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Leadership on defense makes quick night for Springfield

SPRINGFIELD >> On homecoming Friday, Springfield proved a dangerous team against an overwhelmed opponent.

Whether it was the four turnovers Springfield forced from Harriton — restricting their opponent to a solitary first down before halftime — or putting up five touchdowns prior to the break, the Cougars played a clean, physical game on both sides of the ball.

Harriton never stood a chance in a 42-8 Springfield victory Friday night.

The Cougars broke out of the gate with a touchdown run by Ja’Den McKenzie less than two minutes into the game. McKenzie later one-upped himself with a 40-yard rush on the first play from scrimmage following a Harriton turnover. Springfield scored twice on Harriton turnovers as the team racked up a 28-0 lead with 4:47 left in the first quarter.

Springfield coach Chris Britton attributed much to the success to a core group of defensive seniors who were honored at the homecoming ceremony.

“I don’t need to worry about having four captains, we have 16 captains,” Britton said. “They do the right thing whether I’m around or not.”

Quarterback Jack Psenicska tacked on two touchdowns for a total of 13 this season. Friday night he was 4-for-4 for 66 yards and two touchdowns in less than two quarters of work before giving way to junior Ben Konah, who tallied a rushing touchdown in the second half.

Defensively, the Cougars forced four turnovers in the first half — two fumbles were snatched by middle linebacker Patrick Clemens, another by Donovan Dyitt, and an interception by free safety Ian Deal ended the first half.

Britton called his defensive seniors “the backbone of the team” but praised the underclassmen, like the junior Clemens and sophomore Dyitt.

“Our defense is led by our seniors, but we have some really nice juniors that back it up and (Clemens) is one of them,” Britton said.

Clemens’ two fumble recoveries came within the first three Rams possessions.

“The first one was a missed handoff and the second was a caused fumble, and they both fell right to me,” Clemens said. “I kind of got lucky.”

Britton attributed it to more than luck.

“He seems to be in the right place at the right time,” Britton said. “He’s got a knack for that.”

Tackle Dan Pennestri, who was crowned Homecoming King, said the strong defensive effort this season can be attributed to the close-knit group of seniors he plays amongst.

“I think we work so well together because we’re all friends, we’re playing out there for each other,” Pennestri said. “It’s great, I love it out there, we’re always having fun and that’s what it’s all about.”

Harriton struggled to get going offensively, relying heavily on quarterback Jack Rosenfeld, who rushed 15 times for 41 yards and tacked on a two-point conversion to his 29-yard touchdown throw to Markee Marshall.

The Cougars were off a 6-0 start coming into Friday, having scored 41-plus points in the previous three games. Thanks to the shellacking the Cougars served Friday, they’re now 7-0, with a Delco-leading 18 touchdowns for McKenzie and 21 turnovers forced for the season.

“Since the summer we’ve been working every day, getting better, pushing everybody in the weight room, then on the field my lineman are doing their thing,” McKenzie said. “Once they did their job, I just finish it.”

The second half for the Cougars’ consisted heavily of handing the ball off to junior running back Geo Dotsicas, who carried 19 times for 41 yards and capped it with a 1-yard touchdown in the fourth.

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