LANGHORNE, Pa. – Top-seeded Neshaminy advanced in the District 1 Class 6A Tournament, though they sure did not make it look easy facing 16th-seeded Spring-Ford.
Until the second half.
That’s when the Skins took control, latching onto three turnovers by the visiting Rams including a key interception that junior Cory Joyce snared at the 10 yard line as Spring-Ford attempted to close to within a touchdown with 6:20 left in the fourth quarter.
Neshaminy got a pair of touchdown runs in the second half from senior Joel Stills – he had three in the game – and a 33-yard TD catch by Joyce that helped seal a 42-21 triumph that puts the Skins in the D1 quarterfinals next week versus eighth-seeded Pennsbury, a 17-0 winner over No. 9 CB South.
In the first half, Spring-Ford senior running back Justin DiFrancesco raced for 125 yards and a pair of TDs as the Rams hung close, down just eight points at the intermission.
The Neshaminy defense seemed to solve DiFrancesco in the second half, limiting the Rams senior back to just 30 yards and one TD on 10 carries after the break.
For the game, Stills notched 238 rushing yards and 3 TDs on 29 carries for the Skins.
Up 21-13 at the break, Neshaminy marched down the field on its first possession of the second half, capping a seven-play, 66-yard scoring drive with a 32-yard TD scamper by Stills.
Spring-Ford answered with a 12-play, 80-yard scoring drive that the visitors capped off with a 7-yard TD burst by DiFrancesco, his third trip to the end zone in this game.
The Rams added a two-point conversion run by S-F quarterback T.J. Pergine that drew the visitors back within seven, 28-21.
From there, it took the Skins just two plays to get the ball back into the end zone again and one of them was a kick return by junior Ryan O’Connor all the way to the Spring-Ford 33 yard line.
Neshaminy needed just one play – a 33-yard TD pass from QB Brody McAndrew to Joyce – to go up 35-21 with 4:11 still to play in the third quarter.
As time wound down on the third quarter, the teams traded turnovers – the Rams fumbled at their own 43 with 2:10 left and the Skins threw an interception at the Spring-Ford 27 with 51 seconds showing on the clock.
The Rams missed a golden opportunity to score, however, early in the fourth quarter when they took control of the ball at Neshaminy’s 22 yard line after a bad sack taken at the two yard line by McAndrew and a punt that was partially blocked.
Near the end of the drive, Spring-Ford seemed to have closed the score to 35-28 on an apparent TD pass from Pergine to senior Mitchell Vagnozzi. The touchdown was called back, however, on an illegal shift penalty and Pergine’s next pass wound up in the arms of Joyce.
The Skins finished their night on offense with a nine-play, 90 yard drive capped by a 28-yard TD burst by Stills. Joel’s last two touches on the possession netted 52 yards for Neshaminy.
The Rams fumbled on their last possession, enabling the Skins to end the playoff duel in victory formation.
A key defensive play in the game was an interception by Joyce on Spring-Ford’s first possession of the second quarter. Joyce snatched the ball at the Rams’ 40 yard line and returned it 17 yards to the 23 yard line.
Three plays later, senior Mike Crescenzo put Neshaminy up 21-7 on an 11-yard TD burst up the middle with 2:35 left in the first half. Junior Oleh Manzyk also scored on a 1-yard TD run in the second quarter, putting the Skins up 14-7 with 6:04 left in the half.
DiFrancesco’s biggest run was a fourth-and two play he converted in the second quarter into a 36-yard scoring sprint that turned what could have been a runaway into a horse race.
Coming with 58 seconds left in the first half, it sent Neshaminy into the locker room up by just eight points – 21-13 – instead of two touchdowns. If not for a block by Stills on the extra point attempt, the Rams would have gone into the intermission trailing only by seven.
Stills also intercepted the last pass launched by Pergine before the break.
District 1 Class 6A Tournament
Neshaminy 42, Spring-Ford 21
NESHAMINY (10-1) 7 14 14 7 – 42
SPRING-FORD (6-5) 7 6 8 0 – 21
S-F — Justin DiFrancesco 5 run (Taylor Smith kick)
N — Joel Stills 21 run (Matt Leonhauser kick)
N — Oleh Manzyk 1 run (Leonhauser kick)
N — Mike Crescenzo 11 run (Leonhauser kick)
S-F — DiFrancesco 36 run (Smith kick)
N — Joel Stills 32 run (Leonhauser kick)
S-F — DiFrancesco 7 run (T.J. Pergine run)
N — Cory Joyce 33 pass from Brody McAndrew (Leonhauser kick)
N — Joel Stills 28 run (Leonhauser kick)
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