Archibong sparks Springfield in game it had to have

SPRINGFIELD >> Springfield kept its football season alive Friday night by defeating Penncrest, 34-7, at Springfield Stadium.

It was the final regular-season game for the Central League rivals.

Led by senior Dan Archibong, the Cougars defense forced three dramatic second-quarter turnovers and broke open a game that was scoreless after the first quarter.

The first turnover was a fumble caused by Archibong that Springfield recovered on the Penncrest 43-yard line.

Junior quarterback Brandon DiChiacchio came off the bench to lead the Cougars on a six-play drive that ended with DiChiacchio lobbing a 10-yard pass to the corner of the end zone that only the 6-6, 250-pound Archibong could get to.

“Just go up and get it,” Archibong said after the game. “That’s my mentality.”

The second turnover came on the very next Penncrest snap when junior defensive back Vince Puppio intercepted Lions quarterback Manny Ruffin near midfield and slashed his way to the Penncrest 12-yard line. Three plays later DiChiacchio again found Archibong in the end zone for a 6-yard score and 14-0 lead.

Springfield wasn’t done. After the teams traded possessions, Penncrest went three-and-out. The Lions ensuing punt was blocked by junior Matt Ries and picked up by senior running back Joe Davis at about the 25-yard line and raced towards the end zone. Davis looked like he was going to score but was pulled down at the one-yard line.

DiChiacchio made it 21-0 on a 1-yard sneak. The game was effectively over, and the Cougars season still had life.

Head coach Chris Britton said he was glad to see seniors like Archibong, Davis, two-way linemen Matt Cella, Charlie Harper and Charlie Carbin come through when the team needed it most. It was the fourth consecutive win the for the Cougars (6-4, 5-3) who will wait for official confirmation of the postseason.

“I think they did a great job,” Britton said. “It was Senior Night, they came out and played like that.

“That’s what we’re capable of doing. We’ve had a nice run, we’re starting put things together. Our defense played solid. They’ve played solid all year. Then we started to capitalize, we got the ball to the big guy (Archibong) a few times and that helps.”

DiChiacchio finished 4 of 6 for 69 yards and four touchdown passes, all to Archibong, who also batted down a pass, registered a sack and had several quarterback hurries. Davis rushed 13 times for 97 yards.

Senior running back Ryan Kinnard rushed 15 times for 63 yards to lead Penncrest (2-8, 2-6).

Lions coach Rick Stroup said his team played a good game until the turnovers started to happen.

“It was 0-0 game and then we imploded and gave them a couple of big plays,” Stroup said. “We gave up an interception, we block the wrong guy and we get a punt blocked, and right there that’s two touchdowns. They’re a decent team and we made too many mistakes.”

Cella said his team knew this was win-or-go-home game and showed up ready to play.

“We came in this week with a focus because we knew we had to win this week to be in,” Cella said. “Everyone was just on board. We had a great scout team look, all the young kids were amazing, the seniors had their heads screwed on straight and everyone did a great job.”

And if the playoffs happen?

“Can’t wait,” Cella said. “New season!”

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