WHITEMARSH >> Plymouth Whitemarsh went into the extended homecoming halftime with no points on the scoreboard and trailing Cheltenham by a touchdown.
The first time the Colonials got the ball in the second half, they scored a touchdown on a four-play 79-yard drive consisting of all running plays. That would be the theme in PW’s 26-20 overtime win at Plymouth Whitemarsh High School Friday night.
The Colonials ran the ball 53 times for 306 yards in the game — 275 yards came in the second half.
“It was about being more physically tough and getting after them than it was about X’s and O’s,” PW coach Dan Chang said of the halftime message to his team. “Challenged the offensive line to take control and I think they did much better in the second half.”
Junior Dontae Wilson and senior Blaise Gravinese each finished with more than 100 yards after intermission.
Wilson carried the ball 19 times 146 yards and three touchdowns — including a 10-yard scamper to win the game in overtime on Plymouth Whitemarsh’s first offensive play.
“The line blocking for us,” Wilson credited the rushing success. “I couldn’t have done it without my line.
“We were seeing the holes and hitting them. The line definitely stepped up in the second half.”
Gravinese — who was announced as Homecoming King at halftime — toted the rock 21 times for 131 yards.
“Blaise, man, I must have given Blaise the ball ten plays in a row and he was just battling the whole time,” Chang said. “I’m just so proud of that kid and how tough he is. I’ll take Blaise any day of the week.”
The two backs were dominating so much that senior QB Joe Stoberl only attempted one pass in the second half.
“They flipped the script a little bit,” Cheltenham head coach Joe Gro said. “It took us a little while to adjust to it. The series before overtime we got a little better at (stopping the run). We didn’t finish, it’s a shame. We worked really hard not to finish.”
Part of the reason PW committed to the run in the second half could also be because the skies opened up near the end of the third quarter and heavy rain continued until the end of the game.
“I wasn’t expecting this monsoon here in the second half,” Chang joked. “That definitely dictated a little bit of what we did. That’s what we like to do. We want to run the ball. Run the ball until we get stopped. Proud of our offensive line. Proud of our backs. They ran hard.”
Stoberl added nine carries for 10 yards — including a three-yard TD run and junior Khan Jamal rushed three times for 24 yards before leaving the game with an injury.
SOL American title
Plymouth Whitemarsh secured at least a share of the Suburban One League American Conference title for the first time since 2013 with the win against Cheltenham.
“We locked up at least a share of the title tonight,” Chang said. “We definitely want that outright title.”
PW improved to 6-0 in league play with just one game remaining on the road against Quakertown Friday Oct. 28.
The Colonials handed Upper Dublin and Hatboro-Horsham each their first league loss in the two weeks prior to facing Cheltenham.
The Colonials and Panthers were deadlocked at 20 after 48 minutes of football.
PW’s Stephen Longo attempted a 42-yard field goal with less than a minute left in the fourth quarter to give his side the lead. The kick had the distance despite strong winds and rain, but the ball sailed wide left to force an extra session.
Cheltenham started with the ball at the 10-yard line. After an incompletion, the Panthers tried a reverse on second down. The runner was dropped for a seven-yard loss and the Panthers committed a hold, so they were looking at second-and-goal from the 24-yard line.
“It falls a lot on me,” Gro said.
“We ran a stupid reverse on goalline and that didn’t help. Frustration from my part because the kids deserved it. They worked really hard.”
Quarterback Dylan Jones ran for 17 yards on third down from the 24 to give the Panthers a shot at the field goal. Justin Grady’s attempt from 24 yards away hit the left upright.
Wilson raced up the middle for a 10-yard score on PW’s first offensive play.
“I don’t even know,” Wilson said of his thoughts on the run. “I just saw the open lane and I hit it. I do this for my brothers. We’re a family.”
The Panthers got two of their three touchdowns from either the defense of the special teams.
PW faced a third down at their own 15-yard line late in the third quarter. The shotgun snap went through Stoberl’s legs and Cheltenham defensive lineman Tre’von Jackson recovered in the end zone to give the Panthers a 13-7 lead.
After Plymouth Whitemarsh tied the game at 13 early in the fourth quarter, it made the mistake of kicking deep to Yasin Abdul-Haqq. Abdul-Haqq grabbed the ball off one bounce at his own 18 and started weaving his way through defenders. He crossed from the right sideline all the way to the left on his way to an 82-yard score and 20-13 Panthers lead.
“When we put a full team on the field, we’re OK, we can play football,” Gro said, noting that Abdul-Haqq and Jones have each missed multiple games this season. “Today is one of the exceptions to this year where we had a full team on the field. When we put a full team out we can play a little bit.”
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