LANGHORNE >> Neshaminy wasted no time proving their worthiness of the No. 1 seed in Disrtict 1’s Class 6A.
Joel Stills ran for 238 yards and three touchdowns, while Cory Joyce added two interceptions in the Redskins’ 42-21 win over No. 16 Spring-Ford Friday night.
“Joel’s come on strong for us as a running back this year, after moving over from wide receiver,” said Neshaminy head coach Steve Wilmot.
Neshaminy scored touchdowns on five of their first six possessions, and the contest was shaping up as a pure shootout until Joyce got involved.
Joyce’s first INT set up Neshaminy with a short field in the second quarter, ending a seesaw battle of touchdowns by the respective offenses.
“They ran a crossing route, and the coaches allow me to be more aggressive in those situations,” said Joyce. “I was able to jump on it.”
Neshaminy went into halftime with a 21-13 lead, and came out on fire, taking only six plays to go 66 yards and extend their lead to 28-13 behind the second of Stills’ three TD runs. Spring-Ford would use most of the quarter to embark on an 80-yard drive of its own, with Justin DeFrancesco tallying his third TD of the night to go with 155 rushing yards. But on the ‘Skims next play, Joyce took a swing pass from quarterback Brody McAndrew 33 yards to the house, giving Neshaminy back its two-score lead.
Spring-Ford was unable to respond, and Neshaminy moved into next week’s quarterfinals with arch-rival Pennsbury.
“That’s always a great atmosphere, it’s a great rivalry, and in the playoffs… what an experience for our kids,” said Wilmot.
“They’re gonna be upset after the last game (last week’s 21-20 Neshaminy win) but we’ll be prepared,” said Joyce. “Both of us are going to get the other’s best shot.”
The first half was a battle of the offenses, led by respective running backs DeFrancesco and Stills. SF got the game started with a 13-play, 60-yard drive capped off by DeFrancesco’s 4-yard TD plunge. Stills and the ‘Skins responded with a six-play drive capped off by the senior’s 21-yard scamper off a bobbled snap.
The Rams regained the ball and marched 50 yards into Neshaminy territory near the end of the first quarter, but stalled in the red zone and were forced to attempt a 32-yard field goal, which fell just short into a stiff breeze. Neshaminy took over, embarking upon a methodical 15-play, 80-yard drive culminating in bruising fullback Oleh Manzyk’s 1-yard TD run for a 14-7 lead.
Neshaminy’s Joyce intercepted Pergine at midfield on the ensuing drive, taking the ball back to the SF 24, with Mike Crescenzo taking the ball in for a 11-yard score and a 21-7 Neshaminy lead. DeFrancesco responded with his second TD, a 36-yard run on a zone read carry on 4th and 2, bringing the Rams within 8 at the break after a blocked PAT.
But the night belonged to Neshaminy and Stills, who was quick to credit his line and coaches for the career-high performance.
“All I really had to do was make my reads off what they gave me,” he said.
For the Rams, an up-and-down season ends at 6-5, but also with the knowledge that they gave the district’s top team their best shot, creating a contest that was up for grabs through three quarters.
“Neshaminy played mistake-free, they kept moving the chains … if we get some of those stops earlier, we had a shot,” said Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker. “We told the players all week, no one gives you a shot in this game. We just needed to compete, and they did everything we asked them to do.”
It was the last game for Spring-Ford’s senior class, including the prolific backfield tandem of DeFrancesco and quarterback TJ Pergine.
“Four years went by so fast, and I couldn’t ask for a better team or a better experience,” said Pergine. “I’m looking forward to taking the things I learned here to college with me.”
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