WESTTOWN – Coming into the District 1 Class AAAA playoffs, head coaches can only hope their teams play good solid football and let the chips fall where they may.
Friday night at a frigid West Chester Rustin High School, the Golden Knights played excellent football and did things the way they have been doing them for years under head coach Mike St. Clair.
Rustin blocked and tackled well, chewed up the clock with a great running game led by Terry Loper’s 284 yards and hit some big passes when the opportunity arose. In other words, the Knights played Rustin football. It all added up to a convincing 47-13 first-round triumph over Conestoga.
The third-seeded Golden Knights will face No. 6 Upper Dublin, who defeated Council Rock North, in the quarterfinals next Friday at Rustin at 7 p.m.
Loper was the big show as he destroyed the Pioneers (7-4), scoring three touchdowns on runs of four, 33 and 60 yards. Loper got things going on Rustin’s first drive as he ended a 12-play, six-plus minute drive going in from the four out to make it a 7-0 game.
“It is great having Terry back there because everybody keys on him all the time,’ Rustin quarterback Evan Wylock said. “He just keeps moving forward and the defense thinks he is getting the ball all the time and that opens up other things.’
After Conestoga scored on a tipped pass of 63 yards from Tim Miller to Parke Schweiter to make it 7-7, the Golden Knights (10-1) took complete control. Loper ripped off scoring runs of 33 and 60 yards to build a 21-7 advantage early in the second. Conestoga tried to come back, but was stopped on a fourth-down try and Rustin struck again.
No matter what the Whippets tried, there was simply no stopping Snorweah on this night. The future Scarlet Knight had touchdown runs of 66, 64, 55, 41, 16, 11, and 3 yards, carving up West’s defense and continually keeping the visitor’s relentless upset bid at arm’s length. Snorweah’s 439 yards are tied for eighth all-time in District 1 history.
Still, West refused to go quietly. Seeking their first quarterfinal berth since 2009, the underdog Whippets never faded in the face of one back-breaking Snorweah run after another. Senior quarterback Tyler McNulty kept the Whippets in it all night, throwing for 405 yards and five touchdowns in his final high school game.
“We fought to the end,’ McNulty said. “We never hung our heads, and we put 55 points up against a very good defense. I told the guys that we were either going to come home with our shields or on our shields, and we most certainly are going home on our shields.’
Even shields likely would not have helped the defenses on a chilly night in Fairless Hills. Each team scored on its first play from scrimmage, McNulty answering an opening 55-yard rumble by Snorweah with a 75-yard strike to classmate Jimmy DiSantis, who caught six passes for 144 yards.
Despite losing running back Jake Barr, who gave the Whippets 1,000 yards of total offense and 22 touchdowns in the regular season, a week ago and watching top wideout Thomas Mattioni go down early in the game, West went into intermission trailing just 21-14 after Michael Riddick powered in from a yard out with 35 seconds left in the half.
But Snorweah kept up his onslaught after halftime, pushing Pennsbury to a 35-14 lead with touchdown runs on back-to-back Falcon plays, the last a 64-yard dash. Pennsbury led 42-21 after thee quarters before McNulty rallied the Whippets again, guiding back-to-back scoring drives and hitting Ben Carbone (5 catches, 78 yards) for a 10-yard touchdown that made it 42-35 with 8:14 remaining. That capped a drive that started after the Falcons fumbled on the kickoff return, setting West up with a short field at the 25-yard line.
After another Snorweagh score, McNulty found Riddick in the flat for a seven-yard hookup, cutting the deficit to 49-41 with 5:16 to play. When Pennsbury recovered the ensuing onside kick and handed to Snorweah three times for 53 yards to paydirt, all hope looked lost.
McNulty, however, wasn’t ready to end his career just yet. The senior picked up a pair of fourth downs, the second on a 16-yard connection with Carbone, before scoring on a six-yard keeper and bringing West to within 56-48 with 1:02 remaining. Pennsbury’s Rob Daly squelched the Whippets’ upset bid for good, snaring the ensuing onside kick and racing 49 yards to the end zone for the clinching touchdown with 56.4 ticks left. For good measure, McNulty led one last scoring drive, hitting Braden Harper for a 10-yard touchdown with 9.5 seconds left.
“We were all warriors tonight,’ McNulty said. “Pennsbury is a very good football team, and they just beat us tonight. If we play that game 10 times, I don’t think they beat us 10 times. I think it’s about five to five.
“The motto of Downingtown West football is heart, and we certainly showed that tonight, even in defeat.’
“Tyler has been a great kid for two years,’ Milano said of his quarterback. “He is relentless, and they follow him. He’s an awesome leader and a great quarterback.’
In a season of near misses, Milano’s Whippets proved they belong with anyone in the area with one last fight to the finish.
“We played one bad game all year, against Downingtown East,’ Milano said. “We’re the best 6-5 team I’ve ever coached. We are. These are awesome kids who fight to the very end.’