TOWAMENCIN — As Rasaan Stewart stutter-stepped past two defenders, hesitated, then sprinted through the tackles en route to a 81-yard run on the first play from scrimmage, all felt right for Perkiomen Valley in their first ever District 1 Class AAAA semifinal.
However, for Stewart and the Vikings, the game became more of a marathon rather than an 80-yard sprint.
Led by a 206-yard performance by Nyfease West and a 163-yard effort by counterpart Luke Berry, North Penn absorbed the Viking's initial blow, and grounded its way to a 40-19 victory on Friday night at Crawford Stadium.
"They do what they do. They have a philosophy,' Perkiomen Valley head coach Scott Reed said. "They were going to get downhill and grind it out. And that's what they did. They were able to control the football a lot, get first downs.'
"I just fight for every yard,' West said, elated when told he had eclipsed 200 yards on the night. "I try to score and get a first down every play. I just love this team and our offensive line was doing a great job tonight.'
North Penn will now face Neshaminy in the District 1 final next Friday at 7 p.m. at Souderton High School. It is North Penn's fifth appearance in the last six years.
Coming out of the first half down 19-13, the Knights' offensive attack switched to a double-tight and full-house look for the majority of the remaining time. West and Berry became crucial pieces as the duo battered the Vikings' offensive line, compiling 163 yards in the half (74 from West, 89 from Berry). Averaging 6.5 yards per carry, the Knights scored 30-unanswered en route to the 21-point win.
"It's been the same plan for the last few games,' Berry said. "We've just been playing power football and so far we've come out with three straight wins with it.'
Despite the bruising rushing attack, the Vikings' went blow-for-blow with the perennial district frontrunners in the first half. Following the Stewart 81-yard run that opened the game, West took the Knights' first play from scrimmage off-tackle and raced 68 yards down the right sideline to give North Penn a 7-6 advantage — the game's second score in the first 38 seconds.
A punt and Mark Bonomo fumble stalled the Vikings' next two drives before Stewart led the Vikings on a five-play, 53-yard drive that culminated in a 5-yard run by the senior quarterback.
After a North Penn missed field goal midway through the second quarter, Stewart and the Vikings again went down the field with ease. Guided by a 13-yard pass to Bonomo and a 20-yard pass to Clay Domine, Stewart took care of the rest, running up the gut for a 33-yard score, giving the Vikings a 19-10 lead — a lead that shrunk to 19-13 after a Matt Ammendola 21-yard field goal converted with two seconds remaining in the half.
Having sprinted out to the 19-13 lead in the first half, the pace of the game shifted into the favor of the Knights. The Vikings watched Berry, West and the offensive line manhandle them on the opening drive that spanned five minutes to the tune of 70 yards. Berry capped the drive off with a 2-yard plunge, and after a botched extra-point attempt, the game stayed deadlocked at 19.
"The O-line was just blocking great and the holes were there,' Berry said. "Both me and Nyfease were running hard and they couldn't bring us down.'
It's right where the Knights wanted them.
"Our coaches just wanted us to come out hard,' West said. "We did a couple of bad things in the first half but then in the second half we got it all together and we were firing on all cylinders.
"We started to feel it. Everyone was pumped up.'
What worked for the Vikings offensively in the first half was shut down in the second half as Stewart — after a 106-yard passing yard performance in the first half — was limited to 18 yards through the air as the team was forced into two three-and-outs during the span.
"Credit it to them, they (North Penn) didn't make mistakes,' Reed said. "They didn't (commit) penalties to let us get back in the drive. They didn't fumble the ball other than the first drive. And then we traded fumbles and that didn't help us out.'
Down 26-19 late in the third quarter, the Vikings had their best shot of tying the game as a fourth down wide receiver reverse-pass caught the Knights' flat-footed. Dakota Clanagan took the reverse and lofted a pass to Domine who awaited the pass at the two-yard line, but the Knights' Kris Akins was there to jar the ball loose from Domine, effectively ending the Vikings' drive.
The ensuing play, North Penn's Austin Shearer connected with Nick Wright despite double-coverage. Wright was able to shirk off both Vikings defenders and then stumble at the 35-yard line before gathering himself before his knee hit the turf and running untouched for the score, putting the Knights up 33-19. Dillon Molettiere capped off the scoring for North Penn with a 1-yard run midway through the fourth quarter.
Ryan O'Donnell led all Vikings receivers with 67 yards on four receptions. Wright finished the game with 94 yards receiving for the Knights. Ammendola converted two field goals, his longest a 36-yarder in the first half.
North Penn 40
Perkiomen Valley 19
Perk Valley 6 7 20 7 — 40
North Penn 7 12 0 0 — 19
PV- Stewart 81-run (kick failed)
NP- West 68 run (Ammendola kick)
NP- Ammendola 36 field goal
PV- Stewart 5 run (Genuardi kick)
PV- Stewart 33 run (kick failed)
NP- Ammendola 21 field goal
NP- West 12 run
NP- Berry 2 run (Ammendola kick)
NP- Wright 68 pass from Shearer (Ammendola kick)
NP- Molettiere 1 run (Ammendola kick)
First Downs 14 33
Rushing yards 209 379
Passing yards 124 171
Total yards 333 550
Passes C-A-I 10-20-1 8-12-0
Fumbles-Lost 4-2 1-1
Penalties-Yards 5-31 3-25
Punts-Avg. 3-35 0-0
Perk Valley: Stewart, 13-183 3TDs; Bonomo, 6-25; Holland, 1-8; O'Donnell, 1--9.
North Penn: West, 25-206 2TDs, Berry, 25-162 TD; Posavec, 2-12; Wright, 1-4; Molettiere, 1-1; Shearer, 4--6.
Perk Valley: Stewart 10-19-124 INT; Clanagan, 0-1-0.
North Penn: Shearer, 8-12-173 TD.
Perk Valley: O'Donnell, 4-67; Bonomo, 3-17; Domine, 2-26; Clanagan, 1-14.
North Penn: Wright, 3-94 TD; Hudimac, 3-45; Gill, 2-34.
Interceptions: NP- Liddy.
Sacks: NP- Vandenplas (2); Muth. PV- Rotonda.