**Note: This article originally published in The Reporter and on PaPrepLive.com**
LANGHORNE — In a matchup between two classic SOL contenders, Pennridge coach Jeff Hollenbach knew going into his team’s clash against Neshaminy the more physical team would prevail.
“We were kind of preaching this could be a backyard brawl,” Hollenbach said. We have total respect for Neshaminy…we just thought coming in it would be a pretty good matchup and a good test.”
The Rams passed that test Saturday night as they used defense and a physical run game to go into Neshaminy and come out with a 17-7 SOL National win.
After a “feel it out” type of first half that saw Pennridge have a 3-0 lead, Neshaminy hit it big on the second play of the second half when quarterback Mason Jones hit Denzel Hughes for a 75-yard touchdown. Jones finished the game 5-10 with 155 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions.
Just like that the home team was up 7-3, but their offense wouldn’t be a threat the rest of the night thanks to the Pennridge defense.
“At halftime we made a couple of adjustments but really we just got after these guys about being physical,” Hollenbach said. “I said ‘we’ve got to be the more physical team if we want to go where we want to go in this league and [have] playoff possibilities…I think they responded to that and I’m just so proud of the way they played, both offensive and defensive line.”
After the Jones touchdown Ram linebacker Matt Kraynik recovered a fumble to give Pennridge the ball at the Neshaminy 33. From there quarterback Devon Balmer was able to punch in a 1-yard touchdown and give the Rams a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
“The turnovers, or them not making it on a fourth down and not having to go 80 yards was really a big deal,” Hollenbach said.
“I don’t know if I have [a gamebreaker] on this team yet, I might, but we haven’t shown that yet. We’re a first down, move-the-chains type of team and we were able to do that on the short field.”
The dagger came after the Pennridge defense stepped up big again and stopped Neshaminy on a 4th and 1 from their own 37. Running back Judens Desrosiers was able to cash that one in from 1 yard out. Desrosiers ended the game with 16 carries for 66 yards.
“Judens Desrosiers just really stepped up and did a great job,” Hollenbach said. “But I’m thinking offensive line. Just keep pounding them…I think after a while we won that war inside.”
As the temperature barely hit 50 degrees and the rain and wind were present all night, a defensive battle could have been expected. That’s exactly what we got in the first half, and both teams battled for field position more than points.
The most productive drive of the half came from Pennridge with 1:03 to go in the half, when the Rams took advantage of good field position after a short punt. Starting at the Neshaminy 38, the Pennridge converted two nice pass plays in a row behind Balmer; one of 29 yards to Ryan Cuthbert and one of nine yards to Kurt Wiest.
Despite not having any timeouts left in the half, and the clock running at 13 seconds after the Wiest reception, some referee confusion gave Pennridge a break with an official’s timeout. Matt Mauer was able to convert with a 21-yard field goal to make the score 3-0 as the clock read 7.7 seconds in the second quarter.
That ended up being the only points of the opening two quarters, as sledding was tough to say the least. The two teams combined for just 123 total yards in the first half, with Pennridge totaling 69 and Neshaminy gaining 54 yards.
The defensive standout for Neshaminy in the first half was Harmon Yalartai, who recorded two sacks. Jack Spingler also recorded an interception on a hail mary at the end of the half.
The Pennridge defense was able to force a turnover themselves in the opening 24, when Riley Hager picked off Jones on the first play of the second quarter. Hager intercepted Jones late in the game as well, finishing the game with two takeaways.
Nick Tarburton spoiled Neshaminy’s best field position of the first half with a sack on 3rd and 6 from the Pennridge 39.
The big play for Neshaminy came in the first quarter when quarterback Jones found Billy Ritchey on their first drive for 27 yards.