At the beginning of the William-Penn Harrisburg football game Saturday morning, players from both teams gathered in a circle at midfield as coaches, administrators and officials encouraged both teams to show great sportsmanship.
The show of solidarity before the game — which was moved from Friday night because of security concerns — foreshadowed how close the Bearcat players would be to their rivals for the next few hours.
An aggressive Cougar defense, led by defensive ends Damion Barber and Tre'Quann Pressley, lived in the William Penn backfield the entire game. The pressure gave the Harrisburg offense great field position all game as the visitors rolled to a 41-0 win.
"They lined up the way we thought they would. They reacted the way we thought they would," William Penn coach Shawn Heinold said of the 3-0 Cougars. "I told my team, we're not going to see another team like this."
The Bearcats started the game strong, forcing the visitors to punt after sophomore quarterback Yahmir Wilkinson misfired on two long pass attempts. But a bobbled punt turned the ball back over to the Cougars, who did not waste the opportunity.
Wilkinson, a rangy left-hander, connected with Shaquon Anderson on a pair of 12-yard completions on the short drive, including a slant that opened the scoring for Harrisburg.
When William Penn got the ball on the ensuing kickoff, the problems continued. An errant shotgun snap put the home team inside its own 5-yard line. Pressure from Harrisburg forced a short punt, setting up the visitors with a first-and-goal at the 9-yard line.
Junior running back Joel Davis made the lead 14-0 on a burst into the end zone midway through the first quarter.
"There was a dropped ball, a misread, a bad throw. For whatever reason, we didn't take advantage of our opportunities," Heinold said. "We're a young team, and this is a brutal schedule."
With the lead, the Harrisburg defense had the green light to put pressure on Bearcat quarterback Napoleon Snellings. The senior found himself running for safety throughout the game with Barber or Pressley usually in hot pursuit.
William Penn finished with negative-24 yards of total offense on the day. They only managed three first downs, all on the same drive in the first half when the Bearcats went to a no-huddle look for several plays.
"We'll keep doing that. We'll never go full-time no-huddle because we have too many guys who play both ways. We have to be smart with how we do it," Heinold said.
That drive ended near midfield late in the first quarter, and Harrisburg extended its lead to 20-0 on the ensuing possession. Davis hit paydirt for the second time at the end of the nine-play drive, blasting up the middle for a 21-yard score.
Harrisburg cruised in the second half, continuing to pressure Snellings and snuffing out William Penn's attempts to jumpstart the offense with a short passing game.
Wilkinson hit Anderson for a 50-yard score in the third quarter, and Davis got his third touchdown on a short drive set up by a long punt return from Jeray Anderson.
The Cougar reserves finished up the scoring in the last minute of the game on a 15-yard run by Ronald Kent.
With a trio of losses against other mid-state city schools behind them, Heinold's team can now look forward to the YAIAA schedule, which begins Friday at Red Lion.
"We have to stay positive," he said. "We showed flashes of greatness. When and if we put it together, we're going to make some noise."
Harrisburg 41, William Penn 0
H — Shaquon Anderson 12 pass from Yahmir Wilkinson (Joel Davis kick), 7:56
H — Davis 9 run (Davis kick), 5:43
H — Davis 21 run (kick blocked), 10:15
H — Anderson 50 pass from Wilkinson (Davis kick), 9:48
H — Davis 7 run (Davis kick), 5:19
H — Ronald Kent 15 run (Davis kick), :50
HWPFirst downs163Rushes-yards39-20730-(-49)Passing8-18-16-13-1Passing yards13125Total yards338(-24)Punts1-368-32.4Fumbles-lost3-22-1Penalties-yards11-854-25
Rushing — H, Joel Davis 12-102, Justin Carter 1-24, Yahmir Wilkinson 10-21, Isaiah Sawyers 7-18, Depri Andrews 4-16, Ronald Kent 1-15, Jahnoni Hickerson 2-9, Takeem Carter 1-4, Shatique Patterson 1-(-2). WP, Jy'aire Beverly 2-8, Khalid Dorsey 2-7, Andrew Radzik 4-1, Willie Martin 1-(-11), Devon Estrada 1-(-2), Napoleon Snellings 20-(-52).
Passing — H, Wilkinson 7-16-1-123, Sawyers 1-2-0-8. WP, Snellings 6-11-0-25, Jose Santiago-Curet 0-1-1-0, Beverly 0-0-0-0, Martin 0-1-0-0.
Receiving — H, Shaquon Anderson 5-92, Jeray Anderson 3-39. WP, Andrew Gibbs 3-10, Nyshaun Ritter 1-10, Eric Mann 1-6, Markeis Cash 1-0.