QUAKERTOWN >> Pennridge entered Alumni Field with a turkey-sized chip on its shoulder and came away with its most satisfying win of the season.
“Quakertown was on a five-game win streak, we were on a three-game losing streak, and we thought the Neshaminy (first-round playoff) game got taken away from us. So there was a lot of emotion going into this game,” said Rams senior fullback and outside linebacker Joe Robinson. “The whole team wanted it.
“We were preparing for this game ever since we walked off the field at Neshaminy. All we thought about was Quakertown. We were all ready to go, we practiced all week, and we were ready. I thought we practiced this week better than we did all year.”
Robinson got the scoring started less than four minutes into the contest, and Pennridge was on its way to a robust offensive performance in a 55-27 Thanksgiving Day victory over rival Quakertown.
“It felt great, especially after dropping the last three games to (Quakertown) — and some close games,” said Rams senior wide receiver and free safety Ryan Cuthbert, whose all-around performance included two grabs for 71 yards and a touchdown as well as a pair of interceptions. “It was nice to end on a win and get it pretty handily.”
It was a complete victory for the Rams (6-6), with all the trimmings.
Robinson rumbled for a pair of scores and added an INT, Cuthbert’s hands were key on both sides of the ball, Jagger Hartshorn scored on defense as well as gaining 129 yards on 15 carries, and Austin Herrlinger caught a touchdown pass from Hartshorn and ran for another.
“These guys will remember this game forever,” Rams coach Jeff Hollenbach said.
In the final seconds of a wild, back-and-forth first half, momentum forever tilted in Pennridge’s direction when Cuthbert was on the receiving end of an 11-yard TD pass from quarterback Oliver Jervis.
Both coaches pointed to this play in particular as the game’s turning point.
“That was a picture-perfect play,” Hollenbach said of the score, which transformed an eight-point lead into a 15-point cushion at the break. “It was a beautiful throw, a beautiful catch, and we needed that going into halftime.”
“I think the big momentum swing that really hurt us was the touchdown before half,” Panthers coach George Banas said. “I think that was the big one.”
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Pennridge received the second-half kickoff and went back to work. On 3rd-and-8 at the Ram 37, Jervis found Cuthbert deep down the right sideline and the senior made the catch, broke away from two defenders, and completed a 60-yard gain, dragged down just three yards short of the goal line.
Robinson did the rest, scoring his second TD to extend the visitors’ advantage to 41-20.
Back-to-back touchdowns by Herrlinger — a five-yard run and an 11-yard reception — boosted the margin to 55-20 and enforced a running clock.
The final points of the afternoon — fittingly — were scored by Noah Wood, who capped a stellar career at Quakertown (6-6) with three touchdowns and 153 yards of tough running.
“This senior group, I’m really proud of them,” Banas said. “They could have bagged this thing at (the 1-5 start to the season). And they didn’t. That senior group came together and never let things go in the opposite direction.
“They turned things around, got five wins in a row, and finished .500, with 18 of 22 starters lost from last year.”
The Panthers came out firing early, with Austin Clarke hitting a quick slant to Tim Shevlin, who raced away to a 75-yard score that tied the contest 7-7.
That was just the beginning.
A little over a minute later, Josh Pinkney broke free for the Rams, his 40-yard score putting Pennridge back in front 14-7. A 38-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Hartshorn made it 21-7 before Quakertown ended the first quarter with a 60-yard TD run by Wood, tightening things up to 21-13.
A 29-yard Jervis-to-Kelly connection stretched the gap to 28-13 until Wood plunged in from three yards away, slicing the deficit to 28-20.
Jervis hit Cuthbert with just four seconds to go in the half and Pennridge was on its way.
“The Neshaminy loss, in the playoff game, was a bitter loss,” Hollenbach said. “And these guys felt like they wanted to prove something, which we did. This was just an awesome game that they played.”