PHILADELPHIA >> Don’t tell Strawberry Mansion that it can’t win with 13 players.
So what if coach Steven Quigley added two more guys to the roster Friday. Those present were ready to show what they could accomplish.
That much was true following Saturday’s season opener with Delco Christian.
As the saying goes … only in the Pub. And you shouldn’t underestimate the Strawberry Mansion Knights.
Two fourth-quarter touchdowns, including a 96-yard connection between quarterback William Pope and running back Daquan Perkins, lifted Mansion to an improbable, 12-6 victory over Delco Christian at the 29th Street Stadium.
DC moved the ball inside the red zone with three minutes to play and looked to score the game-winning touchdown. Quarterback Luke Gutowski rumbled straight ahead to the five-yard line when the ball popped loose. A Mansion player emerged with it.
On the ensuing play, Perkins caught a pass on a quick slant and raced through the DC secondary 96 yards to paydirt.
“We knew the space would be open,” Perkins said. “They blitz every time, so we knew if we had enough time to get the ball off, I could make my move and try to do what I can do.”
What Perkins can do is run. Really fast.
Has he ever run that far before?
“Never,” Perkins said, flashing a wide smile. He wanted to celebrate this win just a little while longer.
“We got through it,” Perkins said. “We all stick together and stay strong.”
For Gutowski, a first-time quarterback and senior leader on Delco Christian, he wishes he could replay his final carry of the game. He paced the visiting Knights with 137 yards on 21 carries.
“We had a lot of fumbled snaps on my part,” Gutowski said. As a team DC fumbled eight times, but lost only the one. “It’s about getting the timing down, getting the chemistry down with my teammates. We just need to get better.
“That (last fumble) was completely my fault. I should’ve held on to the ball. I should’ve had it locked into my armpit. I lost it at the last second.”
On defense, the Knights allowed the one big play, but kept Mansion’s spread offense at bay for most of the day. Going into halftime, Mansion was held to only two first downs. After intermission, Pope (16-for-28, 236 yards) and his receivers started to hit their stride.
“They had two good plays where they broke it open,” Gutowski said. “They were quick, they were fast. You’re going to face that all season. We have to be ready for it.”
Delco Christian coach Drew Pearson pointed the finger at himself for putting his defense in a tough spot prior to Mansion scoring its first touchdown in the fourth quarter. DC had a 4th-and-6 at its 24-yard line. Instead of punting — which is something Pearson’s teams rarely do — the coach had confidence that his run-heavy wishbone offense could get the necessary yardage. Alas, Gutowski fell a yard shy of the first down, therefore enabling Mansion to work with a short field. Moments later, Pope threw a 21-yard strike to Nigee Carter to tie the game, 6-6.
“We did some really good things … but the execution wasn’t there,” Pearson said. “You can magnify everything after a tough loss. We were resilient in keeping them out of the end zone a couple of times, which I thought was really positive.”
DC’s defense made two huge stands in the third quarter. The first, on a fumble recovery, led to a 13-play, 95-yard drive capped by Jalen Mitchell’s three-yard scoring plunge.
Later in the quarter, Peter Grieb and Mitchell each had a pass deflection in the end zone. On fourth down, Mitchell made a nice tackle to stop Mansion a yard shy of a first down.
“It was a game that was going to come down to who was going to wear down first,” Pearson said. “At the end, we got tired. After that fumble, there’s a time right there for us to do what we needed to do. One play, they score. They had that play for 96 yards and then earlier when they didn’t get the fourth down, they got the ball close (to the end zone) and they scored. That’s just who were are, though.
“I was proud of our kids in the second half. We got a goal line stand and we marched 95 yards. We did it again, but that time we just couldn’t punch it in.”