Defense delivers for Neshannock
Neshannock (7) vs. Serra Catholic (0)
Written: Sep 10, 2011
By RON PONIEWASZ JR.
New Castle News
Defense was strong for the Neshannock High football team last year.
It appears that nothing has changed for the Lancers this season.
Neshannock forced three turnovers and came through with a critical goal-line stand to turn back Serra Catholic 7-0 in nonconference action last night at Bob Bleggi Stadium.
Last week, the Lancers surrendered just six points on a late touchdown against West Shamokin.
“I’m happy with how our defense is playing,” Neshannock coach Pat Cuba said.
The Lancers (2-0) were ranked 11th in the entire district in total yards allowed last year, while allowing just under 17 points a game. Through two games, they’re allowing just 194.5 yards a game, while forcing a total of five turnovers.
“The defense is unbelievable,” Neshannock quarterback Michael Sanfilippo said. “They saved the game for us tonight.”
Sanfilippo, a junior, accounted for the game’s lone score on a 21-yard scoring dash with eight-tenths of a second left in the opening period. He kept the ball on a zone read play, faking a handoff to Kienan Owens and racing in easily for the score.
“That was a read; Michael saw a guy coming and he pulled it in and took it in,” Cuba said. “With Kienan possibly carrying the ball, sometimes that happens. He draws a lot of attention.”
Said Sanfilippo, “I just made the right read and the line blocked really well.”
The Eagles (0-2) threatened right before the half. Serra Catholic marched 39 yards down to the Neshannock 5. On fourth-and-1 from the 5 following a Lancers timeout, Eagles quarterback Trevor Jaworski mishandled the snap and was thrown for a seven-yard loss by a gang of Neshannock defenders with a minute to play.
“(Against Serra Catholic), I said we can bend but we can’t break. You have to make them drive the field and I think we did that,” Cuba said. “I told them during the timeout that you have your backs up against the wall. This is where you find out what you’re made of.
“The kids responded and did a good job.”
Serra Catholic coach Jamie Eckels noted the lost opportunity before the half was huge.
“We didn’t get the snap,” he said. “It’s tough to play quarterback in our offense.”
Neshannock’s defense had to rise up once more late in the game. Serra Catholic took over with four minutes remaining on its own 6. Four plays later, backup quarterback Brett Delo connected with Evan Bauder on a 45-yard pass play.
But Bauder was stripped on his way down and John Conglose scooped up the loose ball on the Neshannock 22. It was the Eagles’ seventh fumble, and third lost.
“That was a culmination of the night,” Eckels said. “We just have to get ourselves ready to play and correct that.”
The Lancers took over and Conglose put the game away when he rumbled 53 yards down to the Serra Catholic 25, helping the hosts kill the clock.
Conglose paced Neshannock with 65 yards rushing on six attempts.
“That’s the best I’ve seen a kid play since I’ve been here, playing from the free safety spot and making plays,” Cuba said of Conglose. “He certainly came up huge late in the game.”
The Lancers registered 163 total yards, including 152 on the ground.
“Our ground game was good in spurts, but it was inconsistent,” Cuba said. “The thing I love about these guys is we didn’t quit.”
Neshannock opens Big Seven Conference action at 7 p.m. Friday when it hosts Sto-Rox.
SERRA CATH. NESHANNOCK
12 First downs 8
179 Yards Rushing 161
11 Yards Lost 9
168 Net Rushing 152
4 Passes Attempted 6
1 Passes Completed 2
0 Passes Intercepted 1
45 Yards Passing 11
224 Total Yards 163
7-3 Fumbles-Lost 2-1
4-36.5 Punts-Average 4-38.2
5-25 Penalties-Yards 3-25
SERRA CATH. 0 0 0 0 —0
NESHANNOCK 7 0 0 0 —0