Football: Spring-Ford survives scare from North Penn, 42-35, in District 1-6A playoffs

ROYERSFORD >> Spring-Ford made an assortment of mistakes on Friday night that might often have proven to be fatal in playoff football. But the Rams – who squandered a 21-point lead in the first half and fell behind twice in the second – repeatedly bounced back behind the potent passing combination of quarterback Matt Zollers and wide receiver Mason Scott.

Those two teamed up on a 33-yard play to the North Penn one-yard line with less than a minute to go in the District 1-6A opening round contest at Coach McNelly Stadium and Mike Bendowski burst into the end zone from inches away with 36 seconds left to give Spring-Ford a 42-35 win.

The No. 4 seed Rams (9-2) will host No. 5 Central Bucks South, a 21-20 winner over Coatesville, in a quarterfinal on Friday.

Scott pulled in seven passes for 204 yards – including scoring plays of 54, 18 and 72 yards – as part of a 14-for-21, 261-yard passing night by Zollers.

North Penn receiver Aidan Eves makes a catch over the middle as Spring-Ford defensive backs Blake Turner and Shane Lewis pursue during the second half of their District 1-6A playoff game on Nov. 3 at Spring-Ford. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)
Spring-Ford receiver Mason Scott flashes his No. 3 to the camera after his standout performance in the Rams’ victory over North Penn in a District 1-6A playoff game on Nov. 3 at Spring-Ford. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

North Penn senior running back Amir Major ran for 181 yards and four scores and caught a 28-yard pass for the other TD for the No. 13 Knights (6-5).

Spring-Ford led 7-0 just 11 seconds into the contest when Zollers threw deep down the middle for 54 yards to Scott for a touchdown. A 41-yard drive late in the opening quarter, finished up by a one-yard plunge by Evan Strzeminski, made it 14-0 and Scott caught an 18-yard TD pass less than three minutes into the second quarter for a 21-0 advantage.

But the Knights quickly got back into the game with the help of a Spring-Ford penalty that brought back a 60-yard-plus punt, a pair of unsportsmanlike penalties following Ram touchdowns that gave the visitors good field position after that kickoffs and a lost fumble on a kickoff return that set up a short North Penn TD drive.

“It was just a stretch of a bunch of things that went wrong for us,” said Zollers. “It happens in football. But we came back.”

“I’m upset about the unsportsmanlike penalties,” said Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker. “You can celebrate touchdowns without doing things like that. That was just silly. Those are things you can control.”

Spring-Ford’s Owen Norman tackles North Penn quarterback Matt Bucksar on a keeper during the second half of their District 1-6A playoff game on Nov. 3 at Spring-Ford. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

Those errors led to a 47-yard Knight drive, with Major running 43 yards for the score and a 53-yard march, topped off by the 28-yard toss to Major from quarterback Matt Bucksar. The Spring-Ford fumble on the ensuing kickoff gave the Knights the ball at the Ram 24 and Major scored from one yard out with 19 seconds left in the half for a 21-21 tie at the intermission.

“There was definitely some second-guessing going on,” said Scott. “But I knew that my team was tough.”

Then North Penn drove 75 yards on 12 plays over 6:56 to start the second half and took a 28-21 lead on a one yard run by Major. The Knights were on the move again on their next possession to the Ram 31, but Spring-Ford’s Bryce Roberts dropped Bucksar for a four yard loss on a 3rd-and-6 play and North Penn missed a 52-yard field goal attempt.

Two plays later, Zollers threw deep again to a wide-open Scott, this time for 72 yards to tie the score at 28-28. with 10:54 left in the game.

“I think my defenders might under-estimate me,” said Scott. “I think I put my defenders on edge by getting up on their toes and giving them quick moves. And I’ve got that amazing quarterback.”

The Knights regained the lead with an 11-play, 57-yard drive with Major scoring from the seven. But a 90-yard kickoff return by Scott set up a 9-yard TD pass to Belal Abdelrahman to tie the score again with 4:41 left. Then the Ram defense forced a punt and the offense drove 73 yards in less than three minutes to pull out the win.

“I went up to each and every one of the seniors and said that this was not going to be our last game,” said junior quarterback Zollers. “And I told the defense to get one stop, and they did. Our running offense could have been a little better today. We have to fix the little things, the stupid penalties.”

North Penn’s Aidan Eves is tackled after a huge gain from a fake punt and reception against Spring-Ford during the second half of their District 1-6A playoff game on Nov. 3 at Spring-Ford. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)
North Penn running back Amir Major reacts after rushing for a touchdown during the second half of their District 1-6A playoff game on Nov. 3 at Spring-Ford. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

“They showed resilience,” Brubaker said of his players. “We did a lot of dumb things to set them (the Knights) up for success in the second quarter. We gave them good field position.”

North Penn had a 383-334 advantage in total yards. Jamal Lewis was the leading rusher for the Rams with 48 yards on 10 carries. Bucksar rushed for 62 yards on 12 attempts and Major ran the ball 33 times on the night and gained 105 yards in the second half.

“He’s tough,” North Penn coach Dick Beck said of Major. “This was the best night in his career. There’s not enough superlatives I can say about him.

“It was disappointing giving up the big play so much. That hurt us. No. 3 (Scott) is a tough cover. I’m proud of our guys, how hard they played, coming back from 21 down. Disappointed, but proud of their effort.”

This was only the second meeting between the teams, the other coming in the district second round in 2016 – the first year with a 6A classification – with North Penn winning 28-19 on the way to one of its six district titles.

North Penn did not have an easy road to district play this season after a slow start.

“We lost to CB South and we were 2-4,” said Beck. “We had two kids break their ankles and our quarterback had a concussion. What we did the last four games to make the playoffs and how hard we played in this game, it was inspiring for me.”

Spring-Ford 42, North Penn 35

North Penn 0 21 7 7 – 35
Spring-Ford 14 7 0 21 – 42

SF-Scott 54 pass from Zollers (McGarvey kick)
SF-Strzeminski 1 run (Fields kick)
SF-Scott 18 pass from Zollers (McGarvey kick)
NP-Major 43 run (Bocklet kick)
NP-Major 28 pass from Bucksar (Bocklet kick)
NP-Major 1 run (Bocklet kick)
NP-Major 1 run (Bocklet kick)
SF-Scott 72 pass from Zollers (Fields kick)
NP-Major 7 run (Bocklet kick)
SF-Abdelrahman 9 pass from Zollers (Fields kick)
SF-Bendowski 1 run (Fields kick)

Team Stats
First Downs 18 13
Yards Rushing 249 73
Yards Passing 134 261
Total Yards 383 334
Passes C-A-I 7-13-1 14-21-0
Fumbles 1-0 1-1
Penalties-Yds 5-55 4-40
Punts-Avg 3-33.7 3-34.7

Individual Stats
North Penn: Major 33-181, 4 TD’s; Bucksar 12-62; Duld 2-3; Scruggs 2-3, Totals 49-249, 4 TD’s

Spring-Ford: Lewis 10-48; Bendowski 3-9, 1 TD; Scott 1-8; Zollers 4-7; Strzeminski 1-1, 1 TD, Totals 19-73, 2 TD’s

North Penn: Bucksar 6-11-112, 1 TD, 1 INT; Bocklet 1-22; Cliver 0-1, Totals 7-13-134, 1 TD, 1 INT

Spring-Ford: Zollers 14-21-261, 4 TD’s

North Penn: Eves 2-51; Major 1-28, 1 TD; Franek 1-27; McNeill 1-17; Scruggs 1-10; Staggaitis 1-1, Totals 134

Spring-Ford: Scott 7-204, 3 TD’s; Marsilio 3-33; Kerchner 3-15; Abdelrahman 1-9, 1 TD, Totals 14-261, 4 TD’s

Interception: Spring-Ford-Welsh. Sack: North Penn-Quallet

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