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Top-seeded North Penn advances past Ridley in District 1-6A first round

North Penn's Shamar Edwards carries the ball during the Knights' District 1-6A first round game against Ridley at Wissahickon on Friday, Nov. 2, 2018. (Debby High/For Digital First Media)
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LOWER GWYNEDD >> A waterproof passing attack and two key bursts by R.J. Macnamara in the second half propelled North Penn to a soggy but satisfying 26-16 victory over Ridley in the opening round of the District 1-6A Playoffs.

“Great way to start the playoffs,” said Macnamara, whose touchdown runs of seven and 45 yards helped send the top-seeded Knights onto the quarterfinals.

North Penn’s defense held Ridley — a team averaging about 300 rushing yards a game during its six-game win streak — to just 145 yards on the wet Wissahickon turf, and the undefeated Knights (11-0) advanced — in impressive fashion — to a showdown with old rival Neshaminy.

After a scoreless first quarter, North Penn took a 7-0 lead when quarterback Solomon Robinson fired a deep strike to a wide-open Shamar Edwards, hitting him in stride for a 62-yard score.

“The throw (Solomon) made to Shamar was off the charts,” Knights coach Dick Beck said.

Ridley quarterback John Bakey looks for an open clearing to pass the ball during the Green Raiders’ District 1-6A first round game against North Penn at Wissahickon on Friday, Nov. 2, 2018. (Debby High/For Digital First Media)

And there was more to come.

After Ridley’s Elijah Yakpasuo returned the ensuing kickoff 77 yards for a score, tying the game at seven apiece, Robinson put the Knights ahead once again, connecting with Evan Spann for a 22-yard score and a 13-7 lead at the break.

“I told (Solomon), when he threw the ball to Evan, I said let Evan make a play. Don’t think that he has to be open. Evan will make a play,” Beck said. “And I felt bad because Jon (Haynes) had his guy beat and he got grabbed or he probably would have had a touchdown too.”

“Great throws by Solomon,” echoed Macnamara, “and great routes by the receivers. And the protection was there too.”

With a 13-7 lead, North Penn handed the game over to its ground attack in the second half. Edwards gained 16 to get one drive going, but Ridley would force a punt.

On the next offensive series though, the Knights finished the job, as a 30-yard connection from Solomon to Erik Laughlin put NP in position, and Macnamara found a crease and pushed through for a seven-yard TD and a 19-7 lead with seven seconds left in the third quarter.

“The o-line just stepped up. We made adjustments at halftime and the o-line just stuck to their blocking schemes and we got the scores,” Macnamara said.

After a turnover on downs by Ridley, tough running by Edwards (109 yds) provided a pair of first downs and then Macnamara took it all the way in, breaking away to a 45-yard score and a 26-7 Knights lead with 3 minutes, 34 seconds to go.

A muffed punt by the Knights set up No. 16 Ridley (6-5) for a seven-yard scoring run by quarterback Jack Bakey, cutting the margin to 26-14.

North Penn’s Erik Laughlin holds tightly as he carries the ball during the Knights’ District 1-6A first round game against Ridley at Wissahickon on Friday, Nov. 2, 2018. (Debby High/For Digital First Media)

The Green Raiders, battling until the end, recovered an onside kick as the rain swept across the field in waves. But an interception by Edwards locked things up for North Penn and cemented a solid showing by the defense.

“I thought it was a great effort,” Beck said. “I thought the guys up front really toughened it up.

“I thought our front really beat blocks and I thought the linebackers really found the holes. And we kept the edges pretty well. A couple of times, they got outside a little bit, but for the most part, we really kept them contained inside.”

North Penn’s offense, which began the contest with a punt and two straight turnovers on downs, found its stride just before halftime and never lost it.

“I thought we struggled a little bit in the first half running the ball,” Beck said. “I was a little disappointed we didn’t score. We had a little bit of a mental breakdown up front. But we got it fixed at halftime and I thought the o-line really came out in the second half and came off the ball.”

North Penn quarterbacks Solomon Robinson looks to pass during during the Knights’ District 1-6A first round game against Ridley at Wissahickon on Friday, Nov. 2, 2018. (Debby High/For Digital First Media)

It took a team as solid and as persistent as the Knights to put an end to a remarkable run by Ridley.

“They’re a big, physical team and they wore us down a little bit,” said Green Raiders coach Dave Wood, whose team rallied back from an 0-4 start to reach the postseason. “We needed to control the ball a little bit more and wear them down. And they just did a nice job.

“We had an 0-4 start but in the last six weeks, we made some changes, the kids dedicated themselves, and that’s the way we had to play — hard-nosed, physical football on both sides. Tonight, we made a couple mistakes over the top (in the first half).”

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