By Rob Senior
BUCKTOWN >> Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker didn’t mince words when discussing his team’s 2017 visit to Owen J. Roberts, calling the 33-0 setback a “disaster.”
Thanks to a scheduling quirk, the Rams found themselves back in the same position this year — matched up with the Wildcats at OJR’s Homecoming with their undefeated Pioneer Athletic Conference record on the line.
The Rams’ defense made sure lightning didn’t strike twice.
Walter Molishus led the charge with three sacks and combined with DJ Francis for another that led to a second-quarter safety, and the Spring-Ford offense recovered from a slow start to get their payback, 30-7 over the Wildcats (5-3, 2-2 PAC Liberty) at Henry J. Bernat Stadium.
“We put in the work. We all shine in our moments,” said Molishus, a 6-7, 295 lineman. “I think every game we’ve made small improvements, and we’re peaking at the right time.”
It was the fifth consecutive win for the Rams (7-1, 4-0 PAC Liberty) who put themselves in position for a winner-take-all showdown for the Liberty Division title against Perkiomen Valley in next Friday’s contest at Coach McNelly Stadium.
“Our defense, they’ve been strong all year,” said Chad Brubaker, head coach of the Rams. “First game of the year, they got us through (a shutout against Central Bucks South). After that, we knew they’d get us through anything.”
A defensive battle for field position led to both teams adopting quick-kicking strategies — first, Spring-Ford’s Engro’s effort gave OJR a touchback at their own 20, then Cooper Chamberlain booted the Wildcats out of trouble on 3rd and long.
After an errant snap backed the Rams up to their own 39, the Rams appeared to draw first blood before a holding penalty negated Engro’s TD pass to Dante Bonanni.
But the next time the Rams got the ball back, the combination of Stephen Brill and Andrew Yoon got the Rams into the red zone, where Engro made the play of the night to get the Rams on the board. Flushed out of the pocket by OJR’s Aidan Hayward, the junior QB evaded two more tacklers before finding a wide-open Blaize Scarcelle for nine yards and a 7-0 Rams lead.
On the Wildcats’ next possession, penalties back the offense up to their own 4-yard line, where Molishus jarred the ball loose from Chamberlain and out of the end zone for a Rams safety, extending the lead to a 9-0 advantage the Rams would take to the locker room.
For the opening half, Spring-Ford limited the Wildcats offense — clearly hampered by Marcus Martin’s lingering knee injury — to 52 total yards of offense. Martin, not at all himself on Friday night, carried only nine times for five yards.
“If it weren’t Spring-Ford, he probably wouldn’t have played at all,” offered OJR head coach Rich Kolka. “We felt we owed it to Marcus to give it a shot, his being a senior and a great leader and all.”
Engro gave his defense a little breathing room on the first play of the second half, keeping on a zone read play and exploding up the middle for 64 yards and SF’s second TD of the evening to grow the lead to 16-0. He’d add a second TD run three minutes later after Stephen Brill (124 yards rushing on the night) carried for 28 yards to put the Rams on the doorstep.
Engro hit Dante Bonanni with four minutes left in the quarter from nine yards out for the third score of the quarter. Suddenly, the tight halftime matchup was a 30-point Rams advantage, and the preparations for Perkiomen Valley could begin.
The junior QB ended the evening 11-for-16 for 187 yards passing and four total touchdown (two rush, two pass). Blaize Scarcelle was the Rams’ leading receiver with 88 yards, and Brill added another 62 through the air.
The Rams allowed only 67 yards of total offense in the first three quarters before substituting liberally in the late going, sending them into next week’s division title showdown on their best performance of the season.
“We keyed on what we saw on film,” Brubaker simplified. “Our defensive staff did a great job in preparation.”
OJR got on the board with just under two minutes to play as Chamberlain found Dante DeNardo for an 18-yard score.