Kyle Long, Springfield-Delco advance to district final past Upper Dublin

Ja’Den McKenzie (right) of Springfield (D) avoids being tackled by Max Winebrake of Upper Dublin in the 3rd quarter of a District 1 Class 5A on Friday.

Kyle Long decided to concentrate on basketball and lacrosse last year, and was a spectator as the Springfield (Delco) football team advanced to the district championship game.

“I missed not being part of that run,” the 5-foot-9, 160-pound senior said. “That’s when I decided I was going to rejoin the team. We have a good group of seniors and we worked hard over the summer.”

Long, one of the top lacrosse players in the country, made a late touchdown catch in a 17-6 triumph over visiting Upper Dublin in Friday night’s PIAA District 1 Class 5A semifinal.

A free safety on defense, Long helped top-seeded Springfield limit the fifth-seeded Cardinals to 23 yards rushing on 17 attempts, 42 yards passing, and three first downs through three quarters.

“Coach [Chris] Britton does a great job of scouting and preparing us for the next opponent,” Long said. “We had a good feel for what Upper Dublin was going to try to do on offense.”

Springfield (13-0) will host No. 3 Unionville (12-1) in the district final at 7 p.m. next Friday. The Indians advanced Friday with a 36-21 home victory against No. 7 Marple Newtown.

Long, who will continue his lacrosse career at defending NCAA Division I champion Maryland, has 57 catches for 826 yards and eight scores this season.

On a left-side fade play with 3 1/2 minutes remaining, Long capitalized on one-on-one coverage by reaching over his defender and hauling in a 12-yard pass from Jack Psenicska.

“Jack just kind of threw it up in my direction and I was able to go up and get the ball,” said Long, who played football for the Springfield Youth Club.

The solid defensive effort against Upper Dublin (8-4) was spearheaded by linemen Justin Shields, Derek Strain, Dan Pennestri and Kevin Deal, and linebackers Ja’Den McKenzie and Patrick Clemens.

Support came from Long and fellow backs Phil Shovlin, Liam Difonzo, Geo Dotsicas, and Jack Spence.

Offensively, McKenzie carried 25 times for 104 yards. His 13-yard TD run and Jack Coary’s 37-yard field goal produced a 10-0 halftime advantage.

The Cardinals’ Julian Gimbel completed 15 of 24 passes for 158 yards. His 12-yard pass to Jack Jamison with 1:48 remaining averted a shutout.

Last year, the Cougars advanced to the district final before losing to Delaware County neighbor Academy Park, 24-18.