WARMINSTER >> DeAndre Wakefield has no plans on backing down in the big moments.
“When the pressure’s on you, you can’t really fold from it,” he said. “You have to just level up another notch and just really step to them, set the tone.”
And when the Souderton football team turned to the senior running back to finish a drive late in the fourth quarter Friday night against William Tennent, Wakefield delivered.
On a 3rd-and-4 from the Panthers 15, Wakefield found a lane around the right side and dashed 13 yards down to the two and on the next play he found the end zone with 2:07 left, cementing the Indians’ 17-7 victory over Tennent in the SOL Continental Conference opener for both sides.
“He’s our money guy,” said Souderton coach Ed Gallagher of Wakefield. “When the game’s on the line, the ball’s going to be in his hands. And he really did not disappoint that second to last possession when we scored the touchdown to put it away.”
Wakefield ran for a game-high 103 yards and a score on 14 carries while on defense came up with a pair of pivotal sacks that eventually led to both Big Red touchdowns as the Indians survived a tough battle at Claude Lodge Field at Alumni Stadium to reach 4-0 (1-0 conference) for the first time since 2006.
“Just staying confident and staying calm cause you have to face adversity in the second half,” Wakefield said. “So once we faced adversity I knew that we would wake up in the second half and bring it to them with the more physical game. And I think the physicality was the difference in the game because we really brought it and we set the tone.”
William Tennent (2-2, 0-1) pulled within 10-7 in the final minute of the first half as Tom Santiago scored on a 1-yard touchdown run on 4th-and-Goal with 15.8 seconds left. The Panthers, however, could not keep the offensive momentum going after halftime. Of its five drives in the second half, the first four ended with punts with the lasted halted by an interception.
“It was just execution,” Tennent coach Rich Clemens said. “We were in the right spot we just need to execute a little better. And that’s what it came down to. Souderton’s a tough team, they held up strong and they were able to make some stops and we gave up more points and that’s a football game.
“I am definitely proud of the way our kids played, the way our coaches coached. It’s a tough loss, but it’s not embarrassing loss.”
Santiago paced the Panthers with 86 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries but Indians limited the senior running back to just 14 yards on seven carries in the second half.
“We just finished our tackles better to be honest with you,” Gallagher said “You can always talk about schematic adjustments but the first half I think their running backs, especially Santiago were getting any extra two three yards after contact. And we were carrying him a little bit, him and the quarterback – quarterback’s a big, strong kid too, (Matthew) Miller.”
Jalen White added 64 rushing yards on nine carries for Souderton while quarterback Andrew Vince was 9-of-13 passing for 110 yards and a touchdown. Nick Guthre had five catches for 44 yards and a score while Willie Goods caught two passes for 49 yards.
Quick Start for Big Red
Souderton scored on their first two possessions to grab a 10-0 lead.
After Will Leyland’s 26-yard field goal at 7:31 in the first quarter, Wakefield halted a promising Panthers drive with a strip sack that Souderton recovered at its own 33.
The Indians needed just three plays to take advantage of the turnover – Vince connecting with Goods for 38 yards, Wakefield running for seven then Vince rolling right and hitting Guthre over the middle for a 22-yard TD with 9.7 seconds left in the first quarter.
Souderton, however, spent most of the game unable to replicate the early success. The Indians missed a 43-yard field goal in the second quarter. In the fourth on the drive that began on the Tennent 23, Big Red could not get off a 35-yard field goal attempt due to a dropped hold.
Tennent made it a 10-7 game just before halftime with an 11-play, 80-yard drive that Santiago finished by taking a direct snap and plowing in from a yard out on 4th-and-Goal.
“Came down the field, ran the ball well,” Clemens said. “It’s not like it didn’t take us fourth down to get in from the three. So it wasn’t like we found a magic stone and then just went away from it. It was a hard-fought game, they made plays, they made more plays than us and they won the game. All the credit to them.”
Wakefield Helps Shut the Door
With Souderton still up just 10-7 in the fourth, Wakefield came up sack on a 3rd-and-6 from the Tennent 40 that produced a 12-yard loss and a punt.
“It was a blitz,” Wakefield said. “I was staying just set like in my regular position until he looked both ways to see who was actually coming or not and he didn’t really see me. So that once he didn’t see me, he was going with the snap, I edged forward a little bit and I pressure the edge and just nope – just went unblocked.”
The Indians took over at the Panther 42 and needed nine plays to regain the 10-point lead. Wakefield had four carries on the series, including the final one – a two-yard touchdown with 2:07 left.
“I felt like I was a leader on the field and really set tone for younger player to look up to this exact moment for people who might have it in the future,” Wakefield said.
Tennent’s following drive ended after one play when Goods hauled in an interception. Souderton ran out the clock from there.
Souderton is back home Friday as it hosts Pennridge, which has lost three straight after falling to North Penn 37-14. The Indians have not been 5-0 since 2006.
“We feel great about where we’re at,” Gallagher said. “Obviously, you can’t be any better than 4-0 at this point in the season. We’re 1-0 in the league, we talk about league record all the time. We started out last year 3-0 in the league and then slipped to 3-3 in the league and we got to get over that hump. I’ve said to the kids we’ve got to be 4-2 in the league this year.
“It’s silly to think that we’re going to go undefeated in this caliber league. I’m just realistic about things. If we do great, but right now we’re undefeated.”
Tennent, meanwhile is looking to continue building in Clemens’ second season. A third win in 2019 would better the three victories the Panthers posted in the previous three years combined.
William Tennent is on the road Friday to take on Central Bucks West, which improved to 4-0 with a 42-28 win over Central Bucks South.
“When me and the other coaches came there were 27 guys in the program,” Clemens said. “So they’ve grown and kids are here every day. It’s the first year we were able to get a full offseason. We had 40 guys at the workouts, I’m just so proud of how long and far we’ve came. And I wish I could tell that whole list, but we’d be here all night.”
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