Over the years Neshaminy and Pennsbury have engaged in many a classic football battle. Perhaps, none bore the significance of last Friday’s epic duel between the two archrivals.
With both bragging rights, a great cause, and a potential berth in the upcoming district playoffs at stake, both teams wanted to end their regular season on a positive note.
Senior middle linebacker Sam Burke said it best at the Falcon’s pregame pep rally. “This is for a great cause. Pennsbury beats Neshaminy and beats cancer. So, all proceeds go to cancer research”
In addition to the noble cause, the senior did not want this to be his last high school football game. “We’re fighting to stay together. We don’t want this to be over so we’re giving it every thing we got. They are coming to our house. We don’t lose on this field. We’re not losing on this field.”
Both teams entered the contest with identical 5-4 overall records. The Falcons, however, held the edge in the Suburban One League National Division with a 4-1 mark compared to the ‘Skins 3-2 league record. More tellingly perhaps, Pennsbury after starting the season 0-3 was on a 6-1 tear.
Neshaminy knew that key to the game would be containing the upbeat tempo running of the Falcons dynamic duo, Jay Von McNeill and Brad Mickles. The Falcons, on the other hand, realized they would have to stop the aerial attack from quarterback Brody McAndrew to wide receiver Ian Sheehan. Most prognosticators predicted the two offensives would make for a high scoring affair.
The alleged shootout did not materialize in the first half. Neshaminy got the ball on their own 26-yard line but a run and two quick out passes did not produce a first down. Pennsbury then took over after a punt on their own 41-yard line. Giving the ball 5 times to their workhorse McNeill moved the Falcons into Neshaminy territory before the drive stalled.
The ‘Skins once again went three-and-out and were forced to punt. Bensalem transfer, Christian Boyd gathered in the kick and scampered down the left sideline to the Neshaminy 21- yard line. The Falcon’s called on McNeill five straight times. The last time resulted in a 1-yard plunge into the endzone. Brady Burgfechtel’s extra point kick put the Pennsbury ahead 7-0.
The score held up until deep into the second quarter. The Falcons defensive line of Shane Hammer, Zach Zauzig, Trevor Williams, Colin Farence and Rocco Sannelli proved almost impenetrable forcing the ‘Skins to go to the air.
With less than three minutes left to play in the half the Redskin offense finally started to click. Blending in runs by Chris James and aerials from Brody McAndrew to Ian Sheehan, the Skin’s moved all the way to the Falcon 11-yard line. McAndrew then found Sheehan on a quick slant over the middle for a touchdown. A Jack Hughes kick knotted the score at 7-7 going into halftime.
Pennsbury returned to its dominating running attack to open the second half, this time calling on the talents of running back Brad Mikels. The mercurial Mikels carried the ball seven times on a drive starting from the Falcons own 18 yard line. McNeill finished off the march plunging in from 1 yard out.
On Pennsbury’s second possession of the half they once again capitalized on a great punt return by Boyd to their own 48. Three running plays by Mikels and the Falcons scored again making it 21-7. Mikels would finish the evening with 144 yards on 19 carries. His running mate Jay Von McNeill would add 133 yards on the ground to the Falcon’s total of 327 yards,
In keeping with their heated rivalry, Neshaminy was not ready to surrender. Facing a fourth and two on the Falcon 41-yard line. McAndrew found Gavin O’Connor on a 41 yard touchdown play in the right corner of the endzone. McAndrew would wind completing 14 of his 28 passes good for 209 yards on the night.
That would be all the ‘Skins could muster. An interception by Pennsbury’s Matt Carey with 4:39 left in the final quarter ended Neshaminy’s final chance. Brad Mikel iced the game, weaving his way to a final 37-yard touchdown run.
The Falcons 28-13 victory granted them a shot at the District playoffs where they will meet a tough Downingtown West squad. Neshaminy ended its season with a 5-5 record. Regardless of the score, both teams had given the sellout crowd at Falcon Stadium another thrilling game in their historic rivalry.