It was a game won in the trenches and the film room.
North Penn played November football on the first night of the month, using dominant defense and a powerful ground game to score a 35-7 victory over host Central Bucks South in an opening-round game of the PIAA District One Class 6A playoffs.
“We’re 1-0 in the new season,” North Penn coach Dick Beck told his team after the imposing victory on a cool, clear Friday at Titan Stadium on Central Bucks South’s campus in Warrington.
The victory advanced North Penn (8-3) the No. 9 seed, into a second-round clash next Friday with top-seeded Downingtown West (10-1), the No. 2 team in The Inquirer Southeastern Pennsylvania Top 10.
Downingtown beat Pennsbury 63-35 on Friday night.
“We can show teams that our seed doesn’t matter,” North Penn senior defensive lineman Spencer Heilveil said. “We’re a team that’s together as one.
"We’re ready to make a run in these playoffs.”
North Penn’s defense shut down Central Bucks South, allowing just 61 yards and two first downs before the Titans scored a touchdown in the game’s final minute against the Knights’ second unit.
In the first half, Central Bucks South was unable to generate a first down in six possessions.
“Our defensive line was phenomenal,” Beck said.
The Knights’ defensive front of seniors Heilveil, RJ Macnamara, Cory Keim, and junior John Derkits combined for four sacks and three tackles for losses.
“We feel like we haven’t played up to our capablility,” said Macnamara, who scored the game’s first touchdown on a 1-yard run. “But it’s the second season and we feel like we can put it all together.”
Central Bucks South (7-4), the No. 8 seed, got on the board in the final minute on a 44-yard touchdown pass from Carter Hallgren to senior Sean Smith, a dynamic two-way player who closed his career with the scoring play.
“That No. 29 [Smith] is a heckuva player and he’s had a heckuva season,” Beck said of Smith.
North Penn controlled the line of scrimmage, as senior Evan Spann (13 carries, 122 yards, two touchdowns) and sophomore Khalani Eaton (16 carries, 154 yards, one touchdown) led the ground game.
“Our offensive line was great,” Spann said.
The defensive performance was Knight and Day from the game between these two teams on Oct. 18, when Central Bucks South scored a 36-35 victory that cost North Penn a share of the SOL Continental title as well as a top-eight seed in the district tournament.
Two weeks later, the Knights effectively shut out a team that had put 36 points on the board against them on the same field.
“We were watching the film and coach was yelling at us and we’re looking at each other like, ‘How did we let that happen?’” Macnamara said.
Beck said the answer was simple.
“They played harder than us in the fourth quarter [of the Oct. 18 game],” Beck said. “That was unacceptable.”
Heilveil said he cringed while watching the film with coaches and teammates. He watched it several more times by himself last week.
“When we watched it together as a team, I was so mad at myself,” Heilveil said. “I watched it three or four times throughout the week again. I want to refuel, get that motivation.
“I was so ready for this game. We all were.”
North Penn 7 0 14 14 -- 35
Central Bucks South 0 0 0 7 – 7
NP: RJ Macnamara 1 run (Daniel Moon kick)
NP: Khalani Eaton 3 run (Moon kick)
NP: Evan Spann 4 run (Moon kick)
NP: Spann 2 run (Moon kick)
NP: Zayd Ward-Richardson 14 run (Grace Macnamara kick)
CBS: Sean Smith 44 pass from Carter Hallgren (Garrett MacClay kick)