Council Rock North can’t stop Bruce, Darby’s rushing attack in District 1 opener

UPPER DARBY – There are so many places where you could pinpoint Council Rock North’s loss to Upper Darby Friday night, Nov. 13 in the opening round of the District 1-AAAA Tournament.

The 11th-seeded Indians (7-4) fumbled in the first half and tossed a pair of interceptions in the third quarter. The real reason was that Rock could not stop Royals senior running back Isaiah Bruce, who broke a pair of school rushing records on his way to a seven touchdown performance.

Bruce gashed the Council Rock defense for 337 yards on 43 carries, breaking the UD single game record of 322. His seven TDs were also more than any other Royals running back.

“He’s a guy who can take anything and make nothing into something,” said North quarterback Brandon McIlwain, who also plays in the defensive backfield. “He can take anything and make it into a big play.”

McIlwain made a few big plays of his own in his last postseason performance for the Indians, giving North a quick 7-0 lead just 2:40 into the game when he took a draw play up the middle for 65 yards and a touchdown. With the game tied at 7-all a minute into the second quarter, facing a key 3rd-and-10 play, he gashed the opponent for a 56-yard touchdown that put Rock on top, 14-7.

The South Carolina-bound QB raced 18 yards for a touchdown on North’s first possession of the second half and gouged Upper Darby (10-1) with an 86-yard kickoff return for a touchdown near the end of the third quarter, giving the Indians a chance.

With CR North trailing 38-26 entering the final frame, the 6th-seeded Royals racked up three more rushing touchdowns however, two by Bruce, to advance to a district quarterfinal matchup Nov. 20 with No. 3 Upper Dublin, a 35-3 victor over No. 14 Garnet Valley.

“It was a pretty physical game and they have a lot of great athletes; they kind of wore us down,” admitted Indians head coach Adam Collachi. “This time of the year, that can happen.

“They came in on a seven-game win streak for a reason; that’s a very, very good football team.

“They know how to close the deal. They took a tight game and they did a great job.”

Bruce entered the game with 1,739 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns. His performance in the playoff opener puts him over 2,000 for the season (2,076), giving him a chance to break the Royals’ single season mark of 2,136 in the D-1 quarterfinal.

“We knew watching all the film how tough he was going to be, and he did a great job tonight,” added the coach. “He was probably the difference in the game.”

But Bruce hardly touched the ball in the first quarter with just five carries for 10 net yards on Upper Darby’s first three possessions.

Meanwhile, Rock’s defense forced the Royals to punt on their first two drives and McIlwain interrupted the third when he gathered in an ill-advised aerial tossed by UD senior QB Chris Minott and returned it to Darby’s 42 yard line.

However, North senior flanker Devon Bibbens gave the ball right back when he coughed it up on the very next play near the midfield marker. The Royals used the short field to register their first touchdown, capping an 11-play drive off with a 3-yard TD scamper by Bruce.

A key play on the drive was Minott’s 12-yard dart to the ride sideline marker, facing 4th-and-10 from Rock’s 20 yard line. What’s more, for the first time in the game (many more would follow), Bruce showed he could break free of the Indian defense when he spun free for 13 yards on the fourth play of the drive.

After escaping a near interception when his 2nd-down pass was dropped by a Darby defender, McIlwain raced 56 yards down the left sideline, giving North its second lead in the contest.

It would not last long. It took the Royals just six plays to even things up, with Bruce capping a 64-yard scoring drive off with a 19-yard touchdown run.

While Darby’s next drive – a 16-play possession that started at its own eight yard line and ended at the Indians’ 28 – stalled when they turned it over on downs, their defense forced North to punt twice late in the second quarter and the offense gave the Royals a 17-14 edge on Chris Anderson’s 33-yard field goal heading into the intermission.

“We made some plays in the first half but we also missed a couple,” explained McIlwain. “We missed out on a couple opportunities – a couple times when we should have made some good plays.

“We knew we just had to get ourselves prepared for the second half and make the plays we didn’t make in the first half.”

And when Darby fumbled the second half kickoff at their own 30 yard line coming out of the locker room, McIlwain made the Royals pay for the gaffe, taking just two plays to put North back on top 20-17 with an 18-yard touchdown run.

While Brandon would reach the end zone twice more before the night was over, it was the last time the Indians would hold a lead in the playoff opener.

Rock would have its own problems with turnovers. Two costly interceptions – one hauled in by UD junior Calvin Fielding at his own 44 and another grabbed by senior Niaqjuan McKenzie at North’s 24 – were turned into points for the opponent.

By then, Bruce was running rampant, gashing the Indians for TD runs of 10, 23 and 21 yards, the last putting Darby on top 38-20 with 49 seconds left in the third quarter.

The Royals ensuing kickoff went out of bounds however and instead of taking possession of the ball at its own 35, North forced Darby to kick again. This time, the ball was drilled right at McIlwain and he raced 86 yards through traffic, breaking several tackles on his way to a touchdown that ignited the visiting sideline and shortened the Indians’ deficit back to 12 points heading into the final frame.

“There was nothing to worry about heading into the fourth quarter,” explained McIlwain. “We had done it before. We just knew we had to make some big plays.

It took the Royals just four plays and 44 seconds, however, to reach the end zone again, and they capped off a 61-yard scoring drive with a 5-yard TD run by fullback Scott Mellet.

With his team trailing 45-26, McIlwain averted another disaster when he recovered his own fumble at Rock’s 18 yard line then tossed a 36-yard sideline aerial to classmate Tyler Nowmos near midfield. He finished a six-play scoring drive off with an 11-yard TD run, his last ever in an Indians uniform.

While the ensuing 2-point conversion run by McIlwain cut the deficit down to 11 points with 9:53 to go in the game, the defense could not stop Bruce and he gashed it for two more touchdowns on his way to a record-setting performance.

“Hats off to them; they played really well. They limited us on the big plays,” said McIlwain.

“When they are clicking on offense and we aren’t making the plays on offense, that’s kind of how the game goes.”

“We had to make more big plays than them to win but in the end, we didn’t get it done.”

For its part, the Darby defense limited McIlwain to just 85 yards passing as he completed just 7-of-22 attempts. Meanwhile, Minott threw for 121 yards, completing 9-of-20 throws. He also added 98 rushing yards to the Royals’ attack, which amassed a whopping 455 yards on the ground.

NOTES: Penalties were a problem for the home team as Darby was flagged 15 times for 120 yards in the game. On back-to-back plays in the first quarter, the Royals were charged with lining up in the neutral zone, giving Rock a first down without a single snap.

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District 1-AAAA Playoff

Upper Darby 59, Council Rock North 34

(Nov. 13 at Upper Darby)

CR NORTH          7  7  12  8 – 34

UPPER DARBY 7 10 21 21 – 59


CRN — McIlwain 65 run (Nowmos kick)

UD — Bruce 3 run (Anderson kick)

CRN — McIlwain 56 run (Nowmos kick)

UD — Bruce 19 run (Anderson kick)

UD — FG Anderson 33

CRN — McIlwain 18 run (kick failed)

UD — Bruce 10 run (Anderson kick)

UD — Bruce 23 run (Anderson kick)

UD — Bruce 21 run (Anderson kick)

CRN — McIlwain 86 kickoff return (kick failed)

UD — Mellet 5 run (Anderson kick)

CRN — McIlwain 11 run (McIlwain run)

UD — Bruce 4 run (Anderson kick)

UD — Bruce 14 run (Anderson kick)


                                CRN       UD

First Downs        14           35

Yards Rushing    240         455

Yards Passing     85           121

Total Offense    313         576

Comp. Passes, Int            7-22-2   9-20-1

Fumbles-lost      4-1          1-0

Penalties-yards 5-30       15-120

Punts-Avg.          5-24.4    2-32.0

Sacked-Yds. Lost              1-9          0-0


Council Rock North

RUSHING: McIlwain 20-204, 5 TDs; Bibbens 5-25; Choi 3-11; Shenot 3-4; Leuz 1-(-4)

PASSING: McIlwain 7-22-2, 85 yards

RECEIVING: Bibbens 4-33; Nowmos 1-36; Leuz 1-4; Choi 11


Upper Darby

RUSHING: Bruce 43-337, 7 TDs; Minott 19-98; Mellet 6-16, TD; Morton 1-(-2)

PASSING: Minott 9-20-1, 121 yards; Bruce 0-1-0, 0 yards

RECEIVING: Dubbin 5-58; Morton 4-63

INTERCEPTIONS: Fielding, McKenzie

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