NEWTOWN TWP. >> A player being on the field for 90 percent or more of a team’s snaps isn’t out of the ordinary in Class A football, where its on-field contingent can outnumber its counterpart on the bench.
Even by those iron-man standards, however, Luke Gutowski’s involvement in Saturday night’s clash between Delco Christian and Jenkintown registered as stunning.
The Delco Christian quarterback ran for a touchdown. He threw for a score, on a 3-for-3 passing night. On the other side of the ball, the linebacker registered a half-dozen tackles, 1.5 for loss. He recovered a fumble, picked off a pass and blocked a field goal.
And as ever, the top-seeded Knights’ Swiss-army quarterback was their emotional bellwether in a 46-36 win over the No. 2 Drakes in the District 1-2 Sub-Regional.
By ousting their Bicentennial League rival, the Knights (6-5) advance to the regional final against District 2 champ Old Forge (10-1), which topped Lackawanna Trail, 29-22. That game is set for Marple Newtown at 7 p.m. next Friday.
Any which way he could, short of moonlighting as a placekicker, Gutowski led the way.
“Our special teams coach, our defensive coach and our offensive coach are just like, you’ve got to be on the field on all times because you’re a good player,” Gutowski said. “And they tell me to give 100 percent all the time. My dad tells me that all the time. And this is a huge game for us. I didn’t want it to be my last game as a high school football player, so I went hard every play, and it just paid off.”
The defensive interventions proved particularly vital. Delco Christian led 25-21 at halftime in a defense-averse encounter where each team scored two touchdowns within 10-second spans of the first half. By the interval, the game shaped up as belonging to whichever team had the ball last.
Delco Christian seized the initiative out of the break before squandering it, then recapturing it via Gutowski.
Jenkintown (5-5) scored the last 14 points of the first half and was set to receive the second-half kickoff, but the Drakes fumbled away the squib kick, recovered by Jared Nesbitt. The Knights, though, went three-and-out to punt for the first time.
That’s when Gutowski jumped a Patrick Morrin quick slant for an interception at the 20. Five plays later, Jalen Mitchell scooted four yards for his first of three second-half rushing touchdowns, boosting the Knights to a two-score edge that wouldn’t be challenged.
On the ensuing possession, Morrin marched the Drakes to the 13, but one of several ill-conceived rollouts marooned him in the backfield for Jason Motley to strip the ball and Gutowski to pounce.
“He’s just a special player,” Mitchell said of Gutowski. “That’s all I can say.”
Mitchell had a special day, too. He ran for touchdowns of 4, 51 and 15 yards after halftime, bulling through arm-tacklers each time. He finished with 20 carries for 164 yards, plus a 42-yard touchdown when Gutowski feathered a sideline route over a defender and into his waiting hands.
On a young team, the senior running back has heartily embraced the closer’s role.
“I’ve watched great ones do it before … it finally kind of feels like it’s my opportunity, and that’s what happens when you work hard in practice, in the offseason,” Mitchell said. “And God blessed me, he gave me this opportunity. I’ve just got to make the most of it.”
“He’s incredible,” Gutowski said. “Even when the line doesn’t give him a hole or a good look, he makes his own and he goes off. He doesn’t get tackled the first time or the second time.”
Mitchell’s late surge mirrored Nesbitt’s early inspiration. The sophomore ran for two touchdowns in the first half and 99 total yards. His 49-yard burst, the only score of the first quarter, set the early tone for an offense that accrued 316 yards on the ground.
Morrin kept Jenkintown in touch, going 15-for-22 for 212 yards and four scores, plus a running TD. He hit CJ Jackmon for a one-yard score with 1:48 left in the second quarter, then after a fumbled kick by DC, went for the downs on a 37-yard scoring connection to Albert Koniers 10 seconds later.
“It just seemed like the short game was really working,” Morrin said. “Our receivers, they stepped up really big for us. And sometimes you get the long ball, which is really fun to throw.”
Morrin hit Johnson John for a two-yard score midway through the fourth, returning from a charley horse in his already injured right leg and escaping pressure on fourth and goal. He found Koniers for 29 yards in the final minute to pad the score. But he was sacked five times, often while running parallel to an aggressive DC front.
Those green-clad players were just as energetic in mobbing their District 1 trophy, one that literally and figuratively bore Gutowski’s fingerprints all over it.
“It’s great,” Gutowski said. “It shows how good our football program is, and we’re going to keep pounding.”
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