PERKASIE - Spring-Ford extended its history-making football season at least one more week Saturday afternoon, and the Rams’ defense had a lot to do with it.
Spring-Ford defeated Pennridge, 35-24, in the a District 1-AAAA semifinal contest at Poppy Yoder Field to advance to the Friday night, Nov. 30, district championship game gainst Coatesville at Downingtown West High School.
But somewhat camouflaged by that high score was some solid play by the Rams’ defensive unit. That effort included three turnovers against Pennridge that included a fumble recovery on the first play from scrimmage and two later interceptions.
Mason Romano, a 6-0, 210-pound junior defensive tackle, recovered a fumble on the first play from scrimmage that helped Spring-Ford take its early lead. Romano also shared a sack with 6-3, 200-pound senior defensive end R.J. Sheldon. Zameer McDowell, a 6-5, 220-pound senior defensive end, also registered a sack.
Kyle Hoffner and Travis Daywalt pilfered passes at critical stages of the game for the visiting Rams. Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubaker was happy with those types of plays. So was defensive coordinator Steve Schein.
“Our defense is clutch,” said Hoffner, a 6-1, 185-pound senior linebacker. “They (Pennridge Rams) are a big, tough, physical team so we had to buckle down and stop them.
“We have a bunch of guys coming off past games in the playoffs. Everyone stepped it up.”
The seventh-seeded Spring-Ford squad won its third straight district playoff game after victories over Garnet Valley and Ridley to start the postseason run. Spring-Ford did so against a Pennridge ballclub that just one the Suburban One Continental Conference championship Thursday morning with a victory over Quakertown. Pennridge features the likes of 6-5 senior quarterback Alex Krivda, junior running back Mike Class, who played despite recovering from a concussion; and some other solid skill players.
Pennridge came in as the third seed in the tournament.
Hoffner’s interception came with 2:24 remaining in the third period and Pennridge in Spring-Ford territory. Spring-Ford held a 28-24 lead at the time, and Pennridge was on the move after recovering an onside kick.
Spring-Ford converted the key turnover into a touchdown at the other end of the field as quarterback Hank Coyne found McDowell on a 25-yard strike on the first play of the fourth quarter for a 35-24 lead.
Spring-Ford complemented its offense with the defensive work that also included some plays up front by 6-1, 220-pound junior defensive tackle Robby Varner and senior safety Ben Schein in the secondary.
“We took on the blocks,” said Romano. “We had to keep fighting and fighting.”
The onside kickoff return gave Pennridge some extra momentum at that point so Spring-Ford’s players knew they had to dig deeper to remain aggressive.
“They kicked onside in the second half,” said Schein. “It came down to us stepping up and challenging. We knew it would be a defensive battle in that regard.” It was about keeping our composure defensively.”
The Spring-Ford coaches and players prepared diligently all week to prepare for another stout opponent in Pennridge. Spring-Ford had to do the same in preparing for a Coatesville ballclub that manhandled the Pioneer Athletic Conference entry in the first round a year ago.
“It comes down to knowing who is going where and preparing for the game,” said Schein. “So the work we did during the week that determines the outcome of the game.”
McDowell was thrilled with the victory after he turned in another productive contest on both sides of the football.
“It is amazing and a good feeling,” said McDowell. “We knew they were a good running team.
“We knew we had to get pressure against them whether they were running or passing. We couldn’t let them get open.”
Brubaker felt his team forced Pennridge into difficult situations in order to pick up first downs and continue downfield.
“We had them in third and long and second and long,” said Brubaker. “We made plays on defense. We hung in there.”
Brubaker thought his offense executed better throughout the contest that allowed the defense to get more rest on the sidelines and stay refreshed for each ensuing defensive series.
“We had a ton to prepare for,” said Brubaker. “They have a lot of weapons. Each week we have to play better and better.”
Daywalt made his interception in the end zone with 7:38 left in the fourth quarter and Spring-Ford protecting its 35-24 advantage.
Spring-Ford took over on offense and ran out the clock by moving the chains four times.