North Penn, Upper Dublin headline hopefuls in upcoming playoff games

It’s taken 10 weeks of sweat, lifts, practices, whistles, games, ups and downs, but the District I playoff brackets are finally set.
The same holds true in the Catholic League, where Class AA is a week in but the big guys get ready to roll this weekend as well. As usual, a number of Reporter/Montgomery area teams are in the playoff mix, headlined by Upper Dublin and North Penn in the Class AAAA field. The three local PCL teams, Lansdale Catholic (AA), Archbishop Wood (AAA) and La Salle (AAAA) also have their eyes on league titles, with Wood looking to three-peat as state champion.
Upper Dublin quickly proved that last year’s magic run to the district semis was no fluke and the Cardinals finished the regular season a sterling 10-0 with another SOL American crown to go with it. Their well-earned reward was the No. 3 seed in the 16 team AAAA bracket, meaning they get at least two games in the friendly confines of Cardinal Stadium.
The Knights on the other hand, started the year 1-2 with the losses coming to La Salle and at Downingtown East, the top overall seed in the district. Since then, coach Dick Beck’s Knights haven’t lost, rampaging through the SOL National at 7-0 to claim another conference title. However, all those wins weren’t enough to get North Penn a home game and the No. 9 seed travels to Unionville to open things up on Friday.
Sticking with the Knights for a moment, their nonconference schedule, which also included PCL AA contender West Catholic, was designed to be extra tough. While it may have cost NP a few power points, the Knights were a play away from beating the No. 1 seed, a team they very well could face in the second round should both advance. North Penn knows what it takes to stick with the best and eight weeks later, is a better team overall, though that also applies to Downingtown.
Heading into the season, most expected senior tailback Nyfease West to be the workhorse for North Penn. That projection mostly held up, but West also got plenty of help. When the Delaware State recruit was banged up in the middle part of the season, Nick Isabella stepped in to carry the load and remained a big-play contributor the rest of the way.
Junior Reece Udinski took over the reins at quarterback and added a passing element to the Knights’ run-heavy attack. The addition of that vertical element, which allowed receiver Ricky Johns and tight end Keith Earle to make some plays, was a big factor in North Penn’s SOL title run.
No better case for that exists than the pivotal win over Pennsbury in Week 8. The Falcons, at that point unbeaten in the conference and with just one loss overall, were in the hunt for a top-four seed. Udinski had a masterful performance as North Penn beat Pennsbury for the 15th straight time, then survived a tough game against Neshaminy the next week to set itself up for the title.
North Penn enters districts as one of the hottest teams in Southeastern PA and while getting a win on the road is always a tall task in the postseason, the Knights are one of the teams capable of doing it.
When Upper Dublin’s season ended last year in the district semifinals, some saw it as a nice year. But anyone who really paid attention saw it was more like the set-up for a better season. In his first year starting a quarterback, Ryan Stover turned heads and caught eyes as a junior.
Back again for one last season with his father, Bret, coaching, the younger Stover proved he wasn’t a one-year wonder. A strong-armed passer, Stover also has a capable set of legs and powered the Cardinals’ offense to another high-scoring campaign. While the senior makes everything go, he isn’t a one-man show either.
Tailback Kalief Lee adds some power and speed to the run game while a stable of veteran receivers like senior tight end Jack Rapine, senior wideout Cole Swiger, Gary Fields, James Lampmann and Michael Sowers are good at getting open and connecting for big gains.
The Cardinals’ defense sort of went under the radar thanks to the prolific point production on the other side of the ball, but they’re a pretty nasty flock as well. Anchored by standout senior linebacker Henry Winebrake, with Swiger at outside linebacker and Rapine, Max Winebrake and Isaiah Henrich up front, UD’s defense dominated the American. UD had a three-week long shutout streak with wins over Springfield Twp, Wissahickon and Plymouth-Whitemarsh, another playoff team.
Upper Dublin begins its playoff run by hosting Garnet Valley and while the Cardinals are hoping to win a few more games than last year, they’ve done a good job of focusing solely on the week ahead.
Here’s a quick overview of other area teams taking part in the playoffs this weekend
The defending state, District 12 and PCL Class AAA champion begins its repeat bid against Archbishop Carroll at 7 p.m. Saturday at William Tennent. Prior to the season, coach Steve Devlin noted that without the PCL title, the Vikings don’t go anywhere, so their focus is quite set on the immediate task.
Devlin, who earlier this year won his 100th game, was named the PCL AAA coach of the year last week, heading up a big group of Vikings on the list. A big part of Wood’s success this year has been thanks to Class AAA MVP quarterback Anthony Russo. Russo, a Rutgers commit, picked up where he left off last year and only added to his credentials.
A tremendous deep-ball passer, Russo is something to watch when he gets in rhythm. Backing him up is a fierce defense led by all-PCL pick Mack Schwartz on the defensive line.
The highlight win of the season so far was the dramatic 27-24 win over La Salle where Russo led a game-winning drive that ended with a Dan Zanine field goal. It was the first time in 13 tries that Wood beat the Explorers.
As the sole Class A team in the PCL, McDevitt plays for the District 12 crown in Week 10, then shuffles into the District I A playoffs to form a subregional.
The Royal Lancers are 4-6, but have wins over Carroll and Neumann-Goretti. Quarterback Max Bryson leads the way on offense while back Vince DiLeo is one of those guys who manages to pick up bunches of yards any time he touches the ball.
Coach Pat Manzi and crew won’t have to travel too far, as they face No. 2 seed Jenkintown Saturday morning.
One of the smallest schools in all of District I, Jenkintown still fields a football team and it almost always competes with whoever is on the other sideline.
The Drakes turned in a 6-4 season, enough to earn them the No. 2 seed in the Class A playoffs and a home game against McDevitt. Head coach Anthony Owens always has his team prepared, even though he doesn’t have the luxury of depth or a JV team to season younger players.
Jenkintown is paced by its workhorse junior running back/linebacker Steve Charlemagne. Mixing power and speed, Charlemagne is a relentless runner who doesn’t mind a big workload and takes pride in his responsibilities on both sides of the ball.
Under center, first-year starter Andres Madden has shown an ability to hit receivers for big gains and spread the ball around.
In recent years, the Drakes and Lancers have played in-season but didn’t this year. They get that meeting at 11 a.m. Saturday with the season at stake.
Life in the PCL can be tough. Only one team from each classification moves into the District 12 championship against the city champion.
In Class AAAA, the Explorers have to contend with defending state champion St. Joe’s Prep, who beat La Salle earlier this season. The Explorers start their postseason bid Friday night at Plymouth-Whitemarsh against Father Judge, a game that’s anything but a given.
What La Salle, led by PCL AAAA coach of the year John Steinmetz, can rely on is a dynamic running game and tough defense. Nick Rinella and Syaire Madden get the bulk of the carries with Madden taking over the role of lead back this season.
Chris Ferguson is the quarterback, but La Salle has also put sophomore Isaiah Jones under center in a devastatingly effective option attack. A Germantown Academy transfer, Jones is also a tremendous strong safety and his insertion on offense usually leads to good things for the Explorers.
Despite losing to the Prep earlier this year, the Explorers would like a second chance to show that first meeting was far from the best they could do.
Unlike the other teams here, the Crusaders are already a week into their playoffs.
What a week it was too, as LC won its first ever PCL playoff game by taking care of Conwell-Egan thanks to Mr. Everything in senior Ryan Quigley. Named the Class AA MVP for the second straight year, the running back/safety rushed for more than 220 yards against Egan, just the latest chapter in his legacy at LC.
With a large group of seniors, including Marlen Fenstermacher and Michael Basili, the Crusaders have a chance to make more history this season.
Under AA coach of the year Tom Kirk, the Crusaders have made their way to the title game against West Catholic, set for 1p.m. Saturday at Cardinal O’Hara.
While the Lions’ 2-8 record may not look like much, this is a hard-working group that made great strides from a season ago.
There aren’t many Class AA schools in District I, so Lower Moreland did enough to get into the four-team bracket but must travel to top-seeded New Hope-Solebury Friday night at 7p.m. Lower Moreland must hope it’s defense, led by Josh Wattenmaker and Cody Elliot can come up with some turnovers, Charlie Butz continues his strong punting and Matt Gallagher can create magic on offense.
It’s a tall task for the Lions, but they’ve accomplished plenty simply by earning a playoff bid.
The defending Class AA champions took on a very different look this season but find themselves in position to potentially defend their title.
Claiming the No. 2 seed, the Spartans will host the team they defeated in the title game last year, Bristol, at 7 p.m. Friday. Senior Justin Hill leads the way as a dual-threat quarterback, using his athletic ability and speed to full effect running the ball.
George Baughn has emerged as Hill’s go-to target while Brett Righter is a playmaker on offense and Ben Fisher also totes the rock.
In the SOL American, Springfield is the smallest school, but it doesn’t stop coach Chris Shelly from instilling belief and desire in his kids. Now is their chance to show what they’re made of.
Heading into the season the big question around Upper Moreland was how the Golden Bears were going to replace the 1,800-plus rushing yards of Tyler Whitmore.
The answer was Rodney Morgan. Already rushing for close to that amount, the shifty back has supplied everything Upper Moreland has needed and more. Whitmore wasn’t the only big loss, but Casey Decker has done an admirable job taking over at quarterback.
With its two losses coming to SOL American champ Upper Dublin and archrival Hatboro-Horsham, the Bears snagged the No. 2 seed in the Class AAA playoffs. UM welcomes Pottstown to town Friday night at 7 p.m.
More often than not, the Bears have been able to score points this season. What coach Adam Beach points to often is blocking and tackling. His guys have been pretty good at blocking this season. If they can tackle well the next few weeks, they could be looking at the start of something, especially with home field up to the final.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply