Neshaminy holds off Pennsbury to clinch playoff spot

FAIRLESS HILLS >> Tons of points don’t always make for a great football game. Sometimes, the beauty is in the anticipation, the suspense and, finally, the payoff.

Neshaminy High had one of those climactic and simultaneously cathartic moments Friday night as the Redskins, who were fighting for their playoff lives, held on for a 16-14 triumph over host Pennsbury, ending a three-year losing streak to the Falcons.

The game began a half-hour later than scheduled due to Pennsbury’s Senior Night ceremonies. The senior football players, cheerleaders and band members were all recognized on the field.

Once the action started, Neshaminy’s well-prepared defense throttled the Falcons’ normally high-scoring rushing attack. Meanwhile, Will Dogba inspired the Redskins’ offense with relentless running that would ultimately yield him 198 rushing yards for the game.

But just when Pennsbury seemed down and out, facing a nine-point hole with seven minutes remaining in regulation, the Falcons marched 51 yards and scored on Mike Alley’s five-yard touchdown pass to Luke Snyder with 3:32 to go.

Pennsbury regained the ball quickly and marched into Neshaminy territory again, only for the Redskins’ defense to sack Alley and intercept him on back-to-back plays to seal the win. Linebacker Daulton Fox reeled in the quarterback’s fourth-down toss toward the Neshaminy end zone with 15 seconds to play, triggering riotous celebrations on the visitors’ sideline and among their large contingent of traveling fans.

“This win was for our seniors. We have 17 of them. They’ve had three head coaches in three years and they’re a real resilient group,” Neshaminy head coach Steve Wilmot said. “They deserved to be a seven-win team and to make the playoffs.”

The District One Class AAAA seeds are yet to be finalized, but both Pennsbury and Neshaminy are likely to be in the bottom half of the 16-team draw, meaning they should each be on the road for the first round next Friday night. Had the Redskins fallen to 6-4, they’d probably be on the outside looking in.

“It was a good battle, back and forth, and we came up short at the end of it,” Pennsbury head coach Galen Snyder said. “I got to give them credit. They played a heck of a game. We’ve just got to regroup and get ready for next week.”

In many respects, the Redskins beat Pennsbury at its own game — relentless running, ball (and clock) control and hard-nosed defense.

Dogba carried 18 times for 138 yards in the first half as Neshaminy’s offense ate up the minutes. Mason Jones passed 13 yards to Zach Tredway for a touchdown to cap a 62-yard, 11-play drive on the game’s first possession.

Neshaminy made it 13-0 with four minutes left in the first half when Jones lunged for a two-yard touchdown run. That 12-play, 77-yard drive featured runs of 15 and 31 yards by Dogba.

Pennsbury struck back quickly as Alley passed to Snyder for 34 yards before the quarterback reeled off consecutive runs of 20 and 18 yards. That set up a four-yard touchdown run by fullback Chris Rupprecht, as Pennsbury closed the gap to six points.

Dogba’s 43-yard run in the final minute of the half put Neshaminy into scoring position again, but a holding penalty and interception by Pennsbury’s John Hose in the end zone stymied the threat.

Nonetheless, Neshaminy owned the first half statistically with 164 rushing yards and 184 total, compared to Pennsbury’s 70 and 104.

“A lot of credit goes to our defensive staff. Our co-defensive coordinator, Neil French, this was his kind of game,” Wilmot said.

Typically, French schemes the defense against run-heavy teams while co-coordinator Jay Weidenbaugh specializes in countering spread offenses, the head coach explained.

“Our kids really executed the game plan,” Wilmot said.

The second half featured much of the same as Neshaminy held Pennsbury without a first down until that fourth-quarter scoring drive and Dogba toted the mail another 13 times.

“Will has a ton of heart. I don’t think you have a scale that can weigh his heart,” Wilmot said of the diminutive feature halfback. “Every yard he earned against their tough defense was a hard-earned yard.”

Even then, Pennsbury still had its chances at the end. Despite Neshaminy’s heavy pass rush, Alley connected with Rob Daly for 12 yards, Rupprecht for nine and Daly again for six on the final drive.

On first down from Neshaminy’s 34, he almost found Daly deep down the left sideline. The Redskins’ pass rush forced another incomplete on second down, then a nine-yard sack on third down, setting up Fox’s clinching interception.

Neshaminy 16, Pennsbury 14

(Nov. 6 at Pennsbury)

Neshaminy (7-3) 6 7 3 0 — 16

Pennsbury (7-3) 0 7 0 7  — 14


First Quarter

N — Tredway 13 pass from Jones (kick blocked)

Second Quarter

N — Jones 2 run (McDonald kick)

P — Rupprecht 4 run (Knop kick)

Third Quarter

N — McDonald 32 field goal

Fourth Quarter

P — Snyder 5 pass from Alley (Knop kick)

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