SLATINGTON >> The last person head coach Rick Pennypacker wanted to see walk out of the locker room Friday night was Ryan Finn.
“I can’t even look at him because I know I’ll start balling,” Pennypacker said with a laugh following Pottsgrove’s 51-20 loss against Bethlehem Catholic during the first round of the PIAA Class 4A playoffs.
The longtime head coach stood there near tears because Finn — his senior quarterback and his youngest nephew — marks the end of him coaching his own blood from the sidelines.
“When he was coming off the field, I was getting pretty emotional. It got to me pretty good,” said Pennypacker. “It still gets to me. He’s the last one.”
Finn is just the latest of the Pennypacker bloodline to leave his mark on the Pottsgrove football program. His older brother, Pat Finn, was selected First Team AAA All-State as a two-way lineman before going on to play at Bucknell University following the 2014 season.
Throughout his quarterback’s career, Pennypacker saw plenty of flashes from Finn.
Running the standard Pottsgrove run-at-will, pass-if-needed offensive attack, Finn thrived as the signal caller. He threw only 120 passing attempts on the year — Perk Valley’s league-leading quarterback Stephen Sturm had well over 300 attempts — but was effective with the ball in his hands, throwing a touchdown just about every nine passing attempts.
He was also a threat running the ball in the read option — his 447 rushing yards the second most among PAC quarterbacks this season.
“Ryan did a hell of a job for me, just like his brother did,” said Pennypacker. “He’s not the most talented kid on the field, but he’s the type of kid you can build teams around.
“He’s as good a leader as I’ve had in my 40 years of coaching … That’s not just because he’s my nephew. You walk into that locker room, they’ll all tell you that too.”
Finn accounted for 156 yards of total offense and two rushing touchdowns Friday night, including a 64-yard keeper up the right-side for what would stand as Pottsgrove’s final touchdown of the season.
“I’ve definitely gotta thank Javon (Colbert) for letting me pull it,” said Finn of his touchdown run, a read-option play during the third quarter. “Coach said read it, so once I saw some space open, I tucked it and ran.”
Finn’s most memorable play personally, though, came midway through the third quarter with his team down 31-6.
The senior stood tall in the pocket, then delivered a 52-yard strike up the seam to fellow senior captain Adam Girafalco, which set up Rahsul Faison’s two-yard touchdown run a few plays later. It was only the sixth pass Girafalco had caught all season, but by far the most important.
“That was a special moment for both of us,” said Finn. “Adam and I have had a really good relationship, so to complete it to him and get some momentum back our way was definitely huge.”
Same goes for Girafalco, who had primarily played cornerback for the Falcons.
“It meant a lot, especially in that moment,” he said. “I don’t get a lot of touches on offense but I knew that was one that I needed to go up and get.”
And for Pennypacker? Well, he couldn’t have asked for a better pair of senior captains.
“I love Ryan and I love Adam,” said Pennypacker. “They’re super kids. Everyone at the beginning of the year thought that we wouldn’t have much. We only had four starters coming back, that was it. Our guys never listened to all that, though. They never counted themselves out.”
That mentality was put on display late in the game’s opening quarter Friday night.
After the Pottsgrove offense fumbled it away at the Hawks’ goal line, there was one player nipping at the heels of Bethlehem Catholic defender on his way to the end zone.
It was Finn. The last player into the locker room following the game.