TOWAMENCIN >> It was no simple task staring down Pennridge Thursday night as the Rams traveled to North Penn to take on a deep, senior-laden Knights team looking to clinch its first Suburban One League conference title in nine years on Senior Night.
“I told my guys (before) tonight, one of two things is going to happen. You’re either going to have one of the biggest upsets in District 1 and take away the title or you’re going to sit on the sidelines and watch them celebrate it,” Pennridge coach Pete Valimont said.
The Knights came out firing on cylinders right from the opening tip. Noah Kwortnik scored the game’s first goal just two minutes in as he got a head on a great ball from Aiden Jerome who sent it in the Pennridge box off a free kick.
“Noah headed it, far corner, perfect placement,” North Penn coach Paul Duddy said. “It (lifted) the whole team up. There was a lot of excitement on the bench.”
North Penn continued to use the momentum it gained from the early goal as the Knights claimed the illusive SOL Continental crown — their first title since taking the SOL National in 2007 — with a 3-0 victory.
“We just said, come out hard and we can’t take them lightly,” said North Penn senior captain Nate Baxter of the Knights’ hot start. “In our conference especially an upset is not much of a surprise.”
North Penn (14-3-0, 10-2-0 conference) came into Thursday night’s matchup needing a win to earn the title after Central Bucks East took a one-point lead in the standings earlier in the day with its 2-0 victory over Central Bucks South. CB East has won the previous three Continental championships with North Penn the runner-up each of those seasons.
Baxter scored the Knights’ second goal of the night as he got the ball around midfield off a crafty touch from Mike Kohler, took it down the left sideline and finished with a nice near-post shot.
“It was a run down the sideline Mikey (Kohler) played it to me, I broke a tackle, cut back, put it on my right foot, slid it in,” the midfielder said. “I did (know I was going to shoot) I felt like I was going to score.”
The Baxter goal came just seven minutes and some change after the Kwortnik goal, as the Rams were never able to recover from the rough opening 10 minutes.
Pennridge (6-10-1, 1-10-1) generated some second-half opportunities as it fired eight shots towards the North Penn net, but a combination good defensive plays by the Knights, some miscues by the Rams and just some misfortune in the case of the Rams kept them off the scoreboard.
The future looks good for Pennridge as it returns eight of 11 next season but for now, its North Penn’s turn, as it is now the new conference champion and looks to make some noise in the District 1 playoffs.
“I think we’ve got a good of a shot as anybody,” Duddy said. “I see in the rankings there are teams that are 17-0 (but) this conference is very good (and) we’re prepared to play anybody.”
Top Photo: North Penn’s Noah Kwortnik moves the ball upfield trailed by Pennridge’s Marco Grenda during their game on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)