North Penn pulls out all stops in effort to contain St. Joseph’s Prep

Note: This article originally published in The Reporter and on PaPrepLive.com

PHILADELPHIA >> St. Joseph’s Prep running back D’Andre Swift surpassed 4,000 total yards from scrimmage entering Saturday’s PIAA 6A semifinal. Making him the focal point is easy to say, but it’s much harder to execute.

The North Penn defense gave it all they had to do the latter.

“He’s a hell of a player, you gotta give a lot of credit to him,” North Penn linebacker Owen Thomas said about Swift. “We played our butts off. We just tried everything we could…It wasn’t enough, unfortunately.”

The Knights defense came up big multiple times in a second half where they were able to snatch some momentum away from The Prep. That came in the form of a few fourth-down stops, which gave the North Penn offense the chance to make a comeback.

“Ricky (Johns) making that play on fourth down on Swift, that’s a big play,” North Penn head coach Dick Beck said. “That’s a game-changer.”

“We played out hearts out,” Thomas added. “We left everything out on the field. Those fourth-down stops, you could tell this place was nuts. We we’re all into it. It was just crazy. We did good.”

North Penn was also able to bottle up Swift for the majority of the game and force the St. Joe’s offense out of its comfort zone.  The Knights defensive line was mainly responsible for that.

“I thought up from the D-line kind of being a little undersized did a good job shooting gaps and getting some penetration,” Beck said.

Not to be outdone, the linebackers were responsible for a lot of the tackling, and the North Penn missed tackles could be counted on one hand Saturday night.

“Thank God Owen Thomas got healthy,” Beck said. “I don’t know how he got healthy, but he got healthy. He had a heck of a game. I thought Danny Drop, who got hurt this week and didn’t practice all week, had a heck of a game.“

The secondary proved to be the final line of defense, and were often up to the task while being left on an island as North Penn focused on Swift.

The Georgia-bound running back was able to get loose a bit in the fourth, which was due to a key injury on the North Penn side.

“Nick Vasger, the poor kid got hurt in the third quarter,” Beck said. “Everybody knows how important he is to our team. Him not being in there in that fourth quarter really affected us defensively. I had to drag Nick off the field..I just knew he couldn’t play anymore.”

The loss is obviously a disappointment for a team who came into the game undefeated. It may sting now, but looking back on it these North Penn players will realize how special this defense, and this entire team, was in 2016.

“It’s a hell of a run. We had a hell of a season,” Thomas said. “We can’t hang our heads. I mean District 1 Champs, 6A. First ever. We had a great year.”

Feature Photo: North Penn’s Ricky Johns and Julian White sack St. Joseph’s Prep quarterback Marquez McCray during their PIAA Class 6A semifinal on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)

About Steve Richards

First and foremost, I love anything Philly sports; that includes the Phillies, Sixers, Eagles, Flyers and Union (that’s a soccer team). I’m also a fan of the English Premier League squad Manchester City. In the college ranks, I follow the football, basketball, and baseball teams of both Penn State and the University of Texas. I work for SportsNetworker.com, where I am the COO. I also cover a variety of high school sports for The Reporter and PaPrepLive.com as a freelance writer. On the broadcast journalism side of things I'm a co-host of the Prime Time Fantasy Football and Showcast podcasts on Next Level Radio. You can check that out right here. You'll also find me on Twitter discussing a multitude of things. Feel free to give me a follow over there.
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