TOWAMENCIN >> North Penn starters thought their night was done, but when their replacements had a rough time holding off a Central Bucks East rally Friday night, the Knights’ starters were pressed back into duty.
It wound up serving as a pretty nice encore for Justis Henley.
“It was a long game,” Henley said with a smile afterwards, “but I don’t mind playing.”
After East sliced a 41-15 halftime deficit down to 51-36 early in the fourth, Henley put things to rest when he hauled in a 42-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Steve DePaul, and the Knights went on to a 57-43 marathon victory over the Patriots in a Suburban One League Continental Conference battle at Crawford Stadium.
“Coach (Dick) Beck gave me opportunities. He kept calling my name, kept giving me opportunities to make plays. And I just wanted to come through for him,” Henley said.
— Kev Hunter (@khunter10) October 7, 2017
The senior scored on a 12-yard run and on a 45-yard reception in the first half. And once the game developed into a basketball-type pace, Henley provided the slam dunk, beating single coverage and racing down the middle of the field to catch DePaul’s deep ball in stride for the 42-yard clincher.
“Steve threw a great ball,” Henley said. “That was probably the third or fourth time we ran that play and Coach Beck kept calling my number. Steve threw a great ball and I just wanted to catch it, make a play on it.”
“Sometimes we call the play and they’re giving you Justis,” Beck said of the opposing defense, “and you just gotta take him. If they’re giving you the guy that you like the most with the ball in their hands, Steve’s gotta take him.”
DePaul found Henley six times in the game for 169 yards, as North Penn won its fifth in a row to raise its record to 5-2 overall and a perfect 4-0 in the conference.
North Penn gave up some points, but in turn the Knights kept finding many ways to score. North Penn cashed in on the ground, through the air, returned an interception for a score and ran a kick all the way back on a warm Homecoming Night at Crawford.
Fittingly, the Knights scored on their first offensive series.
A six-play drive was capped off by a two-yard touchdown run by Khan Jamal, making it 7-0.
North Penn doubled its lead moments later when Owen Thomas intercepted a pass by East quarterback Evan O’Donnell, returning it 53 yards for a touchdown and a 14-0 NP advantage.
East (3-4, 2-2 conference) cut the margin in half when O’Donnell scored the first of his five rushing touchdowns on a 13-yard run to make it 14-7. That was the start of a second quarter in which the two teams combined for 42 points.
The Knights widened the gap to 20-7 when DePaul hit Jake Walton for a 22-yard TD pass but then East struck back with a one-yard sneak by O’Donnell and a two-point pass from O’Donnell to kicker Michael Smigley.
All the rest of the scoring in the half was done by North Penn.
K.J. Cartwright returned the ensuing kickoff for 80 yards to quickly make it 27-15.
And then two scores by Henley — one on a 12-yard run and the other on a 45-yard reception — boosted it to 41-15, completing a busy first half.
“We just had to execute our plays, fix mistakes that we made,” Henley said of the Knights’ 27-point second quarter.
North Penn put in several reserves in the third quarter but East began to mount a comeback.
“I regret not scoring, taking a knee at the end of the half,” Beck said. “It got a little hairy there (in the second half) and we had kids that were sitting most of the half having to go back in. We gotta do a better job with the (second string) on defense.”
North Penn added to its lead, making it 44-15 on a 25-yard field goal by Kelly Macnamara, who had an eventful halftime, as she was in the running for Homecoming Queen, earning Runner-Up honors.
After East scored on a two-yard run by O’Donnell, making it 44-22, the Knights came back with a three-yard push into the end zone by Xzavier Gorski, whose big third quarter included six carries for 60 yards and a TD.
O’Donnell (149 passing yds, 32 yds rushing) scored from a yard out for East and then things got interesting when DeJohn Armstrong scooped up a North Penn fumble and returned it 29 yards for a score, making it 51-36 with six minutes to play.
“I’m really proud of the way our guys played,” Patriots coach John Donnelly said. “We didn’t take care of the ball in the first half (five turnovers). (Evan) is a tough kid. He’s gritty, he took a shot and didn’t know if he was gonna play in the second half but came out slinging.
“Hopefully we have a lot of football left in us.”
After East got within 15, the Knights had to go back to work, and Henley was back on the field and soon back in the end zone.
“I thought Steve (DePaul) for the most part had a real good night (10-of-17, 252 yds, 3 TD) and obviously Justis is just Justis,” Beck said. “He’s special.”