UPPER DARBY >> Springfield’s running game, which had been so good to start the season, was nonexistent Friday night.
No worries. The Cougars have plenty of other ways to beat teams this year.
In a Central League struggle with Upper Darby, Springfield leaned on its best attributes — the defensive front seven and a quick-strike passing attack. Jack Psenicska was 13-for-19 through the air with 222 yards. Receiver Kyle Long was responsible for 137 yards, six catches and two touchdowns. And defensive end Kevin Deal registered seven tackles and two sacks as Springfield remained unbeaten with a 20-6 victory.
Psenicska, a 6-0, 155-pound junior, has flourished in his first year as the Cougars’ starter. He has completed 66 percent of his pass attempts (39-for-59) for 565 yards and seven touchdowns. The big blows Friday were Psenicska’s connections with Long — a 65-yard strike in the first quarter and a 22-yarder in the third to put the game out of reach.
“I try to get the ball to everyone,” Psenicska said. “Turns out that (Long) was open a few times and made some big plays.”
Although Springfield running backs mustered only 86 yards on 24 carries — Phil Shovlin led the way with 52 yards on 12 touches — Psenicska had plenty of time to survey the field. The Cougars executed play-action fakes and bootlegs while dissecting an athletic Upper Darby secondary.
Psenicska gave love to his line, including tight end Chris Finizio, who caught Psenicska’s second touchdown pass of the night.
“Best O-line in Delco,” Psenicska said.
The Cougars (3-0, 2-0) were dominant on defense, limiting the Royals to 191 yards of offense. Forty-six of those yards came on one play in the fourth quarter when quarterback Josh Gouch found a wide-open Nasir Greer at the 11. Springfield’s defense forced Upper Darby to turn the ball over on downs.
“All during the week, we knew that they would be a tough team to beat,” said Deal, a 6-3, 190-pound senior defensive end. “They stuck it to Garnet Valley last week, played them tough. We knew they would come up ready to play.”
Gouch led the way on the ground with 52 yards, but Upper Darby’s top rusher, Quaran Davis, was kept in check (11 yards, eight carries). Springfield junior linebacker Pat Clemens finished with nine tackles.
“We definitely had a game plan to let our line secure the inside and our backers to contain the outside,” Deal said, “because we knew they had dangerous speed.”
Following a frustrating 22-16 defeat at Garnet Valley a week ago, Upper Darby (1-2, 0-2) was plagued by ineffectiveness on offense. The Royals also racked up 80 yards in penalties.
“Our defense did very well, outside of those few big plays,” said Derrick Korboi, Upper Darby’s outstanding senior defensive lineman, who is garnering college interest from James Madison and Bryant. “They’re a good team. They’re No. 2 in the (Daily Times) Super 7. But the defense did well, I thought. It’s football, though. You’re going to lose now and then.
“(Psenicska) is a quarterback who can run. He’s athletic. But all we saw on film was No. 13 (Ja’den McKenzie) and No. 7 (Shovlin). We stopped the run. We just have to focus all the time and concentrate on what we’re going to do. We’ve got to get better (with limiting penalties), too.”
Korboi was frustrated with himself for a 15-yard unnecessary-roughness call in the second half. As one of the leaders on the team, and a fantastic player to boot, Korboi knows he has to keep his emotions in check.
“He pushed me down and I went over and pushed him, too. I can’t let that happen,” he said. “I have to be calm … all the time. I should be a smart football player and not do dumb stuff. I have to calm down. Something happens in your brain and you just get mad. You can’t let them get in your head.”
Much to the chagrin of Springfield’s defense, the Royals found the end zone with less than a minute to go. Greer was left all alone in the corner for a 35-yard touchdown catch.
“We had a couple of shutouts last year, and a couple of last-minute scores this year,” Deal said. “We want to close it out and leave that goose egg on the board.”
Top photo: Springfield quarterback Jack Psenicska, left, and Kyle Long celebrate a touchdown against Glen Mills earlier this season. The duo teamed up for two passing scores in the Cougars’ 20-8 win over Upper Darby Friday night.