TOWAMENCIN >> The North Penn football team’s defense rebounded from a tough second quarter to shutout Spring-Ford after halftime in last Friday’s District 1-6A quarterfinals. Now the Knights are preparing for perhaps their toughest task yet in high-scoring Coatesville in the semis.
“They’re really fast, they’re really athletic,” North Penn junior tight end/linebacker Owen Thomas said. “I think we match up well with them, but it just a more athletic team than we’ve seen all year.”
Fourth-seeded Coatesville (11-1) comes into Crawford Stadium owners of a 10-game win streak courtesy of its’ 41-21 victory over Ridley in the district quarterfinals. The Red Raiders’ high-tempo, spread attack has been just a bit more productive in putting points on the scoreboard than the Knights this season. Coatesville having compiled 492 total points this season to North Penn’s 491.
The Red Raiders have eclipsed 40 points seven times this season — including their last four games — and went over 50 points twice, beating Simon Gratz 51-14 in Week 1 and Council Rock North 54-20 in Week 3.
“It’s a lot different, something we haven’t seen since pretty much Week 1 against La Salle,” said Thomas of Coatesville’s offense.
No. 1 seed North Penn and Coatesville are meeting for the first time since the 2012 District 1-AAAA first round when the visiting Knights earned a 31-0 victory, the game marking the last time the Red Raiders were shut out.
Friday’s winner advances to face either No. 3 Perkiomen Valley or No. 10 Garnet Valley in the district final. North Penn is looking to reach the championship game for the second consecutive season and the third time in the past four year. Coatesville, meanwhile, aims to get back to the final for the first time since 2012.
Thomas, an All-Suburban One League Continental honorable mention at linebacker — as well as a first-team pick at tight end — and the North Penn defense has been putting in solid work all season in stopping opponents. The 12-0 Knights are holding teams to 12.6 points per game, helping North Penn beat teams by an average of 28.3 points per game.
Last Friday in the 28-19 victory over Spring-Ford in the quarter, the Knights jumped out to a 21-0 lead after a quarter, but the Rams found the end zone three times in the second quarter to pull to within 21-19 at halftime. But North Penn held Spring-Ford to zero points in the final 24 minutes.
The NP defense came up with a big fourth-down stop inside their own half of the field on the first possession of the third quarter. After a Knights punt put Spring-Ford deep in its own territory, North Penn’s D held the Rams to a three-and-out on their next series Reece Udinski’s 27-yard touchdown pass to Ricky Johns gave North Penn a nine-point cushion.
“We knew that we could really bounce back, our motivation and everything to keep going, to keep playing, to keep winning,” Thomas said. “Obviously, that really helped us. So that was basically our driving factor but I think we did really well.”
North Penn’s goal Friday night is finding a way to slow down the Red Raiders attack led by freshman quarterback Ricky Ortega. In the win over Ridley in the quarters, Ortega passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns — both going to junior Avery Young — while rushing for another 123 yards and a score. Sophomore Aaron Young added a huge night on the ground, running for 246 yards and one touchdown on 26 carries.
“We just really just have to focus on our keys and not get lost cause we know their quarterback really good,” Thomas said. “If he makes a play he gets out of the pocket and we just can’t let go of our keys, we have to keep focus on our defense and everything, who we’re covering.”