A lot of damage can be done in two plays.
On the opening play of the District One 6A semifinal’s second half on Friday night, No. 1 Central Bucks West (12-1) committed a rare miscue, a fumble, and No. 5 Central Bucks South’s Danny Gies pounced.
“We just wanted to do what we do, play CB South football and run the ball down people’s throats,” said Gies, who also intercepted a pass late in the fourth quarter. “We told ourselves to do our job. I saw the ball pop on the ground and I knew I had to jump on it to give us an opportunity to score again.”
The very next play, South’s (12-1) Anthony Leonardi raced 41 yards for a touchdown to give the Titans a 21-7 lead, a lead that seemed much larger to the standing room only crowd at War Memorial Field given the way South had been playing.
It also became a theme: Leonardi roared for touchdown runs of 52 and 41 yards before the quarter ended, giving the Titans a 35-7 lead en route to a 42-14 South victory.
CB South, after two road playoff wins, now surprisingly hosts the district title game after No. 6 Downingtown West stunned archrival and previously unbeaten No. 2 Downingtown East 17-14 in the “Battle of the Brandywine.”
Leonardi rushed for 283 yards on 22 carries. Teammate Corey Moore also ran for three touchdowns and was just 9 yards shy of 100. While Leonardi is well over 1,700 yards for the season, Moore needs just 49 to break 1,000.
Moore opened the scoring, capping 58- and 68-yard drives with short touchdown runs. Interspersed was a Cooper Taylor to Jack Williams 6-yard touchdown pass to put West on the board. The touchdown was set up with the Bucks’ second play: Devin McGowan was about to be tackled for a loss, wiggled free, and raced 55 yards to the Titans’ 10.
The teams traded fourth quarter scores: Taylor found Jack Fleisher for a 27-yard touchdown to make the lead 35-14. Moore’s 9-yard TD run with 53 seconds put an exclamation point on a South win, which served as turnaround from West’s Oct. 20 40-29 victory.
“Defensively, the things we didn’t do last time, we tried to put ourselves in a position to do,” noted South head coach Tom Hetrick. “They force you to set an edge and make sure the ball doesn’t spill outside. Their running backs run so hard and we challenged our guys because I didn’t think we tackled as well as we should that first time. We put bodies on their runners tonight. That was a big change.”
“The game plan was what we’ve done for the past 13 weeks – run the ball down people’s throat,” echoed offensive lineman Colin Goetter. “We added schemes but it’s the same inside zone, outside zone basic running plays.
“Matchup wise, (West) is a great team with a really good defense and great front, but we noticed that we had some size on them on the inside and the inside stuff would work,” Goetter added.
South didn’t win with Spider 2 Y Banana or anything fancy. The Titans simply ran the ball 56 times for 436 yards, outgaining West just over 2-to-1 (443 yards to 203).
“We prepared all week,” Gies noted. “I have to give props to our defensive coordinators. They trained us so hard in practice, pushing us every day.” For the ninth time this season, South held an opponent to 14 or fewer points.
“Offensively, we didn’t recreate anything since August,” Hetrick added. “We do what we do. We run four run schemes. We just do them in different ways.”
Goetter, the Monmouth-bound first team selection, anchored the O-line that let South runners average nearly 8 yards per carry.
“Leonardi is a specimen. He can do anything,” Goetter praised. “He can stop on a dime and go 80 yards for a touchdown. Corey likes contact and there aren’t that many skill guys who like contact. He is always getting through that first tackle. He averages 6 yards a carry and it’s a true 6 yards. It’s not inflated by a long carry.”
Quarterback Owen Pinkerton also picked up 64 yards on 13 carries, and has an outside shot to go over 1,000 next Friday night. “Pinkerton is the most mobile QB I’ve ever seen. He can turn a busted play into a 15-yard gain,” Goetter pointed out. “The kid is tough.”
CB South and CB West comprise 25% of the teams in the SOL National. Yet their players made up half of the division’s first team, an indication of how dominant these programs were this fall.
The loss capped an outstanding year for head coach Rob Rowan’s Bucks, who reached the district semifinals for the second straight year. West played without star wideout Conor McFadden, who tore his ACL in the first-round win over Cheltenham. Taylor’s 62 yards on 15 carries paced the Bucks; he also threw for 61 yards.
CB South and Downingtown West both beat an undefeated rival, whom they lost to in the regular season, to earn a chance at a district title. A Titans squad that jells more and more each week is one win away from their first district championship.