Neshaminy faithful looking for some of that 2013 magic

LANGHORNE – While Neshaminy has had a solid season, some might say it has been the quietest 7-3 campaign ever turned in by a Redskin team.

Indeed, Neshaminy won all the games they were supposed to win, cleaning up against Suburban One National League bottom-feeders Bensalem, Abington and Souderton. But the Skins triumphed over some pretty tough opponents, too, taking down SOL Continental rival Council Rock South to wrap up a successful 2-1 early season stint against non-league foes.

When they lost to Pennridge 17-7 on a Saturday afternoon at home in October however, some might have had their doubts, especially with unbeaten North Penn and Pennsbury the last two teams remaining on the docket.

Not this group.

“We saw all the articles. Nobody thought we were going to win either of those games. They had us losing to both of those teams,” explained senior defensive end Harmon Yalartai.

“Nobody gave us a chance.”

“We listen to our family and our sideline. We don’t care what their fans are saying. We believed in us and that’s all that matters.”

Not only did Neshaminy beat defending District 1 champion Pennsbury to get into the postseason, the Skins put a mighty scare into eventual SOL National Conference champ North Penn when they took a 17-16 lead in the fourth quarter.

Unfortunately for the Neshaminy faithful, the Knights drove the ball 71 yards in 11 plays, capping it off with a three-yard touchdown run by Nyfease West to earn a come-from-behind 22-17 victory.

The Skins still had a chance at the end but West knocked down a desperation heave by quarterback Mason Jones in the end zone to help seal a North Penn victory.

“It came down to the last minute or two and we didn’t execute like we should have,” stated Yalartai.

“We lacked trust in each other. We didn’t execute like we practiced.”

The loss to the Knights dropped Neshaminy to 4-2 in the league, with a regular season finale against Pennsbury looming on the Falcons’ home field.

“It was tough losing to North Penn with just minutes left,” said co-captain Denzel Hughes. “But we came back together on Saturday and saw what we did wrong, fixed it on Monday and just stuck together as a team.”

At this point, history has written that the Skins beat Pennsbury at their own game – with a grinding rushing attack and solid defense.

Against the Falcons, Neshaminy got out of the gate quickly with an 11-play drive that consumed over six minutes and was capped by 13-yard pass from Jones to junior Zach Tredway. The Skins increased their lead to 13-0 in the second quarter when Jones scored on a two-yard keeper on fourth down.

Trailing 13-7 to start the second half, Pennsbury could not get its offense untracked throughout the third quarter and the early part of the fourth against gang-tackling Neshaminy.

However, Falcon QB Mike Alley gave his team a chance when he capped off a 51-yard scoring drive off with a five-yard touchdown pass to Luke Snyder with 3:32 to go.

While Pennsbury got one more chance when its defense forced a punt with 1:51 to go and marched all the way to the Skins’ 34 yard line, Jake Gordon’s interception with 15 seconds left to play sealed the win in favor of Neshaminy, triggering riotous celebrations along the visiting sidelines.

“It felt great. After hearing all the reports and everybody saying we were going to lose. To come up big at Falcon Field, it was the greatest feeling we’ve ever had,” stated Yalartai.

“For myself, that was one of the best feelings I’ve had this season.”

Now, the Skins face perhaps their biggest test of the season, opening District 1-AAAA playoff action tonight against unbeaten PAC-10 champion Spring-Ford at Rams Stadium.

To win, Neshaminy must stop a balanced offense. Senior quarterback Ricky Venuto has completed 111 of 168 passes for 1,681 yards. Impressively, he has thrown 23 TD passes while being intercepted just once. He has a variety of targets, including three receivers with over 300 yards. Junior Matt Gibson leads the ground game with 806 yards on 96 carries.

“We’ll be ready,” said Yalartai. “We’ll just go in there prepared and ready to play football.”

A two-year starter who stepped up to the plate when former defensive end Luke Carrezola took his game to UConn, Yalartai has 9-and-a-half sacks and 14-and-a-half tackles for a loss. Yalartai credits the Skins interior lineman – Hunter Kelly, Kyle Osterhoudt and Eddie Parry – for his achievements this season.

“I know I can’t be successful without them,” he said. “If they’re clogging up the gap for the (ball carrier) to run through, he’s just going to bounce outside to me and I’ll just make the play.”

No matter who the opponent is, the Skins take a workmanlike approach to any game. They’re not intimidated, not even against the fourth-seeded Rams.

“We take it one step at a time. You can’t think about the big picture too much; you get lost,” explained Hughes.

“We just think about what we gotta do this play and if you make a good play, great. Do it again the next play,” explained Hughes. “If you make a bad play, forget about it; you still have another down to play.”

While some might not give Neshaminy much of a chance in tonight’s battle against Spring-Ford, remember that the Skins were winless in their last three against Pennsbury when they left for Falcon Field last week.

Two years ago, the Skins traveled to Falcon Field for the last game of the regular season and had it handed to them in a 31-3 loss that cost them the SOL National title that year. Then, they ran the table in districts and crushed North Penn in the title game.

Now, the Neshaminy faithful is just hoping for some of that magic to spread among the 2015 group.

Trentonian sportswriter Rick Fortenbaugh contributed to this newspiece

Contact the author at, or @BucksLocalSport on Twitter

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