Which storyline of No. 2 Central Bucks West’s 27-26 thriller over No. 3 North Penn (6-2, 3-1 SOL Continental) at War Memorial Field on Friday would you pick?
Would it be Jack Fallon being stopped dead to rights at midfield on a third-down pass with 3:00 left in the game, breaking a leg tackle and racing 35 yards to set up the game-winning touchdown in one of the greatest hustle plays of the year?
“The throw was just as good since (quarterback) Jack Neri had two guys hanging on him,” reminded West coach Rob Rowan. “But in my opinion, Jack Fallon is the MVP of the league and that (play) is who he is. He is an absolute grinder of a kid.”
Would it be North Penn – a school bigger than CB West (8-0, 4-0 Continental) and CB East combined – suffering both its first conference loss in five years and the end of its 12-game win streak over the Bucks?
Perhaps it was a West defense that didn’t play flawlessly yet forced four turnovers to keep the Bucks’ magical season alive.
Maybe it was the crazy roller coaster of West’s week: The Bucks euphorically mercy ruled their archrivals last Friday, suffered the devastating loss of a CB West student on Tuesday and rebounded for an even more emotional win to complete years’ worth of emotions in seven days.
“This means so much,” Nick Tumolo emphasized. “We’re 8-0 as a team. We have confidence. That was a huge win.”
The four storylines blended together and richly emerged out of an instant classic football game. Fallon – who rushed for 128 yards, forced two fumbles, intercepted a pass and even handled the punting – scored on a 9-yard run with 2:52 left. Bailey Moyer’s PAT made the game 27-26 West.
When North Penn got the ball back, Peter Santacecilia iced the game by forcing a 22-yard loss on a third-down intentional grounding call.
“We knew they were going to come out and run the ball,” noted Tristan Hulme, who had two tackles for loss or no gain. “A lot of teams that play them dance around and are scared. We weren’t afraid of them. We wanted to blitz, get pressure and go punch for punch. They have a heavy running back so we had to rally to the ball.”
The game couldn’t have started better for West. Fallon scored on a 14-yard run, ending a four-play drive where the Bucks never even faced a second down.
On North Penn’s third offensive play, Hulme hurried quarterback Ryan Zeltt, whose screen pass was intercepted.
“It was an angle fire call,” Hulme recalled. “I came off the edge and was free. I didn’t even focus on the ball. I just knew I had to get in his face and disrupt the play.”
Facing fourth-and-4, Neri was flushed to his right but found Nick Olear in the back of the end zone on a 24-yard touchdown scoring strike. It was 13-0 West with barely four minutes elapsed.
“I saw the corner, sneaked up behind him and improvised it. I saw Jack running out and I was trying to get open for him so I rolled out to the right,” described Olear, who caught three balls for 51 yards.
The Knights scored on run-heavy drives of 62 and 55 yards while defensively holding West to three straight three-and-outs. Tumolo snapped the offense’s cold streak with a 14-yard touchdown run.
“Our coaches see the cutback lanes. They’re great with that,” noted Tumolo, who gained 41 yards on six carries. “They told us to watch the cutback open. I looked to the left, took the cut and I was gone. I saw green.”
When North Penn scored on Nate Brown’s plunge with 2:31 remaining in the half, Tumolo blocked the extra point try to preserve the 20-20 deadlock.
Miscues piled up for the Knights in the second half, but in between two lost fumbles and a fourth down ruined by a bad snap, Zeltt hit Kenneth Grandy on a beautiful 53-yard touchdown strike late in the third quarter. The Knights regained a 26-20 lead, but the missed extra point try haunted them.
West’s work is cut out for them. They close the year with two brutal games against 7-1 teams: at Souderton and hosting Abington.
Yet on Friday, in arguably West’s biggest win in the post-Mike Pettine era, Rowan wanted his players to “soak every bit of this up.”
“Our motto this week was, ‘You don’t win a heavyweight fighting dancing around the ring.’ We came out and swung, they did too, but we ended up on the right side,” Rowan offered. “We had a really rough week at West and it was traumatic experience for the community. For our guys to come out the way they did, this win means so much.”
“This means everything. We had a tough week. A lot of ups and downs,” Olear echoed. “We didn’t even have practice yesterday but we gathered ourselves. It wasn’t perfect but we got this ‘W.’ That’s all that matters.”