North Penn solves La Salle, wins semifinal

This time, North Penn's resolve never weakened.

A rock-solid defensive showing, including a huge fourth-down stop late, and key contributions from three bullish fullbacks helped the formerly frustrated Knights claim their first victory over fellow Southeastern Pennsylvania power La Salle.

Saturday's 21-14 triumph, in a hard-fought PIAA Class AAAA state semifinal at Northeast's Charlie Martin Memorial Stadium, earned North Penn a trip to Hershey and ended an 0-for-3 skid against the Explorers.

"This is awesome," said North Penn's Danny Wynne, a senior wingback and strong safety/outside linebacker. "We played as a team, didn't back down, and made enough big plays to get it done."

In limiting La Salle to 80 yards rushing and two second-quarter scores, the Knights (13-2) moved to within a win of their first state championship since 2003.

"I couldn't be prouder of our team," senior fullback and linebacker Ralph Reeves said. "This means the world to us. We have one more to play, but I'm so happy right now."

Next Saturday, at 6 p.m. at Hersheypark Stadium, North Penn will play District 3's Central Dauphin, a semifinal winner Saturday night over defending champ North Allegheny, of District 7.

The 6-foot, 230-pound Reeves, playing with a badly bruised right hand, did all the scoring for Dick Beck's squad. The difference was his third rushing tally, a 1-yard dive with 3 minutes, 55 seconds left in the third quarter.

Fellow fullback James Fielder was similarly productive. The 5-foot-10 190-pounder, in his third game back after suffering a deep left-thigh bruise, carried 20 times for 104 yards.

With tailback Kyle Mayfield nursing a shoulder injury and getting only three touches, the District 1 titlists also turned to handyman Dan Gevirtz (12 carries for 49 yards) and a third fullback, Matt Smith (six for 45).

Smith, making up for a second-quarter fumble that resulted in La Salle's first score, set up Reeves' decisive plunge with a 22-yard dart up the middle. He later added runs of 9 and 14 yards.

North Penn totaled 280 rushing yards on 56 attempts. Quarterback Corey Ernst (7-for-13 passing, 81 yards) chipped in 58 yards on seven tries.

With 2:25 remaining, La Salle (12-2) faced a fourth and 1 from its own 49. The Knights' front four answered the challenge by stopping Tim Wade (19 carries for 79 yards) for no gain.

Thanks to a fourth-down stand of their own, the Explorers regained possession with 1:58 to go. But five plays later, Steve Gozur stepped in front of Colin Buckley and made a clinching interception at the North Penn 15.

North Penn   0 14 7 0 – 21

La Salle   0 14 0 0 – 14

LS: Herrmann 29 pass from Magarity (Winslow kick)

NP: Reeves 1 run (Mandes kick)

NP: Reeves 10 run (Mandes kick)

LS: Buckley 12 pass from Magarity (Winslow kick)

NP: Reeves 1 run (Mandes kick)

 


Contact staff writer Rick O'Brien at 610-313-8019, robrien@phillynews.com, or @ozoneinq on Twitter. Read his blog, "The O'Zone," at www.philly.com/ozone