Springfield’s defense rises to occasion in rout of Strath Haven

SPRINGFIELD >> Last weekend’s Central League loss to Radnor did not sit well with Springfield head coach Chris Britton and his players.

“After that loss, Coach didn’t play around,” senior outside linebacker P.J. Johnson said. “He really worked us hard this week.”

Nick Gorman, the Cougars’ other outside linebacker, backed up Johnson’s statement.

“He put it on us,” Gorman said. “He told us to play our game and get back to winning.”

Strath Haven happened to be next up on the Springfield schedule, and the visiting Panthers felt the wrath of a Cougar defense that gave up only 95 yards of total offense, fell on one fumble and intercepted a pass as the Cougars (2-2, 1-1) rolled to a 35-0 victory Friday night.

“That was better than what we did before,” a satisfied Britton said. “Our defense usually plays this way. They rely on each other and do what they have to do.

“And (junior quarterback Brandon DiChiacchio) is throwing the ball better.”

DiChiacchio was 10-for-15 passing for 174 yards, including scoring strikes to Dan Archibong (11 yards) and Kyle Long (59 yards) in the second quarter as well as 32-yard scoring hookup with Long in the fourth quarter.

“The offensive line gave me great protection,” DiChiacchio said. “There wasn’t much of a rush all night.

“This week we focused on making things simple with our running plays and our (pass) routes.”

The Cougars were methodical in the opening drive of the game, covering 60 yards in nine plays — six runs and three passes, with each completion going for a first down — before DiChiacchio covered the final two yards with a third-down run.

The first Springfield possession of the second yielded a 75-yard march, which took 15 plays to complete. A DiChiacchio to Archibong connection was good for 11 yards and a touchdown 6:48 before halftime.

Springfield’s defense limited Haven to six yards in its next three plays, then the Cougars needed only two snaps to get their third TD, with Long making a great catch before sprinting down the sideline for the score.

“We studied film of their offense and knew what reads to make,” Johnson said, explaining the Springfield defense’s success. “We knew what they would do and were ready for it.

“We knew there were things to clean up (from previous games), and we knew we had to get going and keep going harder.”

Strath Haven turned the ball over at its 5 on its first play of the second half, and Dwayne Snipes ate up those yards on the Cougars’ first snap of the third quarter.

Johnson and Gorman were in the middle of another solid defensive stand just before a short Haven punt late in the third quarter. DiChiacchio and Long got together on a 32-yard touchdown pass on the second play of the fourth quarter.

“This is a big win for us,” Gorman said. “It will help us get our confidence back up. We know if we play our game, we can beat anybody.”

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