Eagles down Trojans to improve to 2-0
LOWER GWYNEDD — Last week, in breaking their 18-game losing streak, the Eagles of Norristown High showed off their offensive skills in a 22-point win over Upper Merion.
Friday night, in Game Two of their season at Wissahickon High School, the Eagles showed they could play some defense, too.
In fact, both touchdowns in Norristown’s 14-13 squeaker over host Wissahickon came via the defense.
Joe Cross scored on a first-half fumble return and Isaiah Samuel on a second-half interception return as the surprising Eagles made it two straight.
“It was fun,” said a smiling Jason Powel, the first-year head coach of the Eagles after the team won its second game of the year for the first time since the 2011 season. “We knew it was going to be tough because Wissahickon’s line on both sides of the ball gets off the ball so quickly.
“So we told our defensive linemen the game was going to come down to them. If we’d be able to hold up their offensive line so that our linebackers could flow to the ball, we could win.”
And throughout the first half, while holding Wissahickon to just 24 yards of total offense, the Eagles trench men were playing better than anyone could have expected.
But down, 14-0, in the third quarter after Samuel’s interception return, the Trojans got busy.
Wissahickon finally got on the scoreboard late in the third quarter when Josh Smith polished off a three-play, 43-yard drive with a 16-yard touchdown run.
The drive was set up when the Eagles were pinned deep in their own end, and a short punt put the home team in business on the plus side of the field.
Then, down 14-7, the Trojans looked ready to tie the game when Josh Trunk capped an eight-play, 69-yard drive with a 6-yard score with 6:15 left in the fourth. The extra-point attempt, however,
sailed wide left, and the Eagles still held the lead.
Early on, it was a defensive struggle, with neither offense able to dent the red zone.
In fact, the lone score of the first half came by the defense as Norristown’s Cross, a linebacker recently moved to defensive tackle, pounced on a bungled Trojans exchange near midfield and rumbled 52 yards to put the Eagles on top, 7-0, with just 10 seconds left in the first quarter.
Outside of that score off a turnover, both offenses huffed and puffed, but could do next to nothing.
The Trojans’ deepest penetration of the half came on each of their first two possessions when they got as far as the Norristown 43.
The Eagles, buoyed by a 20-yard pass play from quarterback Brendan Gorski to Tyree Perry, got as far as the Wissahickon 33 before the Trojans rose up to hold them there.
At the break, Norristown running back Corey Davenport had 56 yards rushing, but Norristown was doing very little offensively.
“The offense wasn’t clicking tonight,” Powel said. “(Wissahickon) is just as quick off the ball defensively, and we struggled. We showed flashes, but we weren’t consistent.”
Early in the third quarter, the Eagles doubled their lead after an exchange of turnovers.
Wissahickon’s Shawn Gilman put an end to the Eagles opening drive of the second half with a leaping interception at the Trojans 14.
But after a pair of penalties backed the Trojans offense back inside its own 10-yard line, quarterback Michael Marino was intercepted by Samuel, who sashayed into the end zone to put the Eagles in the lead, 14-0.
“We spent a lot of practice time this week on defense,” Samuel said. “We practiced against all of their formations.
“On the interception, they were in trips, and one of our guys deflected the pass and it went right to me and I was able to get it in.”
Still, after the Smith touchdown, the Trojans were back in the game. And when Trunk scored with 6:15 left, the Eagles could easily have folded. Instead, they got bolder. Holding that one point lead, the Eagles went for a fourth-and-short at their own 44 on the ensuing series.
“I told our guys when it’s fourth and short like that, I’m going to show you that I trust you to get that yard,” Powel said. “And if it doesn’t happen, we have to be ready to play hard on the next play.”
After getting the ball back in Norristown territory, the Trojans could not manage a first down and were halted when Marino’s fourth-and-nine pass fell incomplete.
The Trojans got the ball back one more time, at their own 25 with 65 seconds to play and with no timeouts.
Four incomplete passes later, Norristown had the nail-biting victory.
“It felt great,” Samuel said of the Eagles’ second win in as many tries. “It’s amazing the way our coaches have gotten us together so fast .
“And we’re really together.”
Norristown’s Derick Cross runs the ball during Friday’s win over Wissahickon.