WEST NORRITON — A closely-contested game quickly unraveled for the Norristown Eagles on the gridiron Saturday afternoon. Down just one touchdown late in the first half, a special teams breakdown gave by the Eagles gave the visiting Wissahickon Trojans three scores in less than two minutes.
With a 30-14 victory, the Trojans nestle in at third place in the Suburban One American Conference with eyes towards the playoffs, while the Eagles remain winless.
Neither team, however, stepped off the turf at Norristown Area High School without having suffered pitfalls at their own expense.
"Defensively we were making stops, but it just seemed like we were shooting ourselves in the foot,' said Wissahickon defensive coordinator Larry Cannon, who stepped in for coach Jeff Cappa who was away on a private matter this week.
In Cappa's absence, the Trojans kept up business as usual. Josh Smith and Mike Marino transition on offense between quarterbacking and rushing, a two-headed attack that can see the pair taking both direct snaps and rushing, dropping back for the pass or handing off to one of six different rushers.
"We have a lot of athletes, and in the first have you got to give credit to the offensive line for opening holes,' Cannon said. "When you have Josh Smith, you can put him anywhere you want: quarterback, out wide, whatever you need.'
But, while Wisshickon put up points first, capped off by a touchdown rush by Smith, who later returned a punt 85-yards for a touchdown, it was points scored off the Norristown special teams that proved to be the difference.
"They didn't give us anything that we haven't seen and worked on in practice,' said Norristown coach E.J. Smith. "They just executed very well.'
It was clear that Eagles were frustrated, as was evident by the 124 yards in penalties, 45 of which were tallied by unsportsmanlike conduct calls on the Eagles' defense. But, giving up 16 points in the final two minutes of the first half can do that to a team.
First, the Eagles muffed a punt-attempt deep in their own redzone for a Trojans' safety. On the resulting kickoff, Josh Smith fumbled the reception before taking off downfield — a play reminiscent of DeSean Jackson's Miracle at the Meadowlands return — and took it 85 yards for the touchdown.
Wissahickon kept the momentum by catching the kickoff in the air after it crossed the line of scrimmage, a play in which the Trojans thought they had regained possession. However, the referees called "kick-catching interference' and gave possession to the Eagles on the 49-yard-line in Trojans territory. The short field proved to be of little use, as the Eagles went three-and-out to set up another easy Trojans score. This time, linebacker Jimmy Gorman blocked the punt and returned the ball himself for a touchdown.
With 2:06 left in the second, the score was a reasonable 14-7; at half, it was 30-7 in favor of the Trojans, who at this point of the season are playing their best football.
"We had a tough stretch in the beginning of the season,' Cannon said. "Right now, in the second half of the season, we said we were going to finish above .500, that's our goal.'
Meanwhile, the Eagles, whose losing streak of 15 games dating back to last season continues, have seen an impressive showing from tight end/runningback/fullback, Kip Patten, who rushed for 144-yards and a touchdown.
"I just want to put the team on my back,' said Patten, 6'5' at 225-pounds, who also plays basketball and baseball at Norristown. "All season I've just been trying to get faster, the power is there, I just need to get faster.'
The Eagles next week will play their final home game of the season against Cheltenham (Saturday, November 2, 2 o'clock p.m.), while the Trojans aim to continue rolling into the postseason at home against Upper Moreland (Friday, 7 p.m.).
Wissahickon 30, Norristown 14
WISSAHICKON 7 23 0 0 -- 30
NORRISTOWN 7 0 7 0 -- 14
Wissahickon — Josh Smith, 3-yard rush (PAT Tyler Brunner)
Norristown — Kip Patten, 33-yard rush (PAT Tom Detweiler)
Wissahickon — Keith Oliphant, 4-yard rush (PAT Tyler Brunner)
Wissahickon — Norristown punter missed snap, Wissahickon safety
Wissahickon — Josh Smith, 85-yard kickoff return (PAT Tyler Brunner)
Wissahickon —Jimmy Gorman, field goal block and 30-yard return TD (PAT Tyler Brunner)
Norristown — Isaiah Carter, 55-yard reception from Rashon Lusane (PAT Tom Detweiler)
First downs 9 8
Yards rushing 103 191
Yards passing 19 55
Total yards 122 246
Passing 1-9-1 2-4-1
Penalties 5-55 11-124
Punts-Avg. 5-28 2-43.5
Rushing: WISSAHICKON — Keith Oliphant 8-66, Josh Smith 11-42, Josh Trunk 5-8, Mike Marino 5-(-3), Darren James 1-(-10). NORRISTOWN — Kip Patten 18-144, Rashon Lusane 7-34, Isaiah Carter 5-12, David Pass 1-1.
Passing: WISSAHICKON — Mike Marino 1-2, 5 yards, 0 TD, 1 int., Josh Smith 1-2, 14 yards, 0 TD, 0 int. NORRISTOWN — Rashon Lusane 1-9, 55 yards, 1 TD, 1 int.
Receiving: WISSAHICKON — Ben La Rue 1-14, Josh Smith 1-5. NORRISTOWN — Isaiah Carter 1-55.
Interceptions: WISSAHICKON — Jared Reed. Norristown — Sonny Brewer.