*Note: This article originally published in The Reporter and on PaPrepLive.com
QUAKERTOWN >> After jumping out to a 13-0 lead in the first seven minutes of its game against Norristown Friday night, the Quakertown football team found itself in a 13-6 game at the half.
“I think we let things get to us in the first half,” Quakertown head coach George Banas said. “We scored two really quick touchdowns and we thought, ‘you know what maybe this is gonna be an easy one.’ And then we let some other things outside of our control get to us mentally and allowed them to get back in the game.”
Quakertown stepped on the gas in the second half, rushing for 218 yards and putting up 21 points in the final 24 minutes of a 34-6 win.
“At halftime it wasn’t rippin em,” Banas said. “It was just, ‘listen guys, myself included, we need to concentrate on playing Quakertown football. We need to get back to the basics and play our run game and play our type of defense and do that for the second half. I thought we did and I congratulated them on that.”
Noah Wood was the main benefactor of the Panthers getting back to Quakertown football Friday night. The senior ran for 201 yards and four touchdowns on 22 carries.
“It was a good game,” Wood said. “Our offensive line came out in the second half, we knew what we needed to do. They just started moving people all over the place and the holes were huge so they weren’t too hard to run through.”
Wood carried the ball for 149 yards and three touchdowns in the second half alone. He also out-gained Norristown by himself, and by 87 yards, 205-117. Wood’s 63-yard touchdown run in the third quarter accounted for more rushing yards than the Eagles had in the game (44).
“He’s our workhorse, he’s our guy,” Banas said about Wood. “We came into this year (and) we knew we were gonna have to ride him pretty tough defensively, offensively. We have a great group of seniors around him too…he does stand out. Three-year starter on defense at middle linebacker, three-year all-league guy, should be. You gotta give the rock to the kid and say ‘listen, we’re either gonna win or lose the game on you.'”
Despite not making the District One playoffs, Quakertown may be the hottest team in the Suburban One League not named North Penn.
“I congratulated my coaching staff just now,” Banas said about his 6-5 team after the game. “We were 1-5. This was a job to make sure we kept these guys going in the right direction. I thought our staff and I thought our players did an extraordinary job of just showing up to work every week and knowing that we can still win games and the season wasn’t a loss.”
Roster turnover is always a factor in high school football. Quakertown took that to the extreme in 2016, and it’s a huge reason for the slow start.
“We just started gelling, finally,” Wood said about the second half of the season. “It took us a while because we replaced 18 starters from last year. It took us a while to finally start finding out everybody’s strengths and weaknesses. Once we started gelling we’ve been on a roll since.”
After a 1-5 start, the Panthers have now run off five straight wins and have guaranteed themselves a .500 season with just the Thanksgiving Day clash against Pennridge left on the schedule.
“It’s always gonna be a good game,” Wood said about his team’s date with the Rams in two weeks. “We’re gonna get to the film and just prepare for that how we would and other Thanksgiving Day game. It should be a good one.”
Playing the Wind
A big reason Quakertown jumped out to a 13-0 lead was thanks to the fact they won the toss. The Panthers deferred and chose to let Norristown play into the wind in the first quarter. The defense secured two quick 3-and-outs, while the Eagles punted twice for a total of 15 yards. The Panther field position led to two easy scores early.
“Definitely the kicking game was affected in that first quarter,” Banas said. “Our defense was able hold them to two 3-and-outs and then the two punts got caught up in the air. It gave us just great field position and we were able to punch it in for those first two scores. Sometimes that’s a blessing, sometimes it’s a curse early in the game.”
Quakertown outscored Norristown 27-0 when their offense was with the wind, while playing to a 7-6 score when the Panther offense faced the wind.
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