Langhorne, Pa. — You’ll never get anyone in the Neshaminy football camp to say how good the Skins have been this year or how good they might become. It’s probably better to let the numbers tell the story anyway.
With their 35-0 trouncing of arch rival Pennsbury Friday night at Harry Franks Stadium, Neshaminy completed its first undefeated regular season since the 2001 team also went 10-0 on the way to winning the program’s lone state championship.
The perfect regular season slate was Neshaminy’s 10th all-time, but just the third since 1971, when all-state quarterback Pete Cordelli Jr. led a squad that would in 2004 be proclaimed the state’s “Team of the Century” by Pennsylvania Football News.
Neshaminy went 11-0 in ‘71 as Cordelli tossed a school-record 24 touchdown passes — a record which stood for 45 years until Friday night when senior Mason Jones shattered the mark with four touchdown tosses, including three to sophomore tight end Oleh Manzyk. Jones now has 28 TD passes this season and the potential for many more as Neshaminy could host three District One playoff games at Heartbreak Ridge, should they keep winning.
Neshaminy will enter the 16-team tournament as the No. 2 seed. North Penn (10-0) is the top seed.
Almost lost in the excitement of the evening was that the Redskins also clinched the outright championship of the Suburban One League National Conference, besting Abington by one game.
“I think a lot of credit goes to this senior class,” Neshaminy head coach Steve Wilmot said. “In the back of their minds, I think this was their goal. The senior class has a whole bunch of drive. They’re a classy bunch.”
Not even the prospect of a rivalry game against a wounded opponent could stop Neshaminy from taking the initiative from the outset. Pennsbury (5-5, 3-3 SOLN) entered the game needing a win to keep its playoff hopes alive. The Falcons had qualified for the postseason five years in a row.
But their starting quarterback, Zach Demarcis, was out with an injury.
Neshaminy opened the game with a 10-play, 74-yard drive capped by Jones’ three-yard touchdown pass to senior Zach Tredway. Cordelli Jr. and his father, former Neshaminy coach Pete Cordelli Sr., were sitting in some folding chairs behind the north end zone where Tredway scored the record-breaking touchdown.
On the night before the game, Jones received a letter from Cordelli Jr. congratulating him on his season and wishing him luck. Cordelli Jr. never had a chance to extend his mark because there were no playoffs in his era.
“That record’s pretty cool,” Jones said. “Mr. Cordelli wrote a nice letter, and I’m honored to have the record, but our main focus right now is the playoffs. And without the team, I don’t have that record.”
As Pennsbury struggled to achieve a first down in the opening quarter, Neshaminy extended its lead to 14-0 when Jones found Manzyk on the left sideline for a 55-yard score.
Pennsbury’s defense regained equilibrium in the second quarter, holding Neshaminy to only a couple of first downs. But just before the end of the half, Tredway returned a punt 39 yards to Pennsbury’s 16. Jones passed 16 yards to Manzyk on the final play of the half as Neshaminy took a 21-0 lead.
Neshaminy out-gained Pennsbury, 210-52, in the half, and, 311-164, for the game. Senior running back Will Dogba gained 62 of his 90 rushing yards in the first half. Jones had 141 passing yards in the half and 215 for the game.
Pennsbury’s Joe Meglen ran 17 times for 77 yards to pace the Falcons, who passed for just 10 yards. Four different players threw passes for Pennsbury.
Neshaminy capitalized on another Tredway punt return, a 22-yarder, to take a 28-0 lead late in the third quarter. The Skins needed just three rushes to cover 30 yards, including Jones’ five-yard touchdown run.
Jones passed to Manzyk for a five-yard touchdown in the first minute of the fourth quarter to trigger the Mercy Rule continuous game clock.
The 35-point margin matched Neshaminy’s biggest win over Pennsbury since 1980. It was the Redskins’ second straight win in the series after their upset victory last year propelled them into the playoffs.
“I didn’t have to tell them it was a rivalry game. They knew it was a big game,” Wilmot said of his players. “The one thing I talked about was what the Pennsbury win did for us last year. I think it catapulted us to where we wanted to be. It got us into the playoffs and showed we’re a good team.”
The momentum carried into 2016. In addition to the influential senior class, Neshaminy has been getting big contributions from juniors and sophomores on both sides of the ball.
“I think it’s been a combination of things, a perfect storm,” Wilmot said. “Getting out of our non-league schedule at 3-0 was big. And the team has a workmanlike attitude. We have a lot of talented kids and high character.”
Follow Bill Kenny on TWITTER: @NortheastKenny.
Photo courtesy J.S. Garber – For 21st-Century Media
Neshaminy 35, Pennsbury 0
(Oct. 28 at Neshaminy)
PENNSBURY (5-5) 0 0 0 0 — 0
NESHAMINY (10-0) 14 7 7 7 — 35
N — Tredway 3 pass from Jones (McDonald kick)
N — Manzyk 55 pass from Jones (McDonald kick)
N — Manzyk 16 pass from Jones (McDonald kick)
N — Jones 5 run (McDonald kick)
N — Manzyk 9 pass from Jones (McDonald kick)