It’s a surreal moment, and one that most football players can only dream of. The fourth quarter clock winding down, the other team’s fans exiting the stadium, and the guys on the opposite side of the field watching hopelessly. On a beautiful December Saturday at Souderton Area High School, the Upper Dublin Flying Cardinals got to live that dream.
The Cardinals flew into this game unbeaten on the season, yet nearly all reporters picked the 11-2 North Penn Knights to come out of Saturday’s game with a victory. One reporter attributed his prediction of a 31-21 North Penn win by stating, “I think they [North Penn] [will] wear Upper Dublin down late.” He could not have been any more wrong.
Upper Dublin wasted no time getting on the board. A 41 yard run by Ryan Stover put the Cardinals up early. Five minutes later, Stacey Gardner added a 9 yard run, and just like that Upper Dublin was up 14-0. Right when it seemed like Upper Dublin might break away, North Penn pieced together three impressive drives, each ending with a rushing touchdown. Suddenly, Upper Dublin’s 2 touchdown lead turned into a 7 point deficit. In the final minute of the half, Todd Spirt kicked one through the uprights to send the Cardinals into the locker room down by 4.
The second half started off just as the first had, with Upper Dublin scoring twice. Gardner ran it in from 13 yards out followed by a 31 yard pass from Stover to Rapine that put the Cardinals up 31-21. Unlike in the first half, however, North Penn did not subsequently score three touchdowns. Instead, it was Upper Dublin that tacked on two more scores (both rushing touchdowns by Gardner) to make it a 44-21 game. After North Penn got pushed out of their own end zone on a fourth and 43, it looked like Upper Dublin was going to win it. Eight minutes later, they did. 46-21 was the final.
With that win, Upper Dublin claimed its first ever District One Football Championship. The Cardinals won on both sides of the ball, finishing the game with 32 unanswered points. The offense racked up 412 total yards including 238 through the air. On the defensive end, North Penn was held scoreless in the second half for the first time all season.
The Cardinals will play at Souderton again next weekend. This time, it will be in a state semi-final game vs Parkland High School. Parkland and North Penn have a lot in common, including that they are both traditional powerhouses. Both also happen to have more than twice as many students as Upper Dublin. Nonetheless, before the Cardinals focus on Parkland, they should enjoy this historic victory. As the announcers on WNPV Radio exclaimed, “Congratulations Upper Dublin, the biggest dogs in District One!”