FRANCONIA >> There was a throwback look (coach Ed Gallagher’s Vince Lombardi-esque attire) and feel (the pounding, stomping runs of Koby Khan) to Souderton Area’s performance Friday night, punctuated by a return to glory for Big Red, their first trip to the playoffs since 2010.
“We have a lot of confidence,” said Gallagher, donning the suit and trench coat in honor of what would be a very memorable Senior Night for Souderton. “We played really well last week against Truman and outside of a few miscues tonight, I thought we played really well tonight. We played two solid games in a row going in and we’re gonna be a tough out in the playoffs.”
Big Red goes charging into the postseason — for the fifth time under Gallagher — after an all-around 33-15 victory over Central Bucks West in a Suburban One League Continental Conference game at chilly Souderton Area High.
In addition to the performance by Khan, who rumbled for 163 yards on 15 carries, Souderton reached the second season in large part due to the quick feet and reliable hands of fellow senior Brandon Taragna, who scored three touchdowns — two on the ground, one through the air — to break the game open for Big Red.
“It felt great, especially on Senior Night,” Taragna said of the three scores. “Getting the win was the best part.
“We played a really good game. We worked all offseason and our goal was to make the (District 1-6A) playoffs. And we did it.”
Taragna opened the scoring midway through the second quarter when he raced up the middle for a 17-yard score, helping to push Souderton’s Wing-T into gear.
“Koby and Brandon just ran really well behind our offensive line,” Gallagher said of the duo, which combined for 236 yards rushing. “Brandon’s just a solid football player. The things you’re not going to see are how well he played on defense tonight because you always see what happens when he gets the ball but I thought he also did a great job in coverage.
“He uses his body well, he positions well, he makes some tackles, and I just thought he had a great all-around game.”
Taragna’s play on defense was instrumental in that second quarter, as Souderton — despite a pair of turnovers — didn’t allow the Bucks a single first down and ultimately forced them into a missed field goal attempt after they got the ball deep in Big Red (6-4, 2-4 conference) territory.
On the very next play, Souderton quarterback Joey Curotto lofted a deep strike to Taragna, who turned it into a 40-yard gain and a first down at the West 40.
Four plays later, Curotto connected with tight end Shane Day for a 12-yard score and a 14-0 Souderton lead at the break.
The halftime ceremonies didn’t dull Souderton’s intensity: Big Red came out winging, with Curotto hitting Taragna for a 71-yard score on the second play of the third quarter, boosting the margin to 21-0.
Said Taragna of what it felt like racing downfield, for 71 of his 120 receiving yards: “I just didn’t wanna get caught.”
“I couldn’t be more proud of him and all the seniors that they were able to finish their career on this field tonight that way,” Gallagher said.
Added to Souderton’s domination on the ground, Curotto chipped in with 10-of-14 passing for 192 yards and two scores.
“Joey made a few good reads,” Gallagher said. “(CB West) brought the safety down the one time and he kind of snuck it in there and Brandon did the rest, made it easy.”
The Bucks (4-6, 1-5 conference) got on the board by blocking a punt out of the end zone and — after Khan’s 63-yard score — West got a 48-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Moylan to Kevin O’Hanlon, making it 27-9 with a quarter to go.
Taragna brought the celebration closer when he broke free for a 19-yard TD and then the Bucks capped things with a one-yard plunge by Jake Amsler.
Despite ending the season with a defeat, the Bucks look to be a team on the rise under the direction of second-year coach Chas Cathers.
“I’m very proud of the 17 seniors that we have,” Cathers said of the group, including O’Hanlon, who hauled in eight catches for 120 yards Friday night. “They’ve gone through a lot in their three years of high school football. And I couldn’t ask for a better group of seniors to have played for us.
“It’s really the seniors that we have this year that have set the tone of what we’re building here at CB West.”
The Souderton student section began the night with chants of “Koby” and would finish the evening by joining the team on the field, jumping, leaping and hollering in jubilation. It felt like old times at Souderton, and maybe the start of something new.
“They’ve been great all year,” Gallagher said of the fans. “This is by far the best student support that we’ve had. We have so many kids that — win or lose — they come out. And they deserve this.
“This is for our players, our students and our community. We haven’t been to the playoffs in six years and we are cherishing this opportunity that we have. And we hope to make the most of it.”
Top Photo: Souderton tight end Shane Day is lauded for scoring against Central Bucks West during their game on Friday, Oct. 28, 2016. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)