PARKLAND 30, UPPER DUBLIN 14
Upper Dublin's senior class put the football program, previously an afterthought when it came to district and state playoffs, on the map over the last three seasons. With solid coaching and a team-first approach, the squad totaled 34 victories against only five losses.
Coming off last year's surprising run to the PIAA District 1 Class AAAA semifinals, the squad bettered that showing this season by winning 14 games and claiming top district honors for the first time.
The magical and inspiring journey came to an end on Saturday afternoon, as the undersized Cardinals stayed even with Parkland deep into the third quarter but bowed, 30-14, in a state semifinal at Souderton.
"This team is the best ever to wear a football uniform at Upper Dublin," teary-eyed Cardinals coach Bret Stover said. "How do you put it into words?"
With considerable height and muscle in the trenches, the Trojans, of District 11, gradually wore down the Cardinals and punched their first ticket to the state final since 2007.
"This came from deep inside our kids," Parkland boss Jim Morgans said. "They just commit to what they have to get done, and they do it."
The Trojans (14-1) will try for their first stale title since 2002 against District 7's Pittsburgh Central Catholic (14-1) at 6 p.m. next Saturday in Hershey.
Parkland immediately put Upper Dublin (14-1) on its heels by opening with a nine-play, 80-yard series. Devante Cross' 48-yard strike over the middle to Nolan Ridgway set up Erik DiGirolamo's 2-yard touchdown run.
But the Cardinals' defense quickly tightened, producing a three-and-out and two more stops. Pinning the Trojans inside their 20 and forcing a punt with 2 minutes left until the break, the unit presented quarterback Ryan Stover with the ball at the 50.
Stover connected with James Lampmann for gains of 4 and 24 yards. Two plays later, Stover found Danny Boggs in the back of the end zone for a tying 20-yard score.
Early in the third quarter, Stover, avoiding a sack and then dodging several would-be tacklers in sensational fashion, ran 43 yards to put the Cardinals in front, 14-7.
Parkland answered with a 13-play, 78-yard march and created a deadlock on Ridgway's 10-yard dart out of the Wildcat formation.
The Trojans turned to Ridgeway more than usual on running plays because Cross suffered a knee injury during a dog-pile celebration that followed last week's 16-13 overtime defeat of La Salle.
On the final play of the third quarter, after Temple recruit Kenny Yeboah intercepted a Stover pass at the Upper Dublin 45, DiGirolamo's 5-yard run gave Parkland a 21-14 advantage.
At the start of the fourth quarter, a safety (the ball rolled out of the end zone on a low snap to punter Isaiah Henrich) and Cross' 48-yard TD toss to Yeboah spelled the end to Upper Dublin's record-setting campaign.
Parkland 7 0 14 9-30
Upper Dublin 0 7 7 0-14
P: Erik DiGirolamo 2 run (Donovan Berger kick)
UD: Danny Boggs 20 pass from Ryan Stover (Todd Spirt kick)
UD: Stover 41 run (Spirt kick)
P: Nolan Ridgway 10 run (Berger kick)
P: DiGirolamo 5 run (Berger kick)
P: Safety, center snap rolled out of end zone