WILMINGTON – A first-half defensive struggle during which neither team got near the end zone was no harbinger of what was imminent Friday night at Baynard Stadium.
William Penn High turned two Salesianum turnovers into touchdowns during a 21-point third quarter, then thwarted a determined Sallies rally for a 21-14 win in the annual showdown between nonconference football rivals.
Joe Greenwood rushed for 120 yards on 16 carries and broke the scoreless deadlock on a 71-yard touchdown on the second play of the third quarter.
“My two teammates Joe Bedwell and Joe Behornar opened the hole for me. I broke a tackle and it was off to the races,” Greenwood said.
William Penn then recovered a Sallies fumble on the kickoff at the 2 and went ahead 14-0 after Jahsan Gildersleeve’s 1-yard quarterback sneak on fourth down.
Another Sallies fumble — and noseguard D’Mir Copeland’s 35-yard runback to the Sallies 8 — set up Zach Burton’s 4-yard TD run with 5:46 left in the third quarter as William Penn went on top 21-0.
“I was just trying to make a good play for the team,” said Copeland.
Of the two takeaways, “It was a game changer,” he added.
The Sals cut the lead to 21-7 after Zachary Gwynn’s 8-yard TD pass to Liam Mulvena, which was set up by that pair’s 64-yard hookup.
On their next series, the Sals pulled within 21-14 with 10:05 to go after Gwynn’s 11-yard keeper.
But William Penn then kept the football for almost nine minutes, including a fourth-down conversion, before punting. A fourth-and-1 Sallies pass from its 43 was then broken up by Colonial defensive back Isaiah Gaynor to ice the win.
William Penn, ranked No. 4 in the state in Division I by The News Journal, improved to 7-1.
“This team, we’ve been through a lot all year,” William Penn coach Marvin Dooley said. “We’ve had injuries. We’ve had some discipline stuff. This team has just been resilient. We come out, were against the wall and we knew Sallies was going to come back [after William Penn went up 21-0]. Give credit to them and their quarterback is one of the best passers we’ve seen.
“I’m proud of the kids and our coaches did a great job this week getting our kids ready — not just football ready, but mentally ready,” added Dooley, singling out offensive coordinator Jason Roebke and defensive coordinator Matt Sabol. “Those guys do so much for me and they don’t get the credit they deserve.”
No. 3-ranked Salesianum fell to 5-3. Gwynn completed 10 of 21 passes for 155 yards, all in the second half. But the Sals were left to lament mistakes and missed opportunities. William Penn’s defense, led by Charlie Hope, never let the Sals unleash their power running game.
The first half finished 0-0 after Salesianum’s first two drives ended on downs at the William Penn 33- and 35-yard lines and each team failed to convert after a takeaway at midfield — William Stradley’s interception of a fake punt for Sallies and Lance Edwards’ fumble recovery two plays later for William Penn.
“We just had to build a rhythm,” Greenwood said, “and after that it was over.”
Contact Kevin Tresolini at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @kevintresolini.