TOWAMENCIN — In a game of big plays, two might stand out as the biggest in North Penn High's 40-19 win over Perkiomen Valley Friday night in the PIAA District One Class AAAA semifinal football game at North Penn's Crawford Stadium.
And they came on back-to-back snaps.
For one half, the host Knights and Vikings exchanged haymakers, beginning with the first two plays from scrimmage, which saw Perkiomen Valley quarterback Rasaan Stewart break off an 81-yard touchdown run, only to be answered by North Penn's Nyfease West, who sprinted 68 yards to put the Knights out front.
Stewart's 33-yard run put the Vikings on top, 19-10, in the half's final 1:30. But a huge 24-yard pass from North Penn quarterback Austin Shearer to Justin Hudimac set up a late North Penn field goal with two seconds remaining in the quarter.
But at the outset of second half, the Knights decided enough was enough, and went back to their bread and butter.
"They do what they do,' said Perk Valley head coach Scott Reed. "They have a philosophy and we knew what they were going to do - run downhill.'
Sure enough, the Knights began the second half with their ground game punching holes in the smaller Vikings defensive line.
They scored to tie the game at 19 on the opening drive of the second half, then forced a three-and-out from the PV offense and went right back to work, rumbling 49 yards on six running plays to take a 26-19 lead with 3:19 left in the quarter.
PV needed to respond, or face its season coming to an end. And to their credit, the Vikings put together a drive, moving from their own 37 to the North Penn 32.
When the drive hit fourth down, PV called timeout and set up what would be the first half of the two plays that turned the game around.
The play called was a double-reverse pass from Dakota Clanagan to wide receiver Clay Domine. And the call worked to perfection.
"(Knights defensive back Kris Akins) bit on the fake,' said North Penn head coach Dick Beck. "We tell our guys if you get beat, run to the ball.'
That's what Akins did, arriving where Domine had stood, wide open, just moments before. At the last split second there was contact between Akins and Domine and Domine was unable to catch the wobbly pass from Clanagan.
"It was a good play (call), and I don't really have much to say about it,' Clanagan said.
The Perk Valley crowd, sitting on the side of the field where the play took place, screamed for pass interference, but did not get a flag.
Interference or not, the Knights defense had dodged a bullet.
"We got a little lucky there,' Beck said.
With North Penn taking over at its own 32, game-changing play No. 2 happened on the very next snap.
Shearer gave a play-action fake, then hoisted a long pass downfield in the direction of wideout Nick Wright, who made an incredible catch behind a PV defender, shook off two tacklers and streaked to the end zone to complete a 68-yard touchdown on what turned out to be the final play of the quarter.
"What a pretty pass from Austin,' Beck said, "and Nick looked like Superman throwing those two defenders off.'
In two plays, PV went from a potential game-tying touchdown to trailing by two touchdowns.
The Vikings would not recover.
"We had a play, and we just didn't get it,' Reed said, "then they hit that big pass play.
"It was a case of both sides trying to grab the momentum where they could.'
"They're a great team,' said Stewart of North Penn. "They run at you and run at you, then hit you with the big pass.'
In a game of big plays, North Penn came out ahead on the two biggest - two snaps apart - which is why the Knights are heading to their eighth district final in the last 12 years.
As for Perk Valley, all it could do was tip its hat.
"North Penn played great,' Clanagan said. "They made plays, we only made some.'