ABINGTON >> North Penn had two objectives when it traveled to Abington Friday night for its Week 10 matchup with the Galloping Ghosts.
The first was to get a win and finish the regular season undefeated. Doing that would lead to the second, which was locking up the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage for the District 1-AAAAAA playoffs.
Reece Udinski and his receivers made sure both of those happened as the Knights cruised to a 45-7 win over an Abington team that’s trying its best to get healthy for its own trip into the postseason. The senior quarterback, who took a couple of shots from Ghost defenders and needed to leave the game early to get stitches on his chin, went 14-of-22 for 337 yards and four touchdowns.
“I want him to be confident throwing and I think sometimes he can force himself into trying to throw the perfect pass,” Knights coach Dick Beck said. “He was very decisive in stepping up and just snapping it. He’s been great all year and those are the things we expect from him.”
Jake Hubler was the biggest beneficiary, catching six balls for 205 yards and two touchdowns.
FOOTBALL 5:24 Q3: North Penn 38, Abington 7
Udinski 26yd pass to Hubler on 4th-20 pic.twitter.com/hkpGOi8oDH
— Andrew Robinson (@ADRobinson3) October 29, 2016
While the Ghosts were shorthanded, they were going to give the Knights a game for as long as they could. Abington forced a three-and-out on the first drive of the game, then after Hubler had an 83-yard reception to put the ball at the Ghosts’ six, Jamil Robinson forced a fumble that Colin Boetefuer recovered.
Injuries hit the offense hardest, with Abington senior center and co-captain Tom Penecale sidelined with a knee injury and their rising star junior running back Darryl Davis-McNeal out battling a hip issue.
“We had talked about it earlier in the week that once it got to more than 21 to 25, we would make the decision (to pull guys) very quickly,” Abington coach Kevin Conlin said. “We don’t have the depth right now. We have some nice players but we don’t have the depth to compete if guys get injured and for next week, we have to get healthy.”
Conlin said he thinks his team will fall somewhere in the 12 or 13 range for seeding, but making the postseason in his first year and coming off two tough seasons for the program, he’s very happy with the outcome. His guys did stick around for a bit, cutting North Penn’s lead to 17-7 when senior George Reid made a great catch over a defender for a 22-yard touchdown in the second quarter.
Abington nearly had a big play later in the quarter but a potential interception went off a defender’s hands with a lot of open field in front of him.
North Penn responded to that one on Hubler’s first score, a 40-yard pass from Udinski where the senior wideout just burned everyone down the field.
“Everything’s going well, we’re 10-0 and we have the first seed,” Hubler said. “Everything’s where it should be.”
The Knights’ defense wasn’t taxed too much, but that was because the unit took matters into its own hands by getting after Abington early, hard and often. Keenan Lambright got the bulk of the Ghost carries, churning his way to 60 yards on 16 carries, most of them hard-fought.
— Andrew Robinson (@ADRobinson3) October 29, 2016
Likewise, the pass rush was relentless against the Ghosts’ banged-up line. Senior Ricky Johns had a crushing sack on Billy Griffenberg in the first quarter and other Knights players put a ton of pressure on the Abington quarterback.
“(Reid)’s a big player, so we stuck one of our best corners on him and he did a good job,” Knights captain and defensive end Nick Vasger said. “We got a good pass rush and forced them into some bad throws. They have athletes. They have a great inside linebacker in (Taylor Jackson). We game-planned for them just like any other team, find the weaknesses and attack.”
Beck said in the last five games’ worth of film he had seen on Abington, he saw a team that had found its identity and was rolling with it. Abington’s four losses are all to playoff teams in Central Bucks South, Plymouth Whitemarsh, unbeaten Neshaminy and now North Penn.
Having seen both the Knights and Neshaminy, the likely No. 2 seed, in person, Conlin said the two teams’ passing games sets them apart.
“Between them and Neshaminy and from what I’m hearing, we may have Perk Valley next week, those three teams are probably the best three passing teams out there,” Conlin said. “They’re the top three quarterbacks in the area from what I’ve been told, we’ve seen two of them and they’re pretty good. The kid from Neshaminy and this guy for North Penn, they’re special.”
“Reece played great and Jake stepped up big time,” Johns, who had three grabs for 61 yards and a score, said. “We like to spread the ball around and spread the wealth. It’s what we do best and we’ll have to continue it in the playoffs.”
FOOTBALL 3:01 Q1: North Penn 3, Abington 0
Kelly Macnamara with a 25yd FG pic.twitter.com/CMhBQeiZrG
— Andrew Robinson (@ADRobinson3) October 28, 2016
Udinski broke Corey Ernst’s single-season record for passing touchdowns, which had been set in 2011 when the Knights finished second in the state. The senior now has 27 touchdown passes on the season, with the previous record having been 25.
“Even when Reece took a couple hits, he got up, manned up and bounced back,” Hubler said.
Beck said he hasn’t a team that’s clicking the way this one is heading into the postseason since 2009, the last Knights squad to go unbeaten in the regular season. This was Beck’s fourth undefeated regular season in 15 years as the Knights head coach, along with 2003, 2008 and 2009.
“We’re in the driver’s seat now,” Johns said.
This year, the district playoffs will all be played at the home of the higher seed. So, North Penn, should it continue to win, will keeping playing games at Crawford Stadium, just what the players wanted to make sure they were going to do when they took the field on Friday.
“We definitely have a home field advantage at Crawford,” Vasger said. “Our fans get real rowdy and the atmosphere there just builds us up. We never want to lose at Crawford so it’s big for us that we get all of our games there.”
NORTH PENN 3 28 14 0 – 45
ABINGTON 0 7 0 0 – 7
NP – Kelly Macnamara 25 field goal 3:01
NP – Owen Thomas 9 pass from Reece Udinski (Macnamara kick) 11:40
NP – Ricky Johns 7 pass from Udinski (Macnamara kick) 8:12
A – George Reid 22 pass from Billy Griffenberg (Casey Hesdon kick) 6:34
NP – Jake Hubler 40 pass from Udinski (Macnamara kick) 5:56
NP – Nick Dillon 7 run (Macnamara kick) 1:22
NP – Hubler 26 pass from Udinski (Macnamara) 5:24
NP – Xzavier Gorski 3 run (Macnamara) :12
First Downs 15 5
Rushes-Yards 29-152 26-60
Passing 14-22-4-0 2-9-1-0
Passing Yards 337 29
Total Yards 489 89
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 2-0
Penalties-Yards 6-50 5-30
Punting 1-33 7-32.42
Rushing: NP – Nick Dillon 10-45, Reece Udinski 3-1, Anthony Andrews 3-26, RJ Macnamara 4-39, Xzavier Gorski 4-12, Mark McDonald 3-20, unknown 2-11; A – Keenan Lambright 16-10, Keith Hudoka 2-12, Billy Griffenberg 3-(-13), Rhaze Ashbrooks 5-1
Passing: NP Udinski 14-22-4-0-337; A- Griffenberg 2-9-1-0-29
Receiving: NP – Jake Hubler 6-205, Justis Henley 3-46, Owen Thomas 1-9, Ricky Johns 3-61, Jon Haynes 1-16; A-Taylor Jackson 1-7, George Reid 1-22