Fans of Central Bucks West football waited a long time for a District One playoff win, so one more day was not a big deal.
In a Class 6A playoff opener Nov. 2 at War Memorial Field in Doylestown that was postponed from Friday night, the second-seeded Bucks dominated No. 15 Ridley on both sides of the ball – to the tune of a 42-7 thumping of the visiting Green Raiders.
The duel was pushed to Saturday because West was without power the night before. When the skirmish finally kicked off, the Bucks showed no lack of energy, especially senior running back Josh Jackson, who torched the Ridley defense for 131 yards and three touchdowns on just 11 carries.
“He stepped up big for us tonight,” said senior quarterback Jack Neri. “He’s done a great job this season; he puts the work in and always keeps his legs moving.”
On the opening kick, classmate Nick Tumolo gave West great field position when he raced 57 yards to Ridley’s 18-yard line. Five plays later, Jackson put the Bucks on the scoreboard with a 2-yard plunge into the end zone just 2:36 into the first quarter.
On West’s next possession, Neri connected with classmate Nick Olear on a 39-yard touchdown bomb, putting the Bucks on top 14-0 with 5:06 still to play in the opening quarter.
“It feels great; all our hard work’s paying off,” added Neri. “Olear made a great catch and took it in for a touchdown.”
While West was forced to punt on its next possession, the Bucks pushed the score to 21-0 with 7:01 to play in the first half on a 28-yard TD scamper by senior fullback Jack Fallon, who initiated the drive with an 18-yard punt return, setting his team up at midfield.
Fallon delighted the CB West faithful with a 35-yard first down run on a fake punt in the middle of the Bucks’ next possession. The drive ended however on an interception by Ridley linebacker Sonny Elhamamy. The Raiders’ defender had a chance to take the ball to the house on the play, but West senior Ryan McKenna made a touchdown-saving stop with a shoestring tackle.
While West fumbled the ball inside its own 20 on its next drive, sophomore defender Donte Mancini ended any hopes of a Ridley score before halftime with an interception in the end zone.
“Those (turnovers) are huge because with our team, even if we give up the ball all the way down in the red zone, we always find a way to buckle down at the end and make a big play like that to stop them from scoring,” stated Jackson.
“It’s happened countless times throughout the season.”
Things didn’t get any better for the Raiders in the second half as the visitors fumbled the opening kick at their own 23-yard line. From there, it took the Bucks only three plays to score, this time on a 5-yard touchdown run by sophomore Jeremy Goldrick on the first scoring run of his varsity career.
A McKenna sack forced a Ridley punt on the opponent’s next possession and Jackson capped off West’s next drive with a 29-yard TD scamper that put the Bucks up 35-0 with 5:15 still to play in the third quarter.
On the Raiders’ next drive, West’s defense forced a turnover on downs at the Bucks’ 33-yard line and it took Jackson just a single play to put the ball in the end zone again, this time on a 67-yard scoring jaunt.
“When I got the handoff, the whole lane just opened up and I just saw daylight from there,” stated Jackson. “I was running out of energy at the end but I saw the end zone and I just wanted it really bad.”
This was West’s first playoff win since 2013 when it knocked off Plymouth Whitemarsh 50-26 to earn a berth in the District One Class 4A quarterfinals. It was also the Bucks’ 10th win of the season; the last time that happened was 2000 when West went 14-1 and reached the PIAA final where it lost in overtime to Erie Cathedral Prep.
In this game, getting off to a quick start was critical, said Jackson.
“That was really important for us because when we get off to a slow start, we have to progress later on and try to catch up,” explained Jackson. “When we go right off the bat, we don’t have to rely on them making a mistake and we can play to our strengths.”
As good as the Bucks were on offense, the CB West defense was equal to the task. The Bucks allowed just a lone first down by Ridley in the first half and ended the Raiders’ second and last possessions with interceptions, the initial pick by Neri coming off a tip in the end zone.
“The defense played fantastic; they really knew their roles,” stated Jackson. “Tristan (Hulme) and Pete (Santacecilia) and McKenna all stepped up and made nice tackles.
“That’s why they were kept off the scoreboard for so long.”
Ridley finally ended its scoring drought when senior QB Jack Grace broke through for a 5-yard TD run with 9:37 showing on the game clock.
West advances to the Class 6A quarterfinals where it will host seventh-seeded and two-time defending champion Coatesville Nov. 8 at War Memorial Field. Coatesville toppled Souderton 49-18 in its playoff opener.
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