Such is the paradox of the PIAA state playoffs, where the Falcons’ inspired performance in the District 1 championship game a week ago gave no inkling of what was to come Saturday in the Falcons’ 37-7 defeat against St. Joseph’s Prep in the PIAA Class AAAA state semifinals.
So comprehensive was the Little Hawks’ victory at rain-drenched Northeast High School that not even four Pennsbury turnovers — including three in succession during the second quarter — could be cited for the drubbing.
Despite the defeat, the Falcons finished as the only team in school history to record 13 wins, win a league championship and capture a district crown in the same season.
“Once you turn the ball over, it just kind of unravels on you,’ head coach Galen Snyder said. “We’ve been there before. It’s been a while since we’ve been there, but we’ve been there before. … They were the better team today, but we’ve just got to take better care of the ball.’
The first Pennsbury (13-2) miscue occurred on the final play of the first quarter as Raheem Thompson swept 13 yards to convert a third-and-9, only to take a big hit and drop the ball at the Falcons’ 32-yard line.
St. Joe’s Prep (10-3) fell on it.
Five plays later, the Hawks’ D’Andre Swift ran 22 yards for a touchdown to open the scoring.
On Pennsbury’s ensuing possession, quarterback Mike Alley and a runner misplayed a handoff and the ball again fell to the turf. Four plays later, Swift ran 4 yards for another touchdown.
Charles Snorweah got the call on third-and-1 on the next drive, but a big hit knocked the ball from his grasp. St. Joe’s Prep recovered at the Falcons’ 45 and soon scored on James Bell’s 26-yard run to make it 19-0.
It was Pennsbury’s third fumble in six offensive snaps.
The teams ran only one play in the Hawks’ half of the field in the second quarter.
“They have an excellent team. We wanted our shot at them and we got it,’ Snyder said. “They were the better team. What are you going to do?’
In contrast to the speedy Coatesville team that Pennsbury defeated, 21-14, to win the district title, the Hawks were big and physical. And they were equally as fast with depth at all skill positions.
As a parochial school, St. Joe’s draws players from throughout the region (including New Jersey and Delaware), while Pennsbury’s players — the case with all public schools —must live within their designated districts.
“As a group they were a big, fast, physical team that could throw the ball and run the ball,’ Alley said of the Hawks. “They pretty much could do it all. And their special teams played very well. You pretty much have to tip your hat to them. They’re a great team.’
“This team had a lot of good players and we just couldn’t beat them,’ Pennsbury’s Daulton Hose said. “We knew we had to be perfect, but we just couldn’t get it done.’
Pennsbury looked beaten as halftime drew near. Buoyed by Bell’s 17- and 12-yard runs, along with an 18-yard pass to Swift from Jack Clements, St. Joe’s Prep moved to the Falcons’ 6 with less than a minute left in the second quarter
Wide receiver Justin Montague ran an end-around for to tally Prep’s fourth touchdown. A two-point conversion followed.
Snorweah provided Pennsbury’s only consistent production in the half, rushing for 66 of Pennsbury’s 79 total yards on nine carries.
Snorweah surpassed 100 rushing yards late in the third quarter and padded his total with a 56-yard touchdown in the fourth. He finished with 19 runs for 172 yards.
Despite Snorweah’s efforts, the Hawks stretched their lead to 34 points on Benny Walls’ 73-yard touchdown run in the third.
After the final minutes, Snyder encouraged the Falcons to reflect not on the day’s defeat but on the bigger picture.
“Putting today aside, I said to the boys, ‘ You accomplished a heck of a lot,” Snyder said. “We didn’t make it out to (the state final in) Hershey, which was our final goal. But we won a league title. We won a district title. We tied the school record for best won-loss record. We came up short today, but I’m proud of all their efforts.’
Alley, a junior in his first season with Pennsbury, was already looking ahead to another run next year.
“It’s going to sting a little bit, but it’s going to make us more hungry for next year,’ he said. “We’re going to work hard all off-season and be ready to go next year.’
The season will also leave the team with some priceless memories.
“The biggest memory will probably be playing with Charles Snorweah,’ Hose said. “And playing with Jordan O’Neill, Sam Raywood, Mason Hourriet and Victor Delgado and Ashanti Rumph. And the list goes on.’
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