Alley, Pennsbury outlast Pennridge

EAST ROCKHILL >> While it’s a cliche likely as old as the game itself, football really is a four-quarter contest.
After two quarters Friday night, it would have been easy to call Pennsbury an easy winner over Pennridge. Take only the second half, and it was the Rams that looked like conquerors.

Despite a remarkable third quarter, Pennridge couldn’t rally past Pennsbury as the Falcons emerged with a 38-32 win at Helman Field in a wild game that came down to the last possession.

“We’re a good football team, that’s what it comes down to in my mind,” Rams coach Jeff Hollenbach said. “Pennsbury is a heck of a team and I knew this was going to be a battle. I was preaching all week, this is a battle of me to see who wins this game. I was really almost shocked by how that first half went.”

From the first possession, it was clear Pennsbury planned to pound the ball over and over again on the ground. That’s no surprise, given the Falcons’ success with the run, but Pennridge still had to stop them.

For most of the first half, the Rams simply could not. Pennridge has admirable size on its offensive and defensive fronts, but what Pennsbury brought to the table was something else. With the big guys up front bulldozing, it let backs Dalton Hose and Chris Rupprecht wear down the Rams.

Mark C Psoras--The Reporter Pennsbury's Chris Rupprecht ,40, races away from Pennridge's Dan Hockman ,2, and Rams defenders.
Mark C Psoras–The Reporter
Pennsbury’s Chris Rupprecht ,40, races away from Pennridge’s Dan Hockman ,2, and Rams defenders.

Rupprecht, the grinding fullback, capped the first drive with a 37-yard touchdown run, showing he wasn’t just a few yards and a cloud of turf pellets type of runner. Big quarterback Mike Alley also showed prowess in the run game, chalking up 128 yards by the half with three runs over 20 yards including a 40-yard TD run in the second quarter.

Rob Daly added some sizzle to Pennsbury’s power with a 56-yard touchdown run on the team’s second possession. The shifty runner made a cutback in the Rams’ half that shook him free and into an open lane for the score.

Pennridge’s defense did make a few stops after it went to 14-0, but Alley ran for 77 of Pennsbury’s 89 yards on a mid-second quarter drive to push the lead to 22-0 after he also dove in for two.

“Our line, they did a great job, all of our linemen, they had an awesome game,” Alley said. “They were on their guys and they weren’t coming off of them. They did exactly what they’re taught and they executed very well.”

The Rams did come right back down the field on the arm of DeVon Balmer, getting a powerful 12-yard run by Judens DesRosiers to put six on the board. But Pennsbury ran an effective two-plus minute drill to respond.

Alley capped the seven-play, 67-yard drive with a dart to Vinnie Ratamess, who made a nice grab in the end zone with six seconds left in the half. Pennsbury took a 30-6 lead into the half. The one-handed catch and subsequent two-point conversion would come into play throughout the second half.

“Everything kind of went wrong for us,” Hollenbach said. “The play at the end of the half here was a killer. They made a play, a great play. If we don’t give them those eight points, maybe it’s a different scoreboard situation. But I’m proud of the way the kids came back.”

Momentum favored Pennsbury out of the break as Ryan Gordon lost a fumble at the Rams’ 33-yard line on Pennridge’s second play. The Falcons covered 33 quick yards, capping it with a score when Alley hit Hose for 16 yards and a score. The two-point conversion made it 38-6.

That sparked something in Pennridge and the listless Rams burst to life. On the ensuing drive, a holding call wiped out a TD run by Balmer but thanks to a personal foul on Pennsbury, the Rams came right back down the field and Balmer scored one that counted. The senior had a strong game with 157 passing yards and 37 rush yards and it was his arm that spurred a good deal of the rally.

Pennridge caught Pennsbury off-guard with an onsides kick and Austin Herrlinger recovered the ball 33 yards from another score. That’s just what happened four plays later when Gordon blitzed his way in with a 22-yard scoring run.

The Rams kicked normally but got a gift when Alley fumbled and DesRosiers recovered. Pennridge only picked up four yards but got points when Matt Mauer drilled a 39-yard field goal to make it 38-23 with 5:38 left in the third.

After forcing a Falcons punt, Pennridge’s improbable run continued when Balmer hit Joe Robinson for an eight-yard TD to make it 38-29 going into the fourth quarter. The big play on that drive was a 49-yard run by Gordon, who had 93 yards on the ground.

Pennsbury moved the ball well on the next drive, but the Rams’ defense came up with a huge stop when Nick Tarburton tackled Alley on a fourth-down keeper to turn the ball over.

Pennridge nearly scored again but a tremendous interception by Pennsbury’s Nedzad Inbric at the goal line saved a TD. The Rams got another 39-yard kick from Mauer with 1:36 left but Ibric again bailed out the Falcons when he recovered the onsides kick.

“It puts momentum back in our hands and we know we have to get that first down to win the game,” Alley said. “Big players make big plays and that’s exactly what Ned did.”

Alley sealed the game up with a three-yard gain on a 4th-and-2 with 1:15 left in the game. Alley ended the game with 170 yards rushing, a game-high and 50 passing yards. His last three yards made sure his team’s first half effort would hold up.

“You’ve gotta go for it,” Falcons coach Galen Snyder said. “If it doesn’t work, I can only get yelled at and it’s not the first time.”

“When Coach called my number I knew he did it for a reason,” Alley said. “He trusted me so I knew I had to go get it for him.”

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