Upper Darby >> Upper Darby senior kicker Jake Amatucci ended Friday evening’s game in a most dramatic way, booting a 25-yard field goal as time expired for a 15-13 win against Conestoga.
It was the first field goal of Amatucci’s high school career.
“I had the angel on my shoulder,” said the 5-foot-9, 170-pound kicker. “I felt very confident in Jacob Marriott, our long snapper, and I knew Darryl [holder Darryl Pollard-Farmer] was going to hold it well, and I was going to finish it off. I just booted it up there, it went through the uprights, and then I ran to the other side of the field and celebrated with our team.
“We’ve been working on [field goals] all season, I’ve been working on it with Coach [Dave] Barr – starting off by practicing extra points, and then moving back five yards to the right hash.”
Upper Darby head coach Dave Barr said, “The ending was stressful but a lot of fun. We have so much respect for Conestoga, they’re a great team, and a well-coached team. Luckily, we made a few plays at the end. I was just really pleased with how our guys stuck with it, stayed together as a team. Our guys hit a few roadblocks earlier in the game, but they stuck with it, offensively and defensively.”
The lead changed hands several times Friday night. The Royals (2-3) scored first, on a four-play, 58-yard TD drive in the middle of the first quarter. The key plays included a couple of short passes from sophomore quarterback Donte Shaw to junior Lucas Venuti, and the capper was a 35-yard touchdown run up the middle by Pollard-Farmer.
“It was just good vision by Darryl, and good first- and second-level blocking by our guys,” said Barr.
“I just give glory to God, and my linemen did the work,” said Pollard-Farmer, a 5-foot-10, 185-pound senior running back. “When I saw the hole open up right up the middle, I just said, ‘Oh yeah.’ (smiles). Our o-line has been working and working, and getting better every week. Josue Denis, Pat Kerwood, and Shaq [Shaqib Salahuddin], our center, played a great game. Pat Kerwood’s blocks helped me score both touchdowns tonight. This was a gritty game – that team over there [Conestoga] is gritty.”
The Royals’ 6-0 lead held up until late in the second quarter, when Conestoga’s Michael Brosso intercepted a pass at midfield and the Pioneers (1-4) began an eight-play, 50-yard scoring drive. The big plays were an outstanding 34-yard pass reception by Conestoga junior wide receiver Peter Detwiler against tight coverage and a two-yard plunge for a touchdown by quarterback Michael Costigan on fourth-and-goal. DJ Penske’s extra-point kick gave the Pioneers a 7-6 lead at halftime.
That 7-6 lead held up until early in the fourth quarter, when Pollard-Farmer broke loose again on a 35 yard touchdown run on a trap play, giving the hosts a 12-7 lead with 11:03 left.
Following a three-and-out by Conestoga, Upper Darby got the ball back and began to use up the clock with seven consecutive running plays (six of them by Montez Ellis) totaling 38 yards and three first downs. But the drive fizzled at the Pioneers’ 30 yard line, and the Royals had to punt.
A couple of 15-yard defensive penalties against Upper Darby gave the Pioneers the ball at the 50-yard line, then on 4th-and-8 at the Unionville 37 yard line, Costigan scrambled for a key first down. On 3rd-and-15 at the Upper Darby 32, Costigan connected with an open Patrick Reilly down the middle of the field for a touchdown to give the visitors a 13-12 lead with 1:23 left.
A short kickoff and a 15-yard penalty against Conestoga gave Upper Darby the ball at the Pioneers’ 46. Shaw hit Marriott for an 8-yard gain, ran Ellis up the middle for a 6-yard gain, and ran for 6 more yards to bring the ball to the Pioneers 26 with 11 seconds left.
Shaw then hit Pollard-Farmer down the right sideline for a 20-yard gain to the Conestoga 6 yard line, then Amatucci trotted onto the field to try the 25-yard field goal with four seconds left. The ball sailed through the uprights as the clock expired.
Barr said, “We were super happy with our defensive effort, it’s been outstanding all season; they made some big plays. And I was super-proud tonight of our center Shaqib Salahuddin. He did a great job blocking and he was consistent with our snaps.”
For Conestoga, senior captain Michael Brosso had two interceptions – both in the first half.
“Michael played the game of his life tonight,” said Conestoga head coach Matt Diamond. “He prepares so hard every week. He makes some great reads out there, and this was a great last game for him. I’m so proud of him.
“This was a tough way to end the season, because throughout our season, in games against Ridley, Haverford, some really good opponents, I thought our kids showed some great resolve. And I thought they showed resolve tonight when we got the ball with five minutes to go and drove down the field to score.
“I told our players after the game to put their heads up, because you only hang your head when you have something to be ashamed of and they have nothing to be ashamed of with the effort they put forth tonight. The effort they showed this season, I think they really left a mark for our younger players to see how to work.”