Defense drives Souderton to District 1-6A title game

ROYERSFORD >> The 27-24 final score might not show it, but No. 3 Souderton’s defense dominated in its District 1-6A semifinal win over No. 2 Spring-Ford Friday night at Coach McNelly Field.

The Indians (6-0) defense was only responsible for seven of the points. Spring-Ford scored defensive and special teams touchdowns and kicked a field goal after blocking a punt inside the Souderton 20-yard line.

Defensive coordinator Mike Heath’s group was ready from the start. They surrendered just 25 yards of total offense in the first half and two first downs, one of which came on a running into the kicker penalty on a 4th-and-5 punt.

“(Heath) put together a great gameplan,” Souderton head coach Ed Gallagher said. “Spring-Ford likes to spread you out and then run the ball between the tackles. We kept the box packed and tried to stop them and force them to throw the ball to beat us. I thought we stopped the run really well, forced a couple passes and we have some really good athletes back there that made plays. Credit to Mike and the defense – the kids went out and made the plays.”

Souderton’s Elijah Goods is congratulated by Sean Barrera (61) after returning an interception for a touchdown against Spring-Ford. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

“We were pumped this whole week,” linebacker Jacob Horton said. “I had butterflies when I woke up. We all just knew that we had to come out and do our jobs and we did it and we got the dub.”

Not only did Big Red’s defense keep Spring-Ford from scoring, but it did some scoring itself. At the end of the first quarter, junior cornerback Elijah Goods grabbed an interception on a deflected ball and raced 50 yards for a touchdown to give Souderton a 14-0 lead.

“I saw the ball and had to attack,” Goods said. “It popped out and I reacted when I needed to.

“(It) changed the game. It’s a big game. We needed the win. You gotta do what you gotta do.”

In the second quarter, the Indians had back-to-back big plays to keep Spring-Ford off the board. After the Rams returned a kickoff to Souderton’s 32-yard line, they gained their second first down of the game to the 21. Linebacker Luke Pollock made an athletic play to knock away a wheel route in the end zone and, on the next play, cornerback Shaun Purvy grabbed an interception.

Pollock’s deflection was just one example of Souderton’s linebackers making plays against the pass. Horton and Nick Curotto also got their hands on a number of throws.

“We were a little bit hesitant,” Horton said of the linebackers matching up with Spring-Ford’s backs and tight ends, “but we put in the hours of film and all that to know what they’re doing all the time, every play. It worked out really well.”

“Jacob Horton was outstanding,” Gallagher said. “He made a lot of plays from tackle to tackle and (the linebackers) got into pass coverage. I know he knocked down one or two, a couple of other linebackers made some plays. Overall our defense, especially the back end of our defense, played really well.”

Spring-Ford opened the second half with a 14-play drive. After 10 plays the Rams had a 1st-and-goal at Souderton’s 8-yard line. After a 4th-and-goal defensive pass interference penalty moved the ball from the nine to inside the five, the Indians got a stop to maintain a 20-0 lead with 5:41 left in the third.

Later in the third quarter, Spring-Ford blocked a punt and took over at Souderton’s 15-yard line. After a run was stopped at the line of scrimmage and a pair of incompletions, the Rams settled for a 32-yard field goal to make it 20-3.

The only touchdown Souderton’s defense allowed came in the middle of the fourth quarter. On 4th-and-3 and the score 20-10, Spring-Ford’s Ryan Freed connected with Zach Zollers for a 45-yard catch-and-run to the end zone with 7:23 left in the game.

In all, the Indians limited the Rams to 8-for-22 passing for 95 yards and 25 carries 60 yards. They grabbed two interceptions and Curotto recovered a fumble.

“Our defense has been very good this year,” Gallagher said. “We struggled a little bit in the first half (of the season opener) against Quakertown, but since then we’ve really tightened things up and been outstanding. Credit to Mike Heath and our defensive staff and credit to the kids for flying around and making the plays they made all night. They watched film all week, they studied and they knew where to be and got themselves in the right positions to make those plays.” 

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