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North Penn’s defense clamps down on Coatesville in 2nd half

TOWAMENCIN >> The meeting of high-scoring offenses between the North Penn and Coatesville football teams in the District 1-6A semifinals was crashed by the Knights defense.

For a second straight week in the postseason, the North Penn D put forth an impressive second-half effort. Friday night, the Knights held a Red Raider side averaging 41 points per contest to its second-lowest output of 2016 as they headed to the district final with a 42-25 victory at Crawford Stadium.

“We game-planned real hard all week and we knew they had absolutely great athletes and we know we have great athletes as well and we just tried to matchup with them,” senior defensive end Nick Vasger said. “I mean (head coach Dick) Beck comes up with a strategy as he always does every week. He’s probably the most reliable coach in the state. And I think we just played as a football team, we did not want to take this (loss).”

The previous week against Spring-Ford the quarterfinals, North Penn gave up 19 points in the second quarter but blanked the Rams after the break en route to a 28-19 victory.

Friday, after allowing 13 points in the first half, the Knights defense allowed just six of the Red Raiders’ 12 second-half points, with those coming in the contest’s final minute and the result already determined. Coatesville other six came on Frankie De Los Santos’ 85-yard interception return.

“I thought we were in good position, I thought we finger-tipped a couple passes that I thought we had shots of interceptions,” Beck said. “I thought our d-line did a good job of putting pressure and keeping them in front of them. We didn’t let them run around on us like (Ricky Ortega) has in the past week, so that was nice.

“I’m not happy with the 25 points but one’s an interception return for a touchdown, that just great individual play by them and bad by us. They long bomb there at the end of the game, it’s frustrating because we got two guys there, come on make a play, come on. But I thought the defense was the difference tonight no doubt.”

North Penn is only the second team to hold Coatesville in the under 30 points in 2016, the other being Cumberland Valley, which handed the Red Raiders lone loss before Friday 41-21 in Week 2. Since then Coatesville up-tempo spread attack powered 10 consecutive wins, the Red Raiders eclipsing 40 points in the past four. But the Knights snapped both streaks Friday.

“Our defense has been good all year,” Beck said. “I mean, if you look at it and someone says to me ‘Oh, you’re averaging giving up 12 points a game,’ I’m like you guys should back and look at the film in see how many points our first-team defense is giving up, cause it hasn’t been much. We haven’t given up more than a touchdown before the playoffs started.

“Last week we gave up 19, this week gave up 19, we’re not crazy about that but I think we’re still playing good enough defense to win.”

The 25 was the most the Knights have allowed in 2016 but the Knights going into the District 1-6A final against Garnet Valley allowing opponents just 13.5 points per contest, helping North Penn reach 13-0 for the fourth time under Beck.

Coatesville did collect its share of yards, finishing with a total 398 in the contest and the Red Raiders had several big plays on offense Aaron Young – who ended with 158 yards on 15 carries – broke off a 55-yard run on a drive he ended with a one-yard TD run. Ortega, meanwhile, tossed TD passes of 37 and 38 yards.

But North Penn made it tough night throughout, getting consistent pressure on Ortega from its defensive front and did job tackling on the Red Raiders’ bevy of short passes.

“They have great players and they have a great coach, and they great offense, so here and there, they’re going to catch us,” Vasger said. “They’re absolutely a great team, they deserve to get to where they got. They gave us a run a little bit early but I just feel like we played as a team and we all did or jobs and just really pushed it.”

Ortega finished with 214 yards passing but the Knights limited the freshman quarterback to just three yards rushing on six carries a week after he went for 124 yards and three scores on the ground against Ridley.

“That kid is really, really fast, first or all. He’s got a great cannon of an arm,” said Vasger of Ortega. “We just tried to corral him, keep him inside the pocket and our (defensive backs) did a great job of covering tonight, so that helps us all out when we can get good pass run on him and we just did everything we possibly could.”

The Knight also intercepted Ortega twice, the first aiding North Penn in pulling away in the third quarter.

After Nick Dillon scored on a 61-yard hook-and-lateral to put NP up 28-13 at 9:24 in the third, Coatesville looked to answer and drove into Knights territory. But after a high snap and fumble, Ortega tried to avoid a sack with a throw grabbed by NP linebacker Andrew Roth, who returned it to the Red Raiders’ side of the field.

“It was great play. Our d-line got up under them, forced a bad throw,” Vasger said. “(Roth) was in great (position), just really helped us. That was a great play.”

The Knights converted Roth’s interception into points as Nick Dillon scored on a three-yard touchdown run for a 35-13 lead with 4:14 left in the third, effectively sending North Penn to its 11th district final in the past 15 seasons.

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