By Jack McCaffery

 

ERIC HARTLINE â   SPECIAL TO THE TIMES Springfield quarterback Brian Allen bulls in for a touchdown from a yard out, one of his three TDs in the Cougarsâ

First, he needed to make an interception.

Second — he thought, at least — he was going to have to motion for a medic.

“I really thought,’ he said, with the usual sports embellishment, “I was going to have a heart attack.’

Because he crossed that first item off the list by making his second interception of the night to seal Springfield’s 34-33 victory over Upper Darby with 28 seconds left, Spence was thankful that he didn’t need to worry about Plan B.

With a victory formation and a kneel-down, the 7-0 Cougars knew they would be taking a perfect record into a Central League collision the following Friday against visiting Garnet Valley, both teams at 6-0 in the conference.

By then, however, the Royals (3-4, 3-3) had made Spence’s uneasiness contagious.

“Was I nervous?’ Springfield coach Chris Britton said. “I’m always nervous. Of course I was nervous in this one.’

Linder Divos scored on an 11-yard touchdown run to give Upper Darby a 33-28 lead with 4:32 to play. Already, though, the Royals had become a threat to that Springfield perfection. With two Christoff Minott touchdowns in the first 8:10, including a 64-yard quarterback-keeper, Upper Darby had a 13-0 lead … and Springfield’s attention.

“We knew would be a tough game,’ Britton said. “We knew with the mismatches, they had some things going in their favor. But they coached a great game. And we’re lucky to get out of here.’

The Cougars took advantage of 229 total yards from quarterback Brian Allen, 119 on the ground, including 66 of the game’s most vital. They came on the first play from scrimmage after the Divos TD, on a keeper right through the gut of the Upper Darby defense.

“I prepared for this my whole life,’ said Allen, who rushed for three touchdowns. “And tonight was one of the greatest games I’ve ever played. This was a team effort, all around. No one gave up. No one put their heads down. We fought back and battled.’

When Pat Smyth recovered a fumble on the next Upper Darby possession, Springfield appeared safe with 2:43 left. But the Royals held on downs, giving Minot one more chance to lead a deciding rally.

The drive ended at the Springfield 34 when Spence made the clinching interception. Minott finished with 184 passing yards, including a 70-yard screen pass to Isiah Bruce for a touchdown.

“I knew we’d come through as a team,’ Spence said. “Forcing turnovers is what our job is. If we create turnovers, we will win the game. That’s what we did today.’

After Allen hit Quideer Wimes with a 44-yard touchdown pass, Minot answered with his third TD, a two-yard keeper with 40 seconds left in the third, giving Upper Darby a 27-21 lead. But Collin Braconnier’s 54-yard scoring run — and Jack Coary’s fourth PAT — gave the Cougars a 28-27 lead with 1:26 left in the third.

The give-and-take fourth was enough to leave everyone — almost — satisfied.

“I don’t think there is a negative word you can say about that game,’ Royals coach Rich Gentile said. “Both teams made big plays when they had to make them. The thing you can ask is, ‘ At the end of the game, did you have an opportunity to win?’ And we did. I am sure everybody had fun watching that game.

“If you didn’t like that game, you should be watching hockey or some other sport.’