A halftime deficit wasn’t the only thing motivating Pennridge.
Whatever it took, the Rams used in overcoming Central Bucks West, 21-10, for the fifth consecutive year last Friday at War Memorial Field.
Halting a four-game losing skid played a role. Ruining Senior Night for the Bucks had a hand. Winning for assistant coaches Matt Pirolli, Alex Smith and Mike Kantor – all with West ties – also factored largely for the Rams.
And as if those weren’t enough reasons, head coach Cody Muller threw in one more during a focused week of practices to help whip his team into a frenzy.
“There was a lot of stuff said about our team, about our guys back in June,” Muller said. “How they (West) were going to run all over us and score all these touchdowns. I told them, ‘Hey, it’s just a reminder.’
“They took it to heart.”
Trailing 10-7, the Rams responded by opening the third quarter with 11 runs on 12 plays for 65 yards, finished by a Ryan Garner touchdown run to grab a 14-10 lead they’d never relinquish.
While their heart showed with the definitive drive, their resolve proved even stronger. The Rams knew they were better than they’d played up to that point. Seven penalty flags didn’t help, either. Staring at a three-point deficit and in the midst of a four-game losing skid, it was time to turn things around. Here. Now.
“We got into that locker room (at halftime) and felt like that wasn’t our team,” sophomore Jonathan Post said. “We felt that energy. Everyone was into it. We went out there and we showed them who we are.”
During the game-turning drive, which ate up five minutes of game clock, Pennridge converted twice for first downs on fourth down. It proved to be a successful strategy throughout. The Rams’ two other scores also came on fourth downs. Connor Pliebel, who led all receivers with 99 yards on six catches, jumped to haul in a 35-yard pass from Zak Kantor on fourth-and-15 in the first quarter. Post used his 6-foot-5-inch height advantage for an 11-yard scoring catch on a fade pattern to put the game away in the fourth quarter.
He also added several run-stuffing tackles on defense, as the Rams stymied the Bucks, by holding them without a first down in the second half.
Post and the Rams were tired of being pushed around on defense.
“The past few weeks, teams have been running all over us,” he said. “That was not happening again.”
The Bucks managed only 14 total yards of offense in the second half. As a final act, Justyce Bass stripped away the ball from a Bucks runner on their final possession.
Surprisingly, West held the lead at halftime, despite being outsized on the line, and playing without several injured starters, including quarterback Jack Neri and heralded senior Luke Benson.
Senior Garrett Hitchens scored the Bucks’ only touchdown on a six-yard run early in the second quarter. The Bucks took the lead on a field goal by Sean Metzer.
Seniors Harry Jones III and Owen Shields made key interceptions to pump up the Senior Night crowd. Unfortunately, the highlights were few.
While the Rams intensified the pressure, the Bucks made things worse for themselves with several shanked punts that kept the ball deep into their own territory.
First-year West head coach Rob Rowan made no excuses.
“We’ll keep fighting,” he said. “We just have to come out and play. Guys have to step up. Nobody cares that you’re hurt. We’re resilient. We’ll learn from our mistakes and be ready to go.”
Both teams return to Suburban One League conference play tomorrow and Saturday. Pennridge (2-4 overall, 1-2 Continental) visits CB South (3-3, 2-0) on Friday at 7 p.m. CB West (2-4, 1-2) faces crosstown rival CB East (2-4, 0-2) on Saturday at 1 p.m.