The turning point could have been those clock-consuming drives in the first half, when senior Jalen White scored two touchdowns and set the tone for visiting Souderton.
It could have been that 11-play, 83-yard drive in the third quarter, when the Big Red answered Pennridge’s first touchdown with a methodical march from one end of the field to the other.
Souderton coach Ed Gallagher told his players after the first District 1 championship in program history that the decisive moment came last week during practice.
“When I looked in Jacob Horton’s eyes, I said, ‘We’re winning this game,’ ” Gallagher said during an emotional, postgame gathering after Souderton’s 31-17 victory over Pennridge Friday night in the District 1 Class 6A title game.
Horton, a sturdy senior, made big plays as a running back and linebacker, and helped set a fierce, physical tone as Souderton (7-0) put to rest questions about the quality of its competition with an imposing victory.
The rest of the Big Red took the same steely-eyed approach, regarding the visit to Helman Field and championship battle with the top-seeded Rams as the perfect opportunity to make a statement.
“Souderton has never really been known for football,” Horton said. “Just to prove everyone wrong, it was great.”
White ran for 155 yards on 24 carries, with touchdowns of six and 60 yards, as Souderton advanced to meet two-time defending state champion St. Joseph’s Prep (4-0) in the state semifinals, tentatively set for Saturday at Cardinal O’Hara.
“It’s been a season of making history,” Gallagher said. “These kids believed they could do this. They’ve been told for the past three weeks that we don’t play anybody.”
Pennridge (6-1) took a 3-0 lead, but Souderton responded behind its offensive line and the hard running of White and junior Brayden Porter, who finished with 101 yards on 14 carries.
White’s two touchdowns and a 30-yard field goal by Nick Haynes sent Souderton to the locker room with a 17-3 lead at halftime.
Pennridge seized momentum early in the second half as Ryan Gallagher recovered a fumble, and Villanova recruit Shane Hartzell raced 47 yards on the next play to cut the margin to 17-10, igniting he home crowd.
But that’s when second-seeded Souderton, long regarded as a cut below the heavyweight powers in Southeastern Pennsylvania, showed its mettle. The Big Red answered with a steady, will-imposing march featuring strong work by Horton, Porter and senior quarterback Evan Kutzler, who scored on a one-yard sneak.
One more defensive stand and a few minutes later, sophomore Shaun Purvy scored on a 12-yard run and the Big Red was well on its way to the program’s first district title.
“It means everything,” White said. “Everybody was saying we had an easy schedule, a cakewalk to the playoffs. But we earned it.”
Souderton 7 10 14 0 – 31
Pennridge 3 0 7 7 – 17
P: Brandon Shire 28 FG
S: Jalen White 6 run (Nick Haynes kick)
S: White 60 run (Haynes kick)
S: Haynes 30 FG
P: Shane Hartzell 47 run (Shire kick)
S: Evan Kutzler 1 run (Haynes kick)
S: Shaun Purvy 12 run (Haynes kick)