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Pennsbury, Conwell-Egan football thinking upset in playoffs

Pennsbury`s Andrew Basalyga (l) carries the ball against Neshaminy. (Gregg Slaboda – 21st-Century Media)

The Pennsbury High football team has already enjoyed a tremendous season with 10 wins in the books, including a convincing revenge victory over Neshaminy last week.

Now, we will see if the top-ranked team in the area can take it up to the higher level of greatness.

In a game not many people expect it to win, Pennsbury (10-2) will be at Coatesville (11-1) Friday night in the semifinal round of the formidable 16-team PIAA District 1 Class 6A playoffs.

This is a rematch from the 2014 final in which Pennsbury won, 21-14, with the help of a last-minute goal line stand to win its second district championship in program history.

Should Pennsbury beat Coatesville, it will return to action next week in the D1 title tilt at the winner of the semifinal game between Garnet Valley (11-1) and Pennridge (10-2).

For its part, Garnet Valley reached the semifinals with an improbable 36-35 win last week over defending champion North Penn in a game it actually trailed by the score of 35-7 at one point.

Conwell-Egan is also still alive in the playoffs after drubbing New Hope-Solebury last week in the District 1-12 Class 3A playoffs. The Eagles will take on Lansdale Catholic in a rematch from the regular season on Friday night at Truman.

Pennsbury (10-2) at Coatesville (11-1), Friday, 7 p.m. >> The word before the season started was Coatesville might be the best in the district and nothing has happened to change those thoughts.

Coatesville has a very explosive offense, witness the 61 points it put on highly-regarded Downingtown East last week. Its running game is headed up by junior Aaron Young, who has received offers from the likes of Nebraska, West Virginia and Rutgers, where his older brother already plays. Red Raider sophomore quarterback Ricky Ortega is also a big weapon and can beat you both running and throwing the ball behind a big offensive line.

Pennsbury gave Coatesville something to think about last week when for the first time all year, it reverted back to its traditional power running game. The result was that  senior Andrew Basalyga ran for big yardage against a Neshaminy team that couldn’t have expected to see the Ground and Pound.

By the time the game was over, Basalyga ran over Neshaminy for 146 yards on 14 carries after being used sparingly in the backfield for the first 11 games of the season. Classmate Nasan Robbins, meanwhile, piled up 106 yards on 18 carries.

A question you kept hearing as the season went along was, how would Pennsbury’s spread offense do once the weather turned cold? Well, give second-year coach Dan McShane credit on this front because he obviously had a power running ready in reserve all along.

It all starts up front, of course, and Pennsbury has an excellent offensive line that includes Rutgers’ recruit Matt Rosso. All the Pennsbury offensive linemen go at least 280 pounds and are aggressive. William Turk is also a very good blocking tight end. Coatesville relies more on speed than size on defense.

As such, Pennsbury’s best chance would appear to be a ball control running game with Basalyga and Robbins. Furthermore, if Coatesville packs the box, Pennsbury quarterback Zach Demarchis is more than capable of taking it to the outside as his well-over 1,300 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns attests.

Pennsbury can also throw it as Demarchis has passed for over 1,600 yards and thrown for 17 TDs. Led by the likes of end Mike Gobora and linebackers Basalyga and Diante Wiggins. Pennsbury is very stout at stopping the run and rushing the quarterback.

Still, it’s hard to imagine it shutting down the home team and it could very well become a matter of whether Pennsbury can outscore the Red Raiders in a shootout. If Pennsbury can hold Coatesville to say 28 or even 35 points, it has a chance.

This is just classic Pennsylvania “big school” football between two large and physically tough teams that are more than ready to slug it out.

Conwell-Egan (5-6) vs. Lansdale Catholic (4-6), Friday, 7 p.m. at Truman >> The first time these two met, Lansdale prevailed 31-21, in a regular season matchup at Conwell’s Egan home field at Truman High. In that game, the Crusaders piled up 290 rushing yards. Sophomore Danny Dutkiewicz led LC’s rushing attack with 129 yards on 18 carries and senior Matt Casee scored three touchdowns while adding another 103 yards.

Conwell-Egan’s star running back Pat Garwo, meanwhile, was held to 75 yards on 18 carries. The thing to remember, however, is a huge factor in the outcome was Conwell-Egan’s five turnovers. If it can take care of the ball this time around, it has a good shot of moving to the next round.

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