North Penn has enjoyed considerable rushing success in its undefeated run to the quarterfinal round of the PIAA District 1 Class 6A playoffs.
Running backs Shamar Edwards and Julian White have combined to rush for 1,855 yards and 25 touchdowns. Quarterback Solomon Robinson has added 451 yards and five scores on the ground.
Offensive lineman Jake Walton, a rugged and hard-working senior, has been a driving force behind the production.
The 6-foot-3, 250-pounder is a fixture at left tackle and saw time on the defensive line midway through season when a pair of teammates were sidelined with injuries.
"I rotated in at tight end on offense last season, so I'm playing a new position," Walton said. "That transition hasn't been that hard. The blocking technique and footwork is pretty much the same."
Walton and the No. 1-seeded Knights (11-0) will host No. 8 Neshaminy (8-3) at 7 p.m. Friday.
The former Suburban One League National Conference rivals met in the nonleague opener for both teams on Aug. 24, with visiting North Penn edging the Redskins, 34-33, in double overtime.
"I think both teams have improved since then, so it should be another great game," Walton said. "It could go down to the wire again."
The surge up front in last Friday's 26-16 defeat of No. 16 seed Ridley was led by Walton, center Noah Boast, left guard Eddie Harkins, right guard Shadman Alam, and right tackle Donald Stites.
"We started to connect as a group in camp and I think we've gotten better each week," Walton said of the line.
In addition to Edwards, who doubles as a strong safety, the Knights have been led on defense by tackles Noah Fox, Cory Keim and Eric Rowe, end R.J. McNamara, linebackers Erik Laughlin and Nate Brown, cornerback Jon Haynes, and free safety Andy Cole.
An erstwhile basketball and baseball player, Walton played youth football for the Souderton Braves. His late grandfather, Brent Conver, was one of the club's coaches.
Walton also excels in the classroom. He has a 3.6 grade-point average, takes advanced placement classes in U.S. Government and Economics, and is a member of the National Honor Society.
Walton and his family help the St. Baldrick's Foundation raise money to fight childhood cancer. Each March, he and other volunteers shave their heads in a sign of solidarity with children who lose their hair due to the disease.
"I lost two grandparents to cancer, so it's a cause that means a lot to me," said 17-year-old from Lansdale, who plans to play football for Lehigh as a preferred walk-on.