DOWNINGTOWN >> Downingtown West’s Tyriq Lewis had another big night on the ground while Julian Williams’ 83-yard kickoff return touchdown in the fourth quarter blunted North Penn’s momentum as the No. 1 Whippets held off the No. 9 Knights 40-31 in the District 1-6A quarterfinals Friday at Kottmeyer Stadium.
“The coaches have told us from the beginning of the week we want to impose our will on this team,” Lewis said. “We want to give them everything we got, we want to lay it all on the line cause it’s playoff football and you never know when it can be your last.”
Lewis ran 24 times for 226 yards and four touchdowns — two in each half — as West (11-1) avenged last year’s district semifinal loss to North Penn and advanced to the semis for the second straight season to host either No. 4 Downingtown East or No. 12 Haverford, who play Saturday night.
“I think we just imposed our will as a whole squad and we just came out ready to play,” West senior Sean Pelkisson said.
Evan Spann caught a pair of touchdowns passes while Khalani Eaton ran for two scores for the Knights (8-4), which had rallied to knock off West 35-21 at Kottmeyer in the 2018 semis. After trailing 20-10 at halftime, North Penn cut it to a one-score game three times in the second half but the Whippets answered each time.
“That was game I expected coming into tonight,” Knights senior RJ Macnamara said. “Honestly, I wanted to win, everyone wants to win but tonight was a great night and I’m glad this is how we went out — fighting.”
North Penn quarterback Kolby Barrow was 10-of-15 passing for 251 yards and two TDS, both to Spann who finished with four catches for 159 yards. Macnamara paced the Knights on the ground with 74 yards on seven carries while Eaton recorded 70 yards on 17 carries.
“Watching the (Downingtown West district first-round win over) Pennsbury film, their middle was open a lot so we were trying to pound it in the middle but I guess that didn’t work as well as we wanted it to work,” Spann said. “So then passing the ball was working so we just start passing the ball and running hard and it was working a little bit.”
North Penn pulled to within 26-24 when Spann caught a pass from Barrow and turned it upfield for a 61-yard touchdown at 11:42 in the fourth.
“I just got the ball, I just knew I need to get into the end zone,” Spann said.
But on the ensuing kickoff, Williams answered with his 83-yard return to the end zone — working to get the left sideline, dashing down it before cutting back inside for the touchdown at 11:29.
West converted a two-point conversion on a Lewis run to make it 34-24.
“That was insane,” said Pelkisson of Williams’ return. “He’s a great kid, great kid and for him to pull that out for us and change the momentum like that – game-changer.”
The Knights responded on the next drive with Barrow connecting with a streaking Spann for a 37-yard touchdown, cutting West’s advantage to 34-31 at 8:45.
But North Penn could not stop the Whippets from pushing the lead to nine on the following series. West converted a pair of third downs on the drive — the second a 3rd-and-6 from the NP 43 that had Lewis take a pitch, juke two defenders and run 25 yards down to the 18.
Lewis then ran for his fourth TD of the game the next play for a 40-31 lead with 5:06 remaining.
“My guys block for me every single play, give me open space, I couldn’t thank them enough for it,” said Lewis, who ran for 206 yards and five TDs in the first round. “I’m in open space, I just try to make my moves, do what I can to get the most yardage I can.
The Knights got to the West 44 but on 4th-and-5 could only gain three to turn the ball over on downs with 2:54 left. From there, the Whippets ran out the clock.
After West had its 33-yard field goal blocked on the game’s opening possession, North Penn took its lone lead Friday night on Daniel Moon’s 33-yard field goal at 1:54 in the first quarter.
Downingtown West needed just three plays to go up 7-3, Lewis taking a pitch 50 yards for a touchdown at 29.3 seconds in the opening quarter.
The Whippets made it 14-3 after recovering a Knight fumble at the NP 34 and on the next play quarterback Will Howard — who finished 7-of-11 for 120 yards — hit Pelkisson over the middle for a 34-yard TD strike at 10:55 in the second quarter.
North Penn cut the deficit to 14-10 with a 15-play, 78 yard drive Eaton capped by getting over the goal line from two yards out with 4:28 left in the half.
The Whippets answered back quickly with a two-play, 51-yard drive finished on a Lewis 40-yard touchdown at 3:43 to make it 20-10.
“He’s a great player,” said Macnamara of Lewis. “Honestly, going into the game Coach (Dick) Beck wasn’t that worried about him cause the quarterback (Howard is) going to Kansas (State) and the tight end (Pelkisson is) going to Georgia (Southern), so he was more focusing on those two. But I think he just played super hard and he just never stopped his legs and we couldn’t bring him to the ground.”
West had a chance for more points after a North Penn miscue on a punt resulted in a run of no yards and the Whippets with the ball at the NP 40. Williams’ diving catch for 32 yards put West on the 12 but the drive ended with a missed field goal at 50 seconds.
North Penn made it 20-17 on the opening series of the second half. On 2nd-and-18 from the Knight 43, Macnamara broke off a 44-yard run and on the next play Eaton scored on a 13-yard touchdown at 8:34 in the third.
On the ensuing West drive, the Knights forced a fumble after a completion and recovered at its own 15. Two 15-yard West penalties on the play put the ball at the NP 45 but the Whippets forced a turnover on downs after an incompletion on 4th-and-4 from the West 49.
Lewis capped a nine-play, 51-yard drive with a 23-yard touchdown at 32.9 seconds left in the third. A blocked extra point had West up 26-17.