Goal-line stand by Pennsbury secures Falcons 21-14 District 1-AAAA championship win over Coatesville

FRANCONIA — Offense can excite you. It can thrill you. Sometimes, it can send you to the moon.

Ahhhh, but defense.

Defense wins championships.

A week after giving the ball back to the offense deep in enemy territory not once, but twice in the second half of its district semifinal win over Upper Dublin, the Pennsbury defense came through on the biggest of stages, throwing down the gauntlet in a goal line stand in the closing moments of today’s District 1 Class AAAA championship win over top-seeded Coatesville (13-1).

A year after being ousted from the tournament in the quarterfinals by North Penn, Pennsbury (13-1) is the new District 1 Class AAAA champion. While senior running backs Charles Snorweah (33 carries, 205 yds., TD) and Raheem Thompson (18, 105 yds., TD) combined on 310 yards rushing and two touchdowns, much of the credit goes to the defense.

The Falcon-D held Red Raiders junior quarterback Jordan Young to under 100 yards passing. The Coatesville QB came into the game averaging over 200 yards tossing the football. He’d also thrown 20 TD passes.

Pennsbury held him scoreless through the air in this one.

“We knew they were going to pass the ball a little bit on us in this game,’ said Falcons junior linebacker Greg Lichtenstein. “We knew we had trouble with that throughout the playoffs so we tightened down, we did what we were supposed to do and we got the result we wanted.’

With Pennsbury on top 21-14, the Red Raiders had driven the ball 72 yards to the Falcons 5 yard line with 1:20 to go in the contest. On first down, it held Coatesville standout running back Jalen Hudson (20 carries, 125 yds.) to just two yards. Second down saw senior LB Jordan O’Neill tackle Hudson for what seemed like a loss.

From there, Pennsbury’s big men took over. Seniors Sam Raywood (6-1, 375 lbs.) and Austin O’Neill (5-11, 264) together with sophomore Maurice Stukes (6-7, 350) stuffed Raiders quarterback Jordan Young on successive carries, stopping him at the 1 yard line on third down with 42 seconds left then finally throwing him backwards on fourth down with 30 seconds to go in the title tilt.

“We saw them come out in a goal line formation so we knew we had to come up big here,’ said Lichtenstein.

“We put the beef up front, pushed them back and let the linebackers go to work and get the stop.

“We stopped them three times in a row and we got it.’

In the first half with the Falcons on top 14-0, the Pennsbury defense stopped the vaunted Coatesville offense on four of five drives. Heck, the Falcon-D would have pitched a shutout in the first half if not for a phantom sideline infraction called on Pennsbury on a fourth-down-and-eight pass that was broken up by Anthony Pitts.

To their credit, the Raiders took advantage of the second opportunity and converted the more manageable 4th-and-3 on a 17-yard shovel pass to senior Ahkema Evans. Coatesville finally got on the board on a 9-yard keeper up the middle by Young that cut the deficit to 14-7.

While the Raiders came out in the third quarter and tied it at 14-all on a 10-yard TD scamper by Hudson, the Falcons responded with an 8-play, 58-yard TD drive that was capped by a 15-yard scoring scamper by QB Mike Alley.

On top 21-14, Pennsbury’s defense tossed a 3-and-out series at Coatesville when it was ruled that a pass to senior WR Jay Stoker bounced off the turf.

Now in the fourth quarter, the time left in the battle was becoming a factor. The Falcons took a lot of time off the clock when they drove from their own nine to the 42 yard line in 10 plays, though they were forced to punt with 5:10 to go.

Taking over at their own 25 yard line, the Raiders used a shovel pass to Hudson that went for eight yards, a pass to Stocker that put them in Pennsbury territory at the 39, three straight runs by Hudson that got them down to the 19, one more by Evans that put them on the 13 and two more by Jalen that got them down to the three.

Try as they might, Coatesville would go no further. With 30 ticks to go on the clock, the Pennsbury offense ran the clock out, securing for the Falcons their first District 1 championship since 2006.

The Raiders’ final drive wasn’t the only goal line stand put forth by Pennsbury. While Coatesville’s second possession was stopped at the 47 yard line on a sack by senior DE Kevin James, the ensuing punt was muffed by Rob Daley, giving the ball back to the Raiders at the Falcons 26 yard line.

While a run by Hudson and another by Young put the ball on the 10, Falcons defenders Jeremiah Wells and Nick Paragano teamed up to tackle Hudson for a loss of six yards on ensuing rushes and Pennsbury senior DE Ashanti Rumph sacked Young to force a Coatesville field goal attempt that was just shy of the crossbar.

Of coarse, the offense owes a debt of gratitude to Snorweah who gives the defense a lead to play with week in and week out. Charles gave the Falcons a 7-0 lead right away when he raced 75 yards down the right sideline for a touchdown on Pennsbury’s first play from scrimmage.

“He’s a great player — I’ve never seen a player like him in my life,’ said Lichtenstein. “I wouldn’t want to go up against him.’

“It’s awesome having him on the team. You know when you put the ball in his hands, something good is going to happen.’

Pennsbury is your District 1 champion a year after being ousted from the tournament in the quarterfinals by North Penn and two years after losing a D-1 opener to Pennridge on a missed extra point. The Falcons advance to the PIAA semifinals where they will face defending state champion St. Joseph’s Prep a 34-30 winner over Parkland.


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