Forte run, goal line stand leads Kennett to 20-14 playoff win
● By J. Chambless
Playing in his last game at Kennett Stadium, Blue Demons running back Garrett Cox searched for yardage during the third quarter.
Richard L. Gaw
At a little past 9 p.m. last Friday, on a frigid night perfectly conducive to playoff football but not for the faint of heart, the legs of Kennett High School quarterback Sam Forte scampered ten yards over the goal line and whipped Kennett Stadium into a frenzy.
Forte’s run, coming at the end of a back-and-forth tilt reminiscent of a slug-it-out prizefight against visiting Strath Haven in the quarterfinal round of the District 1 playoffs, prompted announcer Leon Spencer to utter the following words, on what was the greatest night in the recent history of Blue Demon football: “There is happiness on the Hill.”
Forte’s run on the first play from scrimmage (overtime rules call for each team to begin downs on the opposing team’s 10-yard line) broke a 14-14 tie to punch the Blue Demons’ ticket into the semifinals of the District 1 playoffs on Nov. 15 at top-seeded Cheltenham, who fought off a tough Unionville team to beat the Indians, 35-21, in their quarterfinal game.
While Forte’s winning QB keeper may go down as the biggest play in Kennett football history, the play that preceded it may be the program’s most important. Inheriting the ball at the 10-yard line to begin overtime, Cougar fullback John Prochniak rushed to the seven-yard line, followed by a pitch to Ibrahaim Pio that moved the ball to the four-yard line. A second Prochniak carry moved the ball to within a half yard of the goal line, but on fourth and goal, Prochniak was stopped by a swarm of Kennett tacklers.
If great football games are measured by the theatrics of big plays, then this was a Broadway showstopper – one that may have ended for Kennett on stellar defense and Forte’s run – but began as a touchdown trade-off between the 9-2 Cougars and the 10-1 Blue Demons.
Kennett got on the scoreboard first on a 70-yard, six-play touchdown drive in the first quarter that was set up by a 27-yard run by running back Garrett Cox that moved the chains from the Kennett 40-yard line to the Strath Haven 33-yard line. Frazier ran to the 12-yard line, a pitch to wide receiver Kalen Frazier got the ball to the six-yard line, and with 9:11 left in the first quarter, Forte fired a TD strike to wide receiver Tommy Patrissi in the corner of the end zone.
Strath Haven fired right back with a touchdown of its own that was started on a kick-off return by Matt Shuler, setting up the Cougars on the Kennett 44-yard line. The nine-play drive ended with a 10-yard touchdown run by Prochniak that tied the game at 7-7 with 4:54 left in the first quarter.
Beginning the second quarter on the Strath Haven 24-yard line, Forte scrambled out of the pocket and threw a bullet to a leaping Frazier in the corner of the end zone to give the Blue Demons a 14-7 lead with 11:51 left in the first half.
On its next set of downs, however, an 11-play, 51-yard drive by Strath Haven ended with Prochniak’s second touchdown of the day, a three-yard rush with 6:10 left in the first half that sent both teams into the locker room holding onto a 14-14 tie.
After a first half that was unblemished by turnovers, both teams turned the ball over to the other throughout the scoreless third quarter. Fumble recoveries by Ryan Barker and Vincent Cresci snuffed out two Cougar drives, and Evan Blake picked off a Forte pass later in the quarter.
As the fourth quarter began, the continuing drama of the game was not only ramped up because of its playoff implications, but from the back-and-forth struggle of both teams to score. Following three long possessions that chewed up the clock but ended in punts, Strath Haven took over on their own 24-yard line with 58 second left. Prochniak then ran 19 yards to near midfield, followed by a 12-yard carry by Pio and a pass to wide receiver Jaris Adams that moved the ball to the 30-yard line with 21 second left. Two Prochniak carries got the Cougars to the 24-yard line, but with six seconds remaining in regulation, a 41-yard field goal attempt by kicker Emmet Young fell just short of the mark, ending regulation.
For those who wish to attend the semifinal game at Cheltenham beginning at 7 p.m. on Nov. 15, Cheltenham High School is at 500 Rices Mill Road, Wyncote, Pa.To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email firstname.lastname@example.org