SPRING-FORD 35, PENNRIDGE 24
In the end, Spring-Ford's decision to rest its first-teamers in a Thanksgiving Day blowout loss paid a sizable dividend.
In Saturday afternoon's PIAA District 1 Class AAAA semifinal playoff against Pennridge, which used most of its starters in a holiday victory over Quakertown, the more-rested Rams triumphed, 35-24, at Poppy Yoder Field.
With Mason Romano, Robby Varner, and Zameer McDowell leading the charge up front, Pennridge's Mike Class, a speedy and elusive junior halfback, was limited to 62 rushing yards on 20 attempts.
Due to a concussion suffered in an earlier playoff, Class, a 2,000-yard rusher who was held out against Quakertown, needed a neurologist's clearance Saturday morning to suit up.
"We heard during the week that he might not play," said Romano, a 6-foot, 210-pound junior tackle. "But we prepared as if he was going to play. Our focus was on stopping him."
Spring-Ford (12-2) earned its first berth in the district final. It will take on Coatesville, a 63-28 semifinal victor over Neshaminy, at 7 p.m. Friday at Downingtown West's Kottmeyer Stadium.
Pennridge (12-2) went with its regulars against Quakertown because it wanted to clinch an outright Suburban One League Continental Conference title.
"We wanted to win our league fair and square," Class said. "But it's really hard playing three games in nine days."
Spring-Ford showed balance on offense, mixing Hank Coyne's throws with carries from Yousef Lundi, Tate Carter, and Jared Jones. The running-back trio combined for 208 yards.
Early in the second quarter, on a fly pattern along the right sideline, Coyne (10-for-14 passing, 193 yards) delivered a 61-yard touchdown pass to Gary Hopkins to give the visitors a 14-12 advantage.
Due to a violation of team rules, Jones (13 carries for 99 yards) did not play for most of the first half. Lundi, who netted 75 yards on 16 tries and posted a pair of 1-yard TD runs, and Carter filled in nicely.
At the start of the third quarter, Jones' first carry of the day went for a 73-yard score and upped his team's lead to 28-18.
Said Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker: "I told him before he went in, 'You don't have to get it all in one play.' Afterward, we were laughing."
On the first play of the fourth quarter, after Class' 11-yard dash made it 28-24, Coyne found the 6-5, 230-pound McDowell over the middle for a 25-yard insurance tally.
Pennridge played without senior fullback/linebacker MacKenzie Crawford, dazed by a shot to the head, in the second half. He scored on a 1-yard dive at the start of the second quarter.
At the end of the first half, Pennridge wingback Kyle Bigam, fighting off three defenders in the left corner of the end zone, made a leaping, 28-yard TD grab.
It was the first time Pennridge advanced to the district semifinals since 2004.
Friday's title game between Spring-Ford and Coatesville will be a rematch of last year's first-round playoff, won by Coatesville, 60-28.
The Rams are seeking their first district crown; Coatesville won in 1992.
Spring-Ford 7 14 7 7-35
Pennridge 6 12 6 0-24
SF: Yousef Lundi 1 run (David Gulati kick)
P: Matt Pasquale 28 interception return (kick failed)
P: MacKenzie Crawford 2 run (pass failed)
SF: Gary Hopkins 61 pass from Hank Coyne (Gulati kick)
SF: Lundi 1 run (Gulati kick)
P: Kyle Bigam 28 pass from Alex Krivda (kick blocked)
SF: Jarred Jones 73 run (Gulati kick)
P: Mike Class 11 run (kick blocked)
SF: Zameer McDowell 25 pass from Coyne (Gulati kick)