Times staff / ROBERT J. GURECKI
Times staff / ROBERT J. GURECKI

MIDDLETOWN — They lined up in victory formation one final time. Do-everything quarterback Chris Rossiter took a knee and the seconds ticked down.

10 ... 9 ... 8 ... 7 ...

The celebration ensued.

For the first time since 2006, Upper Darby has made the District One Class AAAA playoffs.The Royals defeated Penncrest, 35-14, Friday night to wrap up a remarkable 8-2 regular season. Meanwhile, Penncrest was sent home for the year despite a 7-3 season. What ultimately ruined the Lions' playoff hopes was back-to-back losses to Ridley and Upper Darby.Early Saturday morning, the tournament seeds still were being hashed out. Whether the Royals would end up No. 16 or somewhere higher was to be determined.

Times Staff/ROBERT J. GURECKI. Upper Darby’s Cyrus Barlee carries the ball for some yardage against Penncrest.
Times Staff/ROBERT J. GURECKI. Upper Darby's Cyrus Barlee carries the ball for some yardage against Penncrest.

The Royals don't seem to care who they play in the first round. All that matters is they're in.

"This is an awesome feeling. We did it ourselves,' Rossiter said, alluding to the idea that Upper Darby didn't need outside help to qualify for the postseason. "Once that clock started winding down under five minutes, we knew it was going to fall into place. It felt great.'

In no way were the Royals getting on the yellow bus and heading home without a victory and playoff berth in their back pockets.

They clearly wanted it bad.

"We know we have each other's backs, and we know we were going to win,' said Devon Vogel, who was exceptional on defense for the Royals. "We're a close team. We love to come to practice and we love playing together. It's like that all the time.'

Wide receiver De'Andre Pendergrass took it one step farther.

"We're a family,' he said.It's a tough and extremely talented family. Royals coach Richie Gentile has been around a long time and has coached plenty of winners."Let's face it,' he said. "I'm old.'

Times Staff/ROBERT J. GURECKI. Upper Darby’s Deandre Pendergrass, left, carries the ball as Penncrest’s Brent Roller pursues.
Times Staff/ROBERT J. GURECKI. Upper Darby's Deandre Pendergrass, left, carries the ball as Penncrest's Brent Roller pursues.

And he's coached some amazing talent over his 19 seasons. Gentile might not have coached a better team than this year's Royals.

"This team reminds of the periods in the late 1990s, early 2000s where we had great underclassmen,' he said. "We have people that can step in play. I think we're hard to defend, hard to take away anything with our speed, and those guys (in the defensive secondary) are able to shut down wideouts and we can put guys behind the line scrimmage.

"I have no life during football season, so I'm always at home watching our film and (football) film in general. As I'm watching it, I'm seeing what we have. I'm not saying what's going to happen next week and if we're going to win or not, but as the year went on ... I'm thinking, I don't know if I'd be happy to play us.'

Times Staff/ROBERT J. GURECKI. Upper Darby’s Deandre Pendergrass, hauls down a deep pass and is trying to escape Penncrest’s Bobby McCafferty
Times Staff/ROBERT J. GURECKI. Upper Darby's Deandre Pendergrass, hauls down a deep pass and is trying to escape Penncrest's Bobby McCafferty (10). (Robert J.Gurecki)

Nobody is going to be happy to defend Rossiter, who completed 11 of 12 pass attempts for 206 yards. Pendergrass finished with six catches for 124 yards and a touchdown. Rossiter fired a 41-yard scoring strike to Justin Venditti in the first quarter to start the scoring. The Lions responded with a crisp 13-play drive, capped by a Joe Volciak two-yard touchdown run.

It was all Upper Darby the rest of the way.

Fog rolled in by the start of the third quarter. Passing the ball (and seeing beyond 10 yards in the distance) proved to be difficult, especially for Penncrest junior quarterback Dan Fisher. Tasked with facing the best collection of defensive backs in the county, Fisher was 2-for-15 with two interceptions. Justin Venditti's pick-six gave the Royals a 35-7 lead in the fourth quarter. Venditti's second interception in the waning moments iced the game.

"We've made it,' Venditti exclaimed.

In addition to doing awesome things running and passing the football, Rossiter was swell in the secondary, too, and never left the field. Also, he nailed all five point-after attempts and averaged 41.6 yards per punt. All that was missing in Rossiter's repertoire was the Superman cape.