Al Thompson
The Pennsbury–Neshaminy playoff game was a battle in the trenches for four quarters. Photo by J.S. Garber.

This was a tough spot for the Neshaminy football team on November 10. The Redskins were facing the program’s arch rival for the second time in 14 days.

On October 27, at packed Falcon Field, Neshaminy trailed Pennsbury 20-7 with 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter. Both teams entered the game with 8-1 records.

The Redskins staged an improbable comeback, first on a 93-yard kick return by Joel Stills. Then on fourth down with just 36 seconds left in the fourth quarter, sophomore quarterback Brody McAndrew caught the game-winning touchdown pass from wide receiver Cory Joyce on an end-around pass leaving the home team stunned and left with the reality that the 21-20 Neshaminy win decided the Suburban One League National Conference.

“We have a lot of great competitors on this team,” head coach Steve Wilmot told the Courier Times after the game. “But our three biggest competitors are Oleh (TE Manzyk), Cory and Brody, and all three touched the ball on that play. I was pretty certain that play was going to work. When you put it in the hands of three great players like that, great things are going to happen.”

The victory gave the Redskins the No. 1 seed in the PIAA District One 6A playoffs and home field advantage throughout that leg of the tournament.

The loss put Pennsbury in the No. 8 spot setting up a rematch in the second round provided both team took care of business in the first round.

Pennsbury shutout Council Rock South 17-0 and Neshaminy defeated Spring-Ford 42-21.

“It’s going to be exciting here next week,” Wilmot said after the win over Spring-Ford. “It will be packed.”

Pennsbury players, and head coach Dan McShane, entered the game with a chip on their shoulders, especially the Falcons massive offensive line.

What helped Pennsbury in their second round matchup was the weather. It was bitterly cold and windy which hurt Neshaminy’s speed advantage and helped the Falcons size advantage enormously.

Pennsbury made a statement on the first drive of the game.

Falcons linebacker/running back Andrew Basalyga only had 19 carries for the season heading into Friday’s game. He carried the ball five times in a row on the Falcons’ opening possession, six overall setting up quarterback Zach DeMarchis’ 10-yard touchdown run to make it 7-0.

Basalyga would end up doubling his season production with 172 yards in 18 carries and two touchdowns.

He had help.

Nasan Robbins, rushed for 123 yards on 20 carries and two touchdowns as the Falcons cruised to a 36-17 win and a date with Coatesville in the District One 6A semifinals.

Joel Stills led Neshaminy with two rushing touchdowns.

Both teams had trouble handling the ball, much less throwing it because of the frigid weather. Both teams scored safeties on bad punt snaps.

Pennsbury ran the ball all night behind a line that included Guard Nika Wright (6-3, 270), tackle Matt Rosso (6-6, 270), guard Jay Shellenberger (6-1, 285), center Kieren Saunders (5-10, 295) and tackle Brian Malinowski (6-4, 295).

McShane talked about the conditions and his game plan.

“The ground’s like cement,” McShane said with a laugh. “There was a little breeze here earlier, yeah we try to run the football. Everybody thinks we’re a chuck-and-duck team but we actually we like to run the football. Coach (Ian) Bell (offensive coordinator) did a good job getting the right guys. Out of nowhere Basalyga became a running back too. He pounded the ball too. It was pretty cool to see. It’s a physical group up front…on both side of the ball.”

When asked to single out his players on the offensive line, McShane laughed…”The offensive line? I don’t know any of their names! They’re just known as ‘O-line.’”

To an offensive lineman McShane’s joke was really a compliment. His unit imposed its will as one on an outstanding Neshaminy defensive front four.

“But no, You’ve got Kieren Saunders at center, you’ve got the big man Matt Rosso, Nika Wright, Jay Shellenberger and Brian Malinowski,” McShane continued. “It’s a good group, a really good group, very physical. And Andrew’s a physical back and Nasan Robbins is a real physical back too, they really drop the pads and run really well behind their pads. It was a great effort by the men up front. And it all started from the first series.”

McShane said knowing his team is big and physical, makes everyone believers.

“Builds a lot of confidence,” McShane said. “When we can run the ball in this weather and score the ball.”

McShane was asked if his players had a chip on their shoulder after losing the Neshaminy two weeks ago by point in the last second.

“For sure, for sure,” McShane said. “It was a tough two or three days (after the loss). We got over it though because we realized what’s at stake, obviously. And we kind of had a feeling we might see these guys again. So we knew they were out there and we’d have a shot to redeem ourselves and obviously we did.”

Wright agreed with his coach.

“We played some hard-nosed football,” the senior guard said. “Our O-line balled out. It was just in us to run the ball. It’s too cold, so we had to keep it on the ground.”

Wright said his unit wanted to set the tone and keep it up all game.

“That first drive set the tone for our O-line and our running game,” Wright said. “They got the idea we were too much to handle and that just set the tone.

“We knew we had a special team,” Wright continued. “And we knew we could play like we played (tonight).”

Until next year. *

Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii

16 Nov 17 - Football, Football Training, High School Football - Al Thompson - No Comments

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