UPPER DARBY — Chris Rossiter and the new-look Upper Darby offense passed one test with flying colors Friday night.
Julius Kennedy, who gets good marks in the classroom, will grade out well when the Royals coaches view the game films of their team's exciting 28-27 overtime decision over Bonner-Prendergast at Memorial Field.
The Royals' defensive unit, which gave up plenty of yardage in the first half, shut the Friars down in the last two quarters and on the deciding conversion run in overtime to earn the praises of coordinator Dennis Keegan in the post-game team meeting.
All of these high grades added up to a happy bunch of Royals, who paraded off the field with the John E. Clark Trophy as the winner of the matchup of the two rivals who share the same home field.
"The new offense was fine, and the defense made the adjustments we needed to make after halftime,' winning coach Rich Gentile said. "We have people who can run, so we make it tough for a defensive coordinator to try to stop one person. And Rossiter can throw the ball, and when he puts it into (DeAndre Pendergrass') hands, it's tough for someone to cover him.
"The defense stayed together and carried out what they were asked to do, and we're going home with a win.'
Rossiter got the winning touchdown and Kennedy made the saving tackle in the extra period, after Rossiter's 44-yard scoring dash and extra point kick tied the score at 21 6:41 before the end of the fourth quarter.
Midway through the second quarter, when Bonner-Prendergast had a 21-7 lead, it looked like the green and white clad Friars would be doing the victory dance. Joe DePhillipo (15 carries, 118 yards), who was named Bonner-Prendergast's outstanding player, banged over for a couple of scores in the first quarter, and first-time quarterback starter Collin DiGalbo, who threw for 146 yards, hit Tyler Higgins with a short scoring strike 5:25 before halftime.
After the first Bonner-Prendergast touchdown, Upper Darby needed just one play to score as Justin Vendetti took a handoff from Rossiter, started out as if to run a jet sweep, then stood up and fired to a wide open Pendergrass for six points.
"I held for a couple of seconds like I was going to block,' said Pendergrass, a third cousin of the late Philadelphia singing legend Teddy Pendergrass. "When they came up, I took off.'
He did that again two plays after some miscommunication on the Bonner-Prendie kickoff pushed the Royals back to their 4-yard line. With the ball at the 5 on second down, Rossiter dropped into the end zone and sent a pass toward midfield that landed in Pendergrass' arms. The speedy receiver did the rest, cutting back as he shed a tackler to complete a 95-yard play.
"It's all focus and concentration,' Pendergrass (four catches, 184 yards) said.
Rossiter's focus and concentration has been on coordinator Eric Ruffenach's new offensive schemes, which helped him earn 144 yards on 19 carries and 132 yards with his five completions.
"I didn't really expect that many yards,' said Rossiter, who won the most valuable player for Upper Darby award. "We had things clicking tonight.'
On the first play of overtime, Rossiter dashed right up the middle for six points. He boomed his fourth consecutive extra point to give Upper Darby a seven-point advantage.
Bonner-Prendergast came back to get into the end zone on the third of DiGalbo's consecutive carries, then Friars coach Greg "Bubba' Bernhardt called a timeout to talk things over with his offensive coaches.
Instead of sending his kicking unit out, Bernhardt went for two points, but DiGalbo was stopped by Kennedy.
"The coaches put an extra guy on the line and moved me over,' said Kennedy, who came to this country from Liberia as a fifth grader and learned to play football in middle school. "I shot the gap, found the ball carrier and tackled him.'
That sounds a little easier than it was for the Royals, who gave up 381 total yards. The key was that only 84 of those yards came in the second half and overtime.
"This win means a lot to us,' Gentile said.