YEADON >> Kennedy Poles’ evening was almost over before it began on August 31.
During warmups, the Penn Wood senior wide receiver got his ankle caught in a teammate’s helmet that was lying carelessly on the turf. After he extricated his cleat from the facemask, there was some debate with coach Ato Troop as to whether or not the All-Delco would play against Pennsbury under the lights at Kerr Field.
If Friday was Poles on one good leg, Southeastern Pennsylvania had better watch out when he’s healed.
Poles caught six passes for 266 yards — the fourth-highest single-game output in Delaware County history — and scored two touchdowns as Penn Wood outlasted Pennsbury, 32-27, in a nonleague thriller.
In the third quarter alone, Poles caught at 36-yard touchdown from Desman Johnson on fourth-and-34, juggling the ball as he fell to the turf before the ball floated into his steady hands. It capped a drive where Poles snagged a 40-yard catch-and-go.
Later in the quarter, after Penn Wood’s lead was trimmed to 16-14 and the Patriots were backed up to their 10, Poles took a slant and, with a phenomenal crack-back block by slot receiver Anauri Hankey to seal the edge, dashed 90 yards down the sideline for another score.
“If it wasn’t for him, I probably wasn’t going to score,” Poles said. “He had my back, like I’ve got his back.”
That was about all his ankle could take, though he did limp back on the field in the fourth quarter to catch a two-point conversion — Poles’ second and the Patriots’ fourth conversion — following Johnson’s second rushing touchdown, the game-winner with 1:55 left.
The touchdowns, from Johnson on the ground or in the air, owed to the junior quarterback’s (sometimes stubborn) insistence on extending plays and not throwing the ball away. That allows the synchrony with his receivers to take flight.
“I just trust everybody. I trust all our receivers,” Johnson said. “I don’t like throwing the ball away for some reasons, I don’t know. I’d rather try to get positive yards than waste a play.”
“Just get back to him,” Poles said. “Run where he’s running at. Everybody fly back to the ball. Different parts of the field, just find Des. Wherever he’s at, he’s going to put the ball on you.”
A sedate affair that Penn Wood led 16-6 after three quarters was jolted to life, sparked by Pennsbury’s ground game. They scored on the first play of the final period, a 15-yard connection between quarterback Drew Hensor and Sheehan Miles, but rushed for 212 yards.
“Pounding the ball was working a lot,” running back Brad Mickels said. “We kept getting big holes. Our offensive line was doing great. We were doing great. We all can improve, though, but the plan was to pound the ball up the middle.”
Down and distance didn’t hold much sway in the rain Friday. Pennsbury converted three fourth downs on its first drive, the last a six-yard scoring run for Josh Boyda.
Poles’ Hail Mary touchdown came on fourth-and-34 after a pair of sacks by Pennsbury lineman Nick Lawrence, among six sacks by the Falcons. But there was no denying Poles.
“When the ball’s in the air, I’m coming down with it,” Poles said. “That’s my mindset every time. Nobody’s touching it. It’s either touching my hands or it’s touching the floor. If I’m going up to get it, nobody else is going to get it.”
Pennsbury (0-2) was similarly undaunted in the fourth. They got within 24-20 when Hensor dashed 55 yards on the first play after Poles’ 90-yarder with 10:33 to play. Penn Wood (2-0) turned the ensuing drive over on downs, and Pennsbury looked ready to cash in again … until they weren’t, with back-to-back fumbled snaps on first down at the 11, the last a greasy-pig scenario that backed them up to the 40.
But on fourth-and-22, they got a pass interference call, then offside, then a dash by Mickles into the end zone from the seven for a 27-24 lead with 3:11 to play.
Mickles led Pennsbury with 12 carries for 90 yards. Eddie Duala added 15 for 76, and Hensor picked up 65 yards on the ground on nine totes. He was 9-for-18 through the air for 93 yards; six competitions for 52 yards were courtesy of Miles.
But in a game of surprise twists, Penn Wood unleashed another: After struggling to run the ball consistently all day, it was a game-breaking play by Elijah Gleplay that tipped the balance. The tailback sprinted 42 yards on the first play of the next series, hitting the Pennsbury secondary with a hellacious cutback.
“That sparked everything up,” Johnson said. “We went from all the way down there to into the red zone. That just pumped everybody up.”
It took Johnson two punishing runs to hit pay dirt, the last a dive for the far-side pylon for a five-point lead.
That gave Penn Wood’s defense one last chance to step up, despite injuries, disorganization and a lost battle in the trenches stopping them all night. Dashawn Brickle sacked Hensor to slow Pennsbury’s final drive, then Omar Ba broke up a fourth-down seam route to seal the win.
“Fourth quarter, especially when we were down, everybody was putting their head down,” linebacker Aliyoh Toure said. “We just had to keep our head up, keep fighting. The game is never over until that clock is zero-zero. We came together as a team, and we just play as a team.”
Winning two straight to start the season is great. But winning as Penn Wood did adds to it.
“It feels good. We know we’re a stronger team,” Johnson said. “The first game was a blowout, but this was a close game and we fought. We know we can fight in the big moments. We know we’re tough enough.”