In epic battle at Crawford Stadium, Knights’ perfect season comes to end


Franky Walsh

North Penn’s Levi Carroll breaks away from Ridley defenders in the Knights 56-55 playoff loss on Friday, November 12, 2021

Towamencin- The North Penn Knights were locked in a battle of offenses in a Friday night playoff game with Ridley in the second round of the district playoffs, ultimately seeing their season come to an end in OT with the final score 55-56 Ridley.

North Penn entered last night’s game after a dominant victory over CB South last week at home.

The second seed in playoffs, North Penn (11-0)  was set to take on the seven seed Ridley (10-1) who defeated Conestoga last week.   

From the first drive of the night the story was being set for Ridley’s offense and North Penn’s defense. North Penn stopped Ridley’s star running back for on their first two attempts holding him to 5yds in total only for Ridley’s Tahir Mills to get loose for 29yds on 4th and 1 setting up Ridley on the doorstep of North Penn’s redzone. Eventually allowing Mills to drive right into North Penn’s endzone ending the first drive of the game with a score for Ridley and a quick 7-0 lead.

North Penn responded fast and right off the kickoff with Levi Carrol receiving the kick and breaking tackles until he was forced out of bounds at the 42yd line. With a spectacular throw by Ryan Zelt and an even better catch by Xavier Brown the Knights were already in Ridley’s red zone. With Khalani Eaton carrying the ball and doing what he does best, the Knights quickly evened it at 7-7, setting up the back and forth theme of the night. 

Ridley methodically walked up the field making it 14-7 .Ethan Span then plowed through the hole and breaking tackles was able to capitalize on a Bobby Hill fumble recovery and even things back up at 14-14.

Ridley answered by furiously running back the Kickoff for a 82yd score to finish a high action quarter  with a 21-14 lead. And yes, it was only the end of the first quarter . 

The second quarter didn’t seem to get any easier for North Penn with their first drive of the quarter ending in a punt. Ridley now with looked to march up the field once again with North Penn nearly stopping the Ridley advance at Ridley’s goal line seeming to find an answer for Mills. Ridley quarterback John Heller sent a soaring pass to Kimir Stephenson for a gain of 35. Just when it seemed North Penn had an answer for Mills he breaks through from the 42yd line to the endzone for another Ridley score to put the Green Raiders up 28-14, one of two times the Knights found themselves down by two scores. . 

Eaton continued to carry a strong load on the offense, setting up North Penn with good field position. North Penn star Levi Carrol joined in and started to turn up the heat with a reception from Zeltt setting up North Penn on 1st down at the 19. With another hard running drive Eaton notched his second touchdown of the game bringing the score back to 28-21.

With 1:18 left in the half North Penn recovered Ridley’s fumble to set them up at the 50 yd line.  Now North Penn with the chance to tie the game soared down the field making use of Carrol with an athletic, leaping catch for a 13yd gain, setting North Penn up for 3rd and 2nd. After a personal foul by Ridley North Penn was able to set up another impressive throw to Carrol to tie the game up 28-28 into the half. 

Entering the 3rd quarter North Penn was set to receive, giving the Knights their first opportunity of the game to take the lead. With more dominant running from Eaton, the Knights were looking to seal the deal and take back the game. With Eaton setting up North Penn at the 10 yd. line Michai Cuffie was able to walk into the endzone and take the lead for the Knights with his first of the night, 35-28. 

Almost as a repeat of the first half North Penn still struggled to find a way to constantly stop Ridley’s run game allowing Ridley, led by Mills,  to charge back up the field and tie the game once again.  

Throughout the game there was a strong emphasis on squib kicks and short kickoffs While both teams seemed to handle control of the ball on the return side,  North Penn was the first to end that streak and lost the ball on a kick by Ridley setting up Ridley at North Penn’s 37 yd line and the chance to take the lead. Right after Ridley’s John Heller sent a pass to wide receiver Paul Jackson for the touchdown to give Ridley the 42-35 lead. 

After a slew of penalties on both sides North Penn saw themselves backed up to their 20 yd line were they ultimately threw a pick 6 to Ridley’s Nahaj Saleem, and Ridley was up 49-35, and seemingly in control. But… not so fast. 

With all almost seeming lost North Penn never gave up fighting battling back to tie the game back up with a drawn pass interference penalty by Carrol then a critical catch and stiff arm setting up North Penn at the end of the 3rd quarter in the red zone. With Eaton continuing to put on a display he got his 3rd TD of the night to pull the Knights within 7, at 49-42. 

North Penn, looking to once again find an answer to Ridley, nearly stopped the Green Raiders until a questionable pass interference flag was thrown. However  the Knights them found an answer to Mills and forced a big fumble and recovery.  

North Penn looking to tie the game up ran the ball with Spann breaking through the hole and taking the ball 82 yards down the field for his second score of the night to tie the game 49-49. 

With 6:44 remaining North Penn needed to make a stop and with that they did. Even with Ridley approaching into the red zone, North Penn stayed strong and with help from Ridley on the penalty front were able to extinguish their offensive and end the drive with an interception, sending this epic battle into overtime. 

Entering OT North Penn had the ball first and went with their work horse of a back Eaton who swung wide and only needed one attempt to bring North Penn the lead in OT,  only for Ridley to block the extra point attempt with NP up 55-49. 

North Penn held strong  on Ridley’s possession, stopping Mills on 1st and 2nd down, but on 3rd down Heller threw underneath to Mills, and Ridley tied it up. The Green Raiders punched their ticket to the District 1 semifinals with the extra point, ending the shootout in Crawford with a 56-55 Ridley road win. 

“We tried changing up the defense and tried getting more guys on the ball but they hurt us on play action and were getting away from us there. I think we did better in the second half than the first half on the run,” Knights coach Dick Beck said. 

In a truly heart breaking loss North Penn battled all night, following a perfect regular season with a final record of 11-1.

Ridley will take on Coatesville next week, who defeated Perkiomen Valley.