TOWAMENCIN >> Reece Udinski was a part of District 1 passing history last Friday night.
The North Penn senior quarterback along with Perkiomen Valley senior signal-caller Stephen Sturm both eclipsed the district record for passing yards in the a season of 3,300 set by Downingtown East’s Pat Devlin in 2005.
“I honestly didn’t even know about it until people started telling me after the game,” said Udinski after the Knights’ 42-25 win over Coatesville in the District 1-6A semifinals. “I think it was awesome but a district championship would be way better than that.”
Udinski is now up to 3,402 yards after going for 257 on 11-of-17 passing in the semifinal victory over the Red Raiders, which sent North Penn to a district final for the 11th time in the past 15 seasons.
Sturm currently holds the district season mark after his 264-yard effort in Perk Valley’s 44-27 loss to Garnet Valley in the semis to put his final total at 3,438 yards. Udinski gets the chance to surpass that Friday night when the top-seeded Knights (13-0) hosts the No. 10 Jaguars (11-3) in the 6A final at Crawford Stadium.
“When you look at the record we’re like 25-0 at home (in the playoffs), we don’t want to let that go and having the atmosphere like we had tonight, it was just special,” Udinski said. “So another week like this is what we ask for.”
Udinski has completed almost 60 percent of his passes in the Knights’ three postseason games (38-of-64, 59.4 percent) while throwing for an average or 252 yards per game in wins over Haverford, Spring-Ford and Coatesville.
In the 28-18 win over Spring-Ford in the quarterfinals Nov. 11, Udinski threw for 331 yards but tossed a pair of interceptions in the second quarter as he battled against the wind on a cold night.
Against Coatesville, Udinski went over 200 yards passing for the 10th time in 2016, threw for one score while another pass turned into a hook and lateral that went for six.
The only blemish on the night was a deflect pass that Frankie De Los Santos intercepted and returned 85 for a touchdown in the fourth. But that only cut the Knights’ lead to 35-19 with 7:35 left. North Penn responded with Nick Dillon scoring his fourth touchdown of the contest.
“You can’t ask for a better night than this, it was awesome,” Udinski said. “So just coming back and being sharp, playing our own game was big. And we knew we were going to try and run and throw the ball like we always do and it just worked in our favor tonight.”
Udinski’s best and most important throw came in the second quarter as he lofted a pass over a Coatesville defender right into the hands of Owen Thomas, who dashed down the sideline for a 68-yard touchdown pass. The TD boosted the Knights’ lead to 21-13 with 3:10 left in the first half.
“We were only up by one at the time so that’s a huge momentum change for us,” Udinski said. “Going into halftime with an eight-point lead it was huge getting that long touchdown pass. Owen’s been big for us. He’s probably had about six touchdowns, having that connection again was big.”
Thomas, who ended the night with two catches for 96 yards, has a total of 12 catches this season, seven going for touchdowns.
In the third quarter, a Udinski throw aided in pushing NP’s advantage to 28. The senior QB connected with Jake Hubler, who then lateralled to Dillon, the senior running back going 53 yards to cap the hook and lateral with a touchdown.
“From right off the bat, our line was playing great,” Udinski said. “Nick Dillon was running the ball well and on a night like this it’s perfect weather so we can kind of mix it up well and it was just a real great success.”
• North Penn moved to 3-0 against Coatesville in the District 1 playoffs under coach Dick Beck. The Knights beat the Red Raiders in the AAAA first round in 2005 (27-13) and 2013 (31-0).
• The Knights are 6-4 in district finals — all in Class AAAA before this season — under Beck. North Penn has lost in its last two district championship appearances, falling to Neshaminy 42-7 in 2013 then lost to Upper Dublin 46-21 in 2015.
• NP’s last district title came in 2011 when it defeated Council Rock South 34-14 in 2011 for its second straight 4A crown. The Knights went on to beat La Salle 21-14 in the PIAA semifinals before falling to Central Dauphin 14-7 in the state final.
• North Penn was the 11th seed when it made it district title run in 2011. Garnet Valley in 10th, having pulled off three straight upsets to reach this year’s final. After beating No. 7 Central Bucks South 21-14 in the opening round, the Jaguars handed both No. 2 Neshaminy — 42-14 in the quarters — and No. 3 Perkiomen Valley their only losses of 2016.
• Garnet Valley is the first Central League team to reach the final in District 1’s largest class since Ridley in 2009. Ridley topped North Penn 19-10 that season. That game was Knights’ last against a Central League side until they routed Haverford 56-7 in district first round Nov. 4.