SPRINGFIELD >> As District 1’s top seed in the Class 5A playoffs, Springfield entered its opening-round game against Central League rival Penncrest with a business-like approach.
When the visiting Lions put up a strong first quarter, the Cougars did not flinch and subsequently dismantled the Lions with a bruising running attack, timely passing, and a smothering defense for a 38-0 victory.
Despite some early scuffling, it was not a bad way to start the playoff season for the Cougars.
“I think we had a little bit of nerves, but they stayed after it,” said Springfield coach Chris Britton, whose team improved to 11-0. “I think after they started to trust each other, things started to work. Sometimes you just have to be patient and wait for your moments.”
Without feature back Ja’Den McKenzie, who missed the game due to an ejection for picking up two personal fouls against Haverford last week, the Cougars used a variety of weapons to pound away at the Penncrest defense.
Primarily, though, it was running back Phil Shovlin, who saw the majority of the action in McKenzie’s absence. Shovlin was a force.
“All week I was grindin’ and workin’ hard and I think it showed today,” Shovlin said. “We’re excited to get Ja’Den back and with both of us back there it’s going to be scary.”
The senior running back racked up 189 yards on 26 carries to pace the offense and had two second half touchdowns to put the game away.
“That’s what he’s done all year long,” Britton said. “I thought he ran hard and I thought he ran smart and I’m proud of him.”
A second quarter outburst paved the way for the Cougars.
“We knew we started off a little slow with no points in the first quarter and we had to change that,” Shovlin said. “That’s not going to fly in the playoffs.”
Quarterback Jack Psenicska led the second quarter onslaught. Psenicska, who completed 15 of 20 passes for 119 yards, scored on a sneak for a touchdown before hitting Frank Durham, Jr. for a nine-yard scoring pass.
For good measure, Jack Coary booted a 32-yard field goal and the Springfield special teams unit registered a safety on a botched kickoff return. By halftime, it was 19-0 and the Cougars were in no danger of an early exit.
“We’re extremely confident. We can run the ball when we want to and we can throw the ball when we want to,” Shovlin said. “Our offense is the best offense in Delaware County.”
Psenicska turned in an excellent effort as he ran the Cougars’ offense with aplomb. He hit six receivers en route to keeping the Lions’ defense off-balance all night.
In addition to a strong offensive effort, the Cougars defense continued its formidable play by limiting the Lions to just 190 yards of total offense on the night, most of which came late in the game.
“They came out strong and we came out a little slow,” said defensive lineman Justin Shields. “We picked it up after halftime. They came out and punched us in the mouth and we had to wake up. You have to give them credit.”
Among the many defensive standouts, Shields registered 1.5 sacks and was a menace with Kevin Deal on the defensive line, while Kyle Long and Andrew Gildea each had interception. For good measure, junior Chris Ringwalt scooped up a Penncrest fumble and raced 81 yards to the end zone for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
“We’re a good football team, but we’ve got to get better each week,” Shields said. “We can’t have any let downs; we just have to keep winning.”
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