HERSHEY - If the Neshaminy Redskins were ever to
doubt their own talents, question their intestinal
fortitude or give up on their collective dream to be
the best high school football team in Pennsylvania,
yesterday was the day for it.
Cumberland Valley High School brought its
punishingly abusive power running game to
Hersheypark Stadium and pounded the Redskins in the
first half of the PIAA Class AAAA state playoff
The Eagles of
Mechanicsburg, champions of District Three, owned
the football for the first two quarters and went
into intermission with a two-touchdown lead,
courtesy of a 16-play scoring drive, followed
immediately by a 17-play march.
But Neshaminy, the District One titlist, a group
punched and prodded down the field for the better
part of 24 minutes, had no quit in it. Instead, the
Redskins played "Rocky" again - climbing off of the
deck for the umpteenth time in this, their charmed
eventually outslugged and outlasted the Eagles,
25-19, to win the state's Eastern Region title and
earn a berth in next Saturday's state championship
game here at 5 p.m., opposite District Seven's
Woodland Hills of Pittsburgh. Woodland Hills (14-0)
defeated Altoona, 34-0,in the Western Region final
Neshaminy (14-0) will become the first area football
team ever to compete in a state championship
contest. Pennsylvania adopted a playoff format in
overcame the relentless Cumberland Valley running
attack with countless big plays. Running back Jamar
Brittingham was the guy with the most of them. The
all-state candidate ran 27 times for a game-high 155
yards and two second-half touchdowns.
At halftime, with the Redskins trailing, 12-0, coach
Mark Schmidt called upon his star ball carrier to
change the momentum of the game. The senior did
"I looked at
him and said, 'Hey Bud, we're going to win or lose
this thing with you,' " Schmidt told reporters after
the game. "He's a special young man. He got it
cranked up a bit."
actually reached the end zone three times, but a
holding penalty nullified his first would-be TD, a
nifty 23-yard run late in the third quarter.
Brittingham went 27 yards to the Eagles' 5 on the
very next snap. The 6-foot-1, 194-pounder finished
off his inspired gallop by dropping a
damage-wreaking shoulder pad onto an undersized
Eagles' safety. The thousands of Redskin supporters
in attendance roared with approval.
"In the first
half, he was taking me down (by) the legs,"
Brittingham said of the defender. "In the second
half, I had it in my mind to go low and run over
him." Brittingham's 5-yard run on the next play put
Neshaminy on top for the first time, 13-12.
The two-way standout also contributed on defense,
recovering a fumble forced by safety Devon Swope
with 1:25 left in the game. The strip came at the
end of a 17-yard pass completion that would have
given Cumberland Valley a first down in Neshaminy
wasn't the only Redskin to make good use of the big
play, however. All-purpose back/receiver Keith Ennis
did not finish with eye-popping statistics (28 yards
rushing and 44 receiving), but every time he touched
the football, he produced in a key situation.
catch on fourth-and-10 from the Eagles' 29 saved
Neshaminy's hopes early in the third quarter.
Fullback Geoff Donahue's ensuing one-yard scoring
run, plus the extra point, made it 12-7.
"I was calling
for (the ball). I knew I could beat him," Ennis said
of the Cumberland Valley cornerback whom he
out leaped to snare the crucial pass. "Jay (Wiater)
threw a great ball to the outside. I just went up
and caught it."
also returned kickoffs for 44 and 67 yards. The
longer one occurred with six minutes to go in the
game, just after Cumberland Valley had tied it,
19-19, on a 41-yard touchdown run by Casey Milligan.
Ennis' big runback, however, Neshaminy took over at
the Eagles' 20. Four plays later, on fourth-and-two,
Brittingham broke free for what would become the
winning score, a 12-yarder.
During their sustained second-half rally, the
Redskins also made things happen on special teams.
In the second minute of the fourth quarter, junior
Erik Pederson, a back-up quarterback and linebacker,
blocked a Cumberland Valley punt. Mike Loveland, a
senior receiver, snared the ball out of mid-air at
the Eagles' 19 and raced into the end zone.
The score was
Neshaminy's third in less than 14 minutes, making it
19-12. Still, the game was far from decided.
one of a long list of veterans on the team, had a
feeling the Redskins would finish off the memorable
victory. He felt the same way at intermission, even
with Cumberland Valley holding a two-score lead and
outgaining the Redskins 181-92 in the first half.
Neshaminy went on to even the statistics in the
second half and surpass the Eagles in the most
important category, points.
"We knew we
would do it somehow," Loveland said. "You've just
got to concentrate, stay in the game and calm down.
A lot of times, people get all worried and make
been (behind) before. These guys know what that's
about," Schmidt said, almost shrugging off the
clutch comeback as an everyday occurrence. "It was a
bigger crowd, a bigger facility, but it's the same
old story. "Everybody just did their job, shook off
the bad and tried to keep working the good."
NESHAMINY 25, CUMBERLAND VALLEY 19