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Offensive line giving Udinski, North Penn time to make big plays

TOWAMENCIN >> The North Penn offense has put up staggering numbers in its run to the PIAA Class 6A semifinals.

The Knights are averaging 41.8 points per game heading into Saturday’s contest with St. Joseph’s Prep with senior quarter Reece Udinski sitting on a District 1 season record of 3,846 yards after tossing for more than 400 yards in the District 1 final.

And it begins with an offensive line that has built experience as North Penn has piled up 14 straight victories.

“You take great pride in it. Every game starts up front. Reece can’t throw for 3,500 yards if he gets sacked and it’s our job to do that,” said NP junior center Matt Bevan after Wednesday’s practice. “We have great talent and skill guys with Reece, Ricky (Johns) and Nick Dillon, and it’s just we do our job and they do theirs.”

Bevan, an All-Suburban One League Continental Conference first team selection at offensive line is joined by senior left tackle Keith Caputo — second team all-conference — senior left guard Joe Cataldi, junior right guard Ryan Cody and the right tackle tandem of senior Woo Sek Chung and Bobby Ryan is creating time and paving the way for an offense that is posting 451.5 yards of total offense a game in 2016.

“I think at the beginning of the year we didn’t have a lot of experience but we really came together well,” Cataldi said. “And started learning our assignments and just really been working hard in the offseason to learn our new positions and give it all we have every practice.”

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North Penn’s Ricky Johns during practice on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

Most of the Knights’ offense this season has come through the air – 277.9 per game – so a big task for the offensive line has keeping the pressure off Udinski so he can find the downfield receiving threats Johns, Justis Henley and Jake Hubler.

“We have to be really strong and we can’t get driven back because we need Reece time to get the job done,” Cataldi said. “When we give him time he can make big plays and get us a win.

In the 48-38 victory over Garnet Valley in the District 1-6A final last Friday, the Jaguars got to Udinski a few times – forcing a fumble returned for a touchdown – but the line’s work aided Udinski in his 444-yard, four-touchdown effort on 23-of-28 passing.

“I think we week we work really hard to prepare for who we’re playing and we made some mistakes but we’ve overall played pretty well and give pretty good protection the past weeks,” Cataldi said.  “And we want to do that again this week.”

In the regular season, the Knights averaged 266.3 yards passing per game but in its four postseason games so far North Penn is posting 320.0 yards a contest.

“We came together well,” Bevan said. “A lot of us are first-year starters. I mean, some of us didn’t even play line last year. I think we came together well and we came together as a unit real well.”

Gene Walsh ó Digital First Media North Pennís Justis Henley during practice for upcoming State Semi-Final game November 30, 2016.

North Pennís Justis Henley during practice on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

While the passing game provided big numbers, the offensive line has led the way for a running game led by senior running back Dillon (1,007 yards, 23 touchdowns) that’s compiled 173.6 yards a game. In the District 1 playoffs, the Knights eclipsed 100 yards on the ground the first three games before going for 72 against Garnet Valley.

“It was a little frustrating last game not being able to run but we knew they were stacking the box heavy,” Bevan said. “You just got play and tough and get moving up front for Nick Dillon.”

This week the task in front of the line is preventing a St. Joseph’s Prep defense that has be giving up just 15.6 points per game from slowing down the Knights. Last week, the Hawks

“Prep runs a lot of different fronts so we just want to be best prepared, be ready for anything, keep our eyes in our stance and just do our job,” Cataldi said.

Top Photo: The North Penn football team warms up before the start of practice on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016 as the Knights prepare for their PIAA Class 6A semifinal against St. Joseph’s Prep on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

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