TOWAMENCIN >> In the first quarter Friday night, three good drives for North Penn ended with North Penn touchdowns.
In the second quarter Friday night, two good drives for Souderton Area…ended with North Penn touchdowns.
“I just saw the ball on the field, knew we were in a tight situation, and I just picked it up and thought it was a chance to score,” the Knights’ Jon Haynes said of his 95-yard fumble return for a TD — this coming five minutes after teammate Owen Thomas snagged an interception and returned it 90 yards for a score. “I just took it back, gave our team some breathing room going into the next drive.
“It was a momentum change. They were driving on us and we really needed a play,” Haynes said. “An opportunity presented itself.”
North Penn took advantage of every opportunity both near and far, putting on a dominant performance on both sides of the ball in a 48-13 victory over rival Big Red in a Suburban One League Continental Conference clash at chilly Crawford Stadium.
Back-to-back defensive scores by Thomas and Haynes turned a 20-0 North Penn lead into 34-0, and then — as the half was winding down — Haynes dropped into the zone, made a tremendous read on Big Red quarterback Joey Curotto and came up with the interception, returning it 43 yards and scoring what would have been the Knights’ third consecutive defensive TD had it not been for a block in the back.
One play later, Knights running back Nick Dillon converted the takeaway into points, boosting North Penn’s advantage to 41-0 at the break and enforcing a running clock.
“I’m proud of our defense,” Haynes said. “We got off to a slower start last week (in a win over Central Bucks East) and this week we came out excited, fast, and just played really well together.”
The pair of defensive scores were impressive not only because of where they came but when — right at a time that Souderton (4-4, 1-4 conference) had started to gain steam.
Big Red drove 63 yards in 13 plays to start the second quarter, but then Thomas went up high and grabbed a short pass over the middle by Curotto, rumbling nearly the length of the field to make it 27-0 with 6:20 to go in the half.
Souderton then came right back and — using the battering runs of Koby Khan (16-86) — marched to the end zone’s doorstep, 71 yards down to the North Penn three. The Knights, however, forced a fumble by Khan, Haynes scooped it up, put a juke move on the one player between him and his destination, and raced home.
“We wanted to honor our seniors, get them a win in their last (regular-season) game at the stadium,” said Haynes, a sophomore who is developing quite a knack for this kind of thing. “We just wanted to play our hardest for them.”
“Jon Haynes has been our man with getting it and scoring,” Beck said with a smile. “(The interception return) would have been his third score (in 2016) had it not been for the block in the back.”
As good as Haynes’ scoop and score was, Beck said: “I thought his interception was even better.”
Dillon’s 12-yard touchdown run was the only play the Knights’ offense had in a decisive second quarter. The defense did the rest.
“I’ve never been involved in a game where we had one offensive play in the second quarter and we’re winning,” Beck said.
“Souderton’s a good team. You saw them moving the ball, caught us a couple times. Koby Khan is tough — he runs hard. We were opportunistic. I thought Owen Thomas had a great interception, made a nice play.
“He was flying,” Beck said of the linebacker’s performance. “Owen’s a special player. He’s got a real good feel inside and I’ve been very impressed with his play so far.”
After a three-yard run by Anthony Andrews made it 48-0 in the third quarter, Souderton got on the board with an 88-yard kickoff return for a score by speedy Camerin Carroll. Big Red also added a 20-yard touchdown pass from Curotto to James Malm in the fourth, but it was the two touchdowns that got away in the first half that made it a rough night for the Indians.
“Two very good drives,” Big Red coach Ed Gallagher said. “North Penn’s a great team. We struggled blocking them the first two times we had the ball but then we came out the next two times and drove right down the field, down into the red zone, and turned the ball over twice.
“It’s bad enough when you turn it over but when you turn it over and give up points, it’s hard to bounce back from it.”
Souderton will now get ready for home games against Truman and Central Bucks West. Big Red could make the postseason for a fifth time under Gallagher.
“We have two games left and we still have a shot to make the playoffs,” Gallagher said. “Hopefully we play better than this and give ourselves an opportunity to win those games.”
North Penn scored on all three of its first-quarter possessions, two touchdown passes by Reece Udinski (35 yards to Justis Henley, 25 yards to Thomas) sandwiched around a one-yard run by Dillon (82 yds, 2 TD’s).
“I thought we were very efficient on offense,” Beck said. “I thought Nick seemed to be back to early-season form. I thought he really ran the ball hard, finding the hole, not getting greedy.”
Top Photo: North Penn’s Jason Prince and Damon Berry crush Souderton’s Brandon Taragna on a kickoff return during their game on Friday, Oct. 14, 2016. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)