The first would-be tackler hit Jack Fallon as soon as the Central Bucks West running back caught the pass.
The second arrived a moment later.
Fallon broke away from both only to find another North Penn defender in his way. He eluded that one, too.
“All year, I’ve been fighting, fighting, fighting,” Fallon said. “I refuse to go down.”
Fallon’s remarkable catch-and-run late in the fourth quarter was the key play in Central Bucks West’s 27-26 victory over North Penn Friday night in a Suburban One League Continental Division showdown.
It also was a snapshot of this entire dream season for the Bucks.
“Our guys have a fighter’s mentality,” C.B. West coach Rob Rowan said. “They never give up. They’re just going to keep grinding, keep grinding.”
The emotional victory at War Memorial Field popped the cork on a wild celebration as pink-clad C.B. West students poured onto the field to savor the moment with the players.
C.B. West (8-0 overall, 5-0 in the division) rallied from deficits of 14-13 and 26-20 to beat North Penn (6-2, 4-1) for the first time since 2000.
C.B. West also is 8-0 for the first time since that same season, which came at the end of a remarkable run though the 1980s and 1990s when the Bucks were regarded as one of the top programs in the nation.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Fallon, who scored the winning touchdown on a 9-yard run two plays after his 33-yard reception, and also sealed the victory with an interception on North Penn’s final possession.
C.B. West, the No. 10 team in the Inquirer Top 10, also got a big game from senior quarterback/linebacker/holder Jack Neri, who threw a touchdown pass, recovered a fumble and scooped up a low snap to clear the way for Bailey Moyer’s point-after-touchdown that provided the decisive point after Fallon’s scoring run with 2 minutes, 52 seconds remaining.
Rowan also noted that Neri made a perfect throw to Fallon on that key play.
“He had two guys hanging on him,” Rowan said. “That throw was equally as good.”
North Penn, the No. 7 team in The Inquirer rankings, took a 26-20 lead on freshman Ryan Zeltt’s 53-yard touchdown pass to Kenneth Grandy late in the third quarter.
But the Knights missed the extra point. The visitors also committed four turnovers and hurt their chances with a few other uncharacteristic miscues.
“Too many mistakes,” said North Penn coach Dick Beck, who played for Central Bucks West during the program’s glory years in the 1980s. “Our guys played tough, but we just made too many mistakes.”
Fallon said the victory carried extra significance because the C.B. West school community was rocked during the week by the death of a student.
“This week’s been really emotional for everybody,” Fallon said. “I think this win really helps bring everyone together.”
Rowan said the Bucks were unable to practice on Thursday as the school community dealt with the tragedy.
“We had a really tough week,” said Rowan, who declined to discuss specifics.
C.B. West broke to a 13-0 lead on Fallon’s 14-yard touchdown run and Neri’s 23-yard scoring pass to Nick Olear.
North Penn took leads of 14-13 and 26-20 behind Grandy as well as seniors RJ Macnamara and Nate Brown, both of whom were playmakers on both sides of the field.
But Fallon made the play of the game, taking a short pass from Neri on the left flat on third-and-11, busting through those defenders and racing 33 yards to the North Penn 15.
Two plays later, he was in the end zone.
“That’s who he is,” Rowan said of Fallon. “That’s what he’s going to do.”
Reflecting on what he called “the biggest game of my life,” Rowan recalled his message to the team during the week.
“Our motto this week was, ‘You don’t win a heavyweight fight by dancing around the ring,’ ” Rowan said.
North Penn 7 13 6 0 — 26
Central Bucks West 13 7 0 7 -- 27
C: Jack Fallon 14 run (Bailey Moyer kick)
C: Nick Olear 23 pass from Jack Neri (kick fail)
N: Kenneth Grandy 7 run (Grace Macnamara kick)
N: RJ Macnamara 3 run (Grace Macnamara kick)
C: Nick Tumolo 14 run (Moyer kick)
N: Nate Brown 1 run (kick fail)
N: Grandy 53 pass from Ryan Zeltt (kick fail)