Springfield gets physical to knock out Interboro

SPRINGFIELD — There might be only one team in District One Class AAA that can put the brakes on Springfield’s incredible 2014 season.

Actually, that one team that could beat Springfield is Springfield. The Cougars could be their worst enemy.

They are Delaware County’s only undefeated team and the No. 1 seed in the district tournament for good reason. They play physical, lights-out defense that is second to none in the county. They have a strong, athletic quarterback who can run and air the ball out. They have a no-nonsense running back who likes to run straight ahead and not mess around.

The Cougars are a team that can do things that none other has done in Springfield history.

Friday night, the Cougars took the next step in their journey with a 27-6 victory over No. 8 Interboro in the quarterfinal round of districts. Springfield had never won a home playoff game before Friday.

The Cougars play another home game next week against fourth-seeded Pottsgrove, which eliminated defending district champion and fifth-seeded Academy Park.

The Cougars know that allowing their emotions to take over could cost them down the line. They lost at least two players for unsportsmanlike calls Friday night, thrown out for their actions. There was a lot of back-and-forth talk among the Cougars and Bucs, two prideful teams that didn’t want to back down to the other. Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed.

Senior running back Coilin Braconnier, who ripped off 144 hard-fought yards on 23 carries, Allen and defensive back Mike Fleagle all made it a point to mention that whatever extracurricular activity happened on the field is nonsense and doesn’t represent what the Cougars are about. They play with pride and humility, traits that first-year head coach Chris Britton and his first-rate coaching staff have instilled.

“Stupid things here and there that were minor setbacks, but we still came out strong,’ Braconnier said. “We can’t let that stuff happen. We have to be smart.’

Lost in all the pushing and shoving toward the end of the fourth quarter was that fact that Springfield did look awfully impressive. The Cougars defeated the Bucs for the second time this year, forcing six turnovers. Fleagle sealed the win with his second pick of the night and, on the very next play, was the recipient of a 24-yard touchdown from Allen (7-for-12, 118 yards).

“I had a punt return, but that was my first touchdown catch (this year),’ Fleagle said. “(The defensive back) was pressed outside and I was wide open. All I had to do was make a move and Brian threw the ball up there.’

Cougars’ ballhawking secondary was ready for the Bucs’ passing game and senior quarterback Sean Menold, who boasted one of the top passer-efficiency ratings in the county.

On the first play of the game, the Bucs wanted to strike fast. Menold ran a play-action fake and tried finding Mark Everton with a deep ball. But the Cougars had the play sniffed out and Fleagle came down with his first pick.

“Coming out, we knew they might try that deep ball on the first play,’ Fleagle said. “They threw more than we expected, but our run defense is amazing.’

Added Allen: “Mark’s a great player and a great receiver, but the one-man routes to him … it’s kind of easy when you have two guys sticking one person.’

Springfield defensive linemen Josh Sweeney, Brian Layden, Matt Cella and Dan Archibong limited Interboro’s ground game to 75 yards on 26 carries. Also, linebacker Adam Krauter was a monster … but that’s not a surprise to anyone.

Special teams and defense were the name of the game, at least early on. The Cougars’ most underrated player was junior punter Joe Davis, who averaged 36.2 yards per boot and nailed a 52-yarder from deep inside his end zone in the fourth quarter.

“It’s tougher to beat a team twice,’ Braconnier said. “It was stuck in my head and we didn’t want to take this as a light game. Up until the second quarter, we weren’t scoring. It took that one drive to set things off and we just clicked.’

Allen found Quideer Wimes for a 39-yard connection midway through the second. two plays later, Allen took an option 18 yards to paydirt to give the Cougars’ stagnant offense a much-needed boost. From there, the Cougars had kicked the playoff jitters and were off and running.

“This is a great victory — the first home playoff win in our history,’ Allen said. “Once again, the defense played great. They got the big turnovers again tonight. We’ll have to get ready for Pottsgrove now.’

Braconnier sees things only getting better from here, but the nonsense has to stop. That is something the Cougars can all agree on.

“I believe that we can make it all the way,’ he said, “but only if we keep to our game. I don’t see many stopping us because we come out every week prepared and we work our butts off.’

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