Pioneers’ defense shuts out Harriton
LOWER MERION >> Following Conestoga’s 21-0 win against host Harriton Friday evening, Pioneer head coach Matt Diamond paid tribute to junior defensive end Scott Smith.
“Scott Smith has a motor that doesn’t stop - he was all over the field tonight, both defensively and offensively [at tight end],” said Diamond.
Smith registered a quarterback sack in the second quarter, and the Pioneers held Harriton to a single first down in the entire first half, as Conestoga built a 21-0 halftime lead.
“We have a really good defensive team chemistry - we’re a family on defense,” said Smith. “We really came togther tonight, and we really prepared well in practice the week before the game. Coach [Diamond] gave us a great [pre-game] speech about hustling on every play, and the team captains got us riled up, excited to play.
“It really feels good for us to get another win under our belt. We’ve been working hard in practice, and our coaches spend a lot of time with [game] film every morning.”
Midway through the first quarter, Conestoga got its offense going, with a nine-play, 60-yard touchdown drive that featured all running plays, with nearly all of the yardage picked up by junior back Liam Kirk and senior back Milton Robinson.
On 3rd-and-3 at the Harriton 29 yard line, Kirk broke off a 13-yard run down the left side for a key first down; then with 4:14 left in the first quarter, Robinson punched it in for a 7-0 lead.
A Harriton fumble two plays later gave Conestoga the ball at the Rams’ 49, but the Pioneers were hindered by several offensive penalties and had to turn the ball back over to the hosts.
A few minutes later, another Harriton fumble gave Conestoga the ball at the Harriton 37, and this time, the Pioneers capitalized on a seven-play touchdown drive to go ahead 14-0. The key play was a 21-yard reception by Smith on 3rd-and-7 at the Harriton 23.
Following a three-and-out by Harriton, Conestoga got the ball at midfield and moved smartly downfield, helped by a 15-yard Harriton penalty, a 13 yard run by quarterback Chris McGovern and the clincher, a 21-yard pass from Robinson (who had taken a handoff) to Brady Carpenter into the right corner of the end zone.
In the second half, Harriton’s defense tightened up, with senior linebacker Harry Thomas making a quarterback sack on 3rd-and-8 midway through the third quarter, and junior linebacker Max Copley intercepting a pass early in the fourth period. The Rams, with some fine linebacker play by Thomas and senior Jack Rosenfeld, did not allow any points after halftime.
“Our defense did a good job, we couldn’t sustain enough on offense, and that really hurt us,” said Harriton head coach Justin Mellor. “That’s not like us [on offense] - we picked a bad time to play our worst [offensive] game. We had turnovers and penalties, and we couldn’t block the way we thought we would.
“We’ve got to be able to pick up the pieces - we’ve got a huge game coming up against Lower Merion next week, which our whole school will be jacked up for. It will be an opportunity for us to make our season by winning that game.”
The hosts began to move the ball after halftime, and Copley made some solid running gains for the Rams. With a few minutes to go, Harriton had its best offensive penetration of the evening, moving the ball inside the Conestoga 10 yard line. But the Pioneers’ defense did not allow a score.
“I thought we had a really good week of prepartion for everything we thought Harriton liked to run,” said Diamond. “I thought our players really executed well, and played really physical, especially in the trenches.”
From time to time, penalties (and a couple of fumbles) slowed down the Conestoga offensive attack.
“We were moving the ball; we had some penalties that kind of hurt us, but we made the plays when we had to,” said Diamond. “I give credit to Harriton; I thought their kids played tough, and I thought our kids really prepared well and played a real good football game.”
Diamond said, “Anytime your defense pitches a shutout, that’s a good recipe for success, and I told the team [after the game] that should give us momentum going against a big team like Garnet Valley next week.”