting unit on the field. Sure, it picked up 14 first downs offensively and spread the ball around to a dozen players.

But Penncrest (2-7, 1-7) gave the Cougars fits in the first half, forced six punts overall, trailed 14-0 after the first quarter and 14-7 late in the first half.

The Lions didn’t roll over.

“They were really good up front, they came out, they stopped us,” Springfield lineman Justin Shields said. “We just kept trying to do what we do best… broke a couple here and there. But they played awesome, stopped us when it counted. Gotta give credit to them, they played awesome.”

Springfield coach Chris Britton echoed that sentiment, but also said his team wasn’t clicking. During the first half, Britton paced the sidelines and tried to keep the energy level up.

An upset was comfortably avoided, but not without incident.

“We knew they were going to play us tough because every game that we watched Penncrest play, it’s hard-fought battles,” Britton said. “They’re coached well, so we knew it was going to be a hard one.”

Springfield struck first when quarterback Johnny Fanelli scrambled his way for a 45-yard touchdown midway through the first quarter. A Penncrest fumble followed that score, and Fanelli cashed in by hitting Dwayne Snipes from three yards out to extend the lead.

That figured to be the start of the blowout, but Penncrest hung around, forcing three consecutive three-and-outs, and then scored on Chris Mills’ 25-yard pass to Manny Ruffin. All that did was wake up the Cougars.

Springfield scored before halftime on Joe Kennedy’s 24-yard reverse, and scored after halftime on Ja’Den McKenzie’s three-yard power burst. Two early fourth quarter touchdowns — a 14-yard pass from Fanelli to Gregory Tamaccio and a one-yard sneak from backup quarterback Brandon DiChiacchio — put the game away.

“In the first half we came out a little slow, but I’m proud of the way we picked it up in the second half and put things away,” said lineman Daniel Gluck, who had an interception.

In all, Springfield had 241 yards of total offense. McKenzie had 58 rushing yards to lead the way. Fanelli passed for 72.

“It was hit and miss,” Shields said.

Regardless of how it happened, the Cougars are 8-0. They sit atop both Delaware County, and most importantly, the Central League. They lead the District One Class 5A power rankings.

This game was the first of three straight home contests to close the season. Garnet Valley visits next week. Springfield will host Haverford in the finale. A perfect record, a league title, a top playoff seed — it’s all there for this group.

Britton, though, can’t see that far out.

“We’ve got a home game next week,” he explained. “Nothing matters after next week, it’s a normal high school reaction. They can only think five days in advance, so that’s it. So we’ll go next Friday and see how it goes.”

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