The long walk from the Crawford Stadium field to the North Penn locker room was a euphoric one for the Knights on Friday night.
The celebration had just begun following North Penn's 40-19 win over Perkiomen Valley in the District 1-AAAA Semifinals, but there was already a focus building for next week's showdown with arch rival Neshaminy.
"It's awesome but we can't let up now,' Knights tight end Connor Gill said following Friday's victory. "We have to focus on next week and try to dominate that game.'
The Knights have been exactly that in the playoffs thus far: dominant.
North Penn outscored its first three playoff opponents by a combined total of 102-40, and now prepares for what should be its biggest test thus far in the fourth-seeded Skins.
The Knights will face Neshaminy Friday night at 7 p.m. at Souderton in the District 1-AAAA final. North Penn last played and beat the Redskins 21-7 in the District 1-AAAA quarterfinals two years ago.
Third down efficiency
To continue their offensive success, the 11th-seeded Knights (10-3) would like to keep converting on third down.
In the opening three quarters Friday evening, North Penn turned seven of nine third downs into 1st-and-10, a big reason the Knights took a commanding 33-19 lead into the final quarter of play.
And the Knights mixed it up with play selection. Twice on third down, running back Nyfease West ran for gains of four and five yards and fullback Luke Berry powered his way for runs of three, four and two yards in order to move the chains.
And quarterback Austin Shearer made two key throws on third down on a pair of scoring drives. The first was a 12-yard pass to Nick Wright on 3rd-and-11, helping to set up a 20-yard field goal by Matt Ammendola, and the second throw came as a result of Shearer rolling out, buying time and hitting Connor Gill for an 11-yard gain on 3rd-and-1.
That set up a 12-yard run by West, tying the score 19-19 as North Penn began its game-winning push.
Finishing the deal
Moving the ball wasn't a problem for the Knights in the first half on Friday night.
In fact, their first offensive play was a 68-yard touchdown run by West. But after that, points came tougher.
"We were beating ourselves in the first half because we weren't finishing our drives,' Wright said.
On NP's second offensive series, Gill caught an intermediate pass from Shearer and ran all the way down to the Perk Valley three for a 22-yard gain, but unfortunately fumbled the ball and the Vikings recovered.
North Penn's third drive stalled at the Perk Valley 19, resulting in a 36-yard field goal by Ammendola. Two more times in the second quarter, the Knights were forced to settle for field-goal attempts, converting one of them, as they went into the break trailing 19-13.
Touchdowns were oh so close
Wide receiver Justin Hudimac, who was a great target for Shearer all evening long, nearly reached the end zone late in the second quarter. On 2nd-and-10 at the PV 28, with just 17 seconds to go, Hudimac got wide open down the left sideline and Shearer hit him for a 24-yard gain.
Rasaan Stewart came over to make the hit, preventing a touchdown, but the Knights had four trips to the end zone coming up in the second half.
Follow Kev Hunter on Twitter @khunter10
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