Springfield goes Long to keep playoff hopes alive

LOWER MERION >> Currently owning the eighth and final playoff spot in the District One Class AAA power poll, Springfield knew what was at stake Friday against winless Harriton.

After some initial sluggishness, the Cougars rolled and eventually cruised to a running clock-induced 63-6 victory over the Rams. At 5-4 overall, and 4-3 in the Central League, Springfield is in good position heading into the regular-season finale next week against Penncrest.

Friday, it turned a slim 7-6 first-quarter advantage into a 35-6 halftime lead. The key was big plays from Kyle Long and turnovers on defense.

“I think we had a good game plan, and I think our kids executed,” Springfield coach Chris Britton said. “I think in the beginning, we were just getting through some things. Then we started to execute. Kyle Long had a big night. Then our run game got started. They were blitzing a lot, we made some adjustments.”

Long had a 56-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter and a 47-yard reception late in the half to set up quarterback Johnny Fanelli’s 10-yard run. Thomas Becker had a 21-yard interception return, while PJ Johnson’s interception set up Ricky Sterling’s 7-yard run.

The versatile Long also caught a 47-yard touchdown on his team’s opening play. He had 153 total yards in one half of football. In the second half, he and the rest of the starters took a seat while the junior varsity played.

“He’s a pretty good athlete,” said Britton, understatedly. “You could see why he plays three varsity sports.”

In all, Springfield had 384 yards of total offense — not a massive amount when 63 points are on the scoreboard. That was mostly because of a defense that forced three turnovers, gave the offense short fields, and overall, held Harriton (0-9, 0-7) to a mere 138 yards.

“The defense stepped up and got us (up),” Fanelli said. “Once we got past the first two drives, our offense got rolling how we wanted it.”

Backup quarterback Brandon DiChiacchio hit Joe Davis for an 18-yard touchdown early in the third quarter to set off the running clock. Zac Methlie (24-yard run), Matt Ries (5-yard run) and Moreno Ndini (1-yard sneak) added scores in the second half.

The Springfield bench had a ball watching the young kids get in, and in many cases, succeed.

“That was great for them,” Fanelli said. “Getting in there.”

For Britton, it all boiled back to defense.

“We just said, with our D-line, we should be able to get pressure without bringing too much pressure,” he said. “We were able to get some turnovers.”

The Cougars can turn their attention the Penncrest and what could be a season-defining game. Britton figured his team would get in the playoffs with a victory and a 6-4 overall record. They entered this week with a 20-point lead over Bishop Shanahan (a 23-14 loser Friday) and a 40-point lead over league rival Radnor (a 40-12 winner) in the power poll.

Of course, that poll and the final rankings do not always align. Beating Penncrest will be vital.

“If they can’t deal with that pressure,” Britton said, “they don’t belong in the playoffs anyway.”

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