TOWAMENCIN — The North Penn football team entered the second half of its District 1-AAAA semifinal with Perkiomen Valley Friday trailing by six points.
Twenty-four minutes later, the Knights left Crawford Stadium victors after playing one of the better halves in Dick Beck's 12 years as head coach in marching to their fifth district title game in six seasons.
"We're a second-half team, we're playing at home, they were talking on the field and we had to shut them up somehow,' senior Nick Wright said.
Perk Valley's electric senior quarterback Rasaan Stewart found the end zone three times in the opening half — including an 82-yard dash to the end zone on the game's first offensive play — as the 15th-seeded Vikings had No. 11 NP down 19-13 at the break. But the Knights bottled up Stewart as they shut out PV in the third and fourth. Kevin Vandenplas sacked twice while Michael Liddy intercepted him in the fourth with the game well in hand.
"We just played our D,' Wright said. "We made a few mental mistakes in the beginning and we just locked it out in the second half.'
After a Nyfease West 68-yard touchdown run on its first snap and two field goals in the first half, the Knights scored a quartet of touchdowns — three rushing, the other a 68-yard pass from Austin Shearer to Wright one play after PV could not convert on fourth down.
"It was best second half we've had in a very long time,' Beck said. "Not guys coming off the ball, blocking and running hard, but I thought defensively we really were in great position. And we made a little adjustment at halftime putting an extra guy in the box and I thought that was the difference because maybe we were a little spread and the quarterback was really running that little inside keeper off the speed sweep.'
Stewart finished with a team-high 179 yards on 15 carries and threw for 129 yards, but did not come close to replicating his performance for the week prior when he had seven touchdowns (four passing, two rushing, one kickoff return) in the 60-20 rout of Central Bucks West in the district quarterfinals.
"The defense might have played their best of the game of the year with their offense putting 60 and 50 (points up) a game,' Shearer said. "I think that was really the key to our game. They didn't score in the second half. So, if they're not going to score in the second half, I don't think anybody's going to stop our offense.'
Shearer and the North Penn offense proved that point on the first drive of the third quarter, going 70 yards on 11 plays to tie the contest at 19 on West's 12-yard touchdown run. The Knight defense kept the momentum in the home side's favor by forcing a PV three-and-out — two incompletions along with a second-down sack.
Starting on its own 48 after the Viking punt, Luke Berry carried the ball on five of the next six plays, his final run a two-yarder into the end zone to put North Penn back ahead 26-19 with 3:19 left in the third. Berry finished 156 yards and two scores on 25 carries, while West collected a game-high 221 yards and two TDs on 26 carries.
"I thought the stop — the three-and-out after that score — that was probably the biggest series of the game,' Beck said. "Because getting that three-and-out, boy, then we got the ball and we start doing our thing.'
Perk Valley's bid to pull back level ended at the North Penn 32, as the Vikings' wide receiver pass after a double reverse was broken up by Kris Akins. One play later, the Knights took firm control, as Shearer heaved a deep pass that connected with Wright, who shed off PV tackle attempts to scamper in for a 68-yard score and a 33-19 lead as time expired in the third.
"The offensive line gave me great protection. I just threw it to a spot, he went up and he got it and he probably made the best run I've ever seen from anybody at this school,' Shearer said. "(I) Broke two tackles, he was not going to come down. It was great play overall and I think it really swung the momentum of the game. So, it was pretty cool.'
Beck thought the same way.
"The play Nick makes, it was unbelievable over-the shoulder catch, then he shrugs both tacklers, OK, walks into the end zone. That was as special of a play that I can remember here.'
A Berry touchdown in the fourth put the cherry on top of North Penn's 10th straight victory, a run that began with the Knights sitting at 0-3. Friday night's rally keeps the season-long rally going another week, giving Beck's squad a shot at the District 1 crown.
"Everybody thought we were down and we couldn't get back up,' Wright said. "And now we're just showing them. And we'll continue our playoff run.'
Follow assistant sports editor Mike Cabrey on Twitter @mpcabrey.
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