Mercury-area football season review from A to Z

By Austin Hertzog
 
The PAC is back.
Perkiomen Valley and Spring-Ford made waves in the District 1 Class 6A playoffs while Pottsgrove’s Class 4A title and runs by Upper Perkiomen and Pope John Paul II proved that the PAC should no longer be an afterthought in the district conversation.
Stellar careers came to an end, while promising careers began to shine.
All-in-all, 2016 will be one remembered for the record-breaking, the surprising upsets, and the deep district runs.
Here’s a look back on the Mercury-area season from A to Z.
A is for Adeboboye: Hill School’s Daniel Adeboboye started his Hill School career in fine fashion, rushing for more than 250 yards in the team’s 2-0 start, its best start since the 2009 season. The Hill finished with a 3-6 record.
B is for Bettering the mark: Spring-Ford senior wide receiver Stone Scarcelle finished tied for most career touchdown receptions in Rams history, his 20 touchdown receptions tying Andrew Scanlan (now at Northwestern), who graduated in 2011. Scarcelle’s 13 receiving touchdowns in 2016 was a Spring-Ford record.
C is for Courage: Look no further than Perkiomen Valley’s Chris Jimenez and mother Jaime Kline. Kline, suffering from breast cancer for the past six years, has been battling the disease and continues to do so even with her recent Stage 4 diagnosis. Jimenez, a senior Temple commit, leaned on football as therapy amid the tribulation and was a huge piece to the Vikings’ undefeated regular season and PAC title run.
D is for Defense: Spring-Ford’s defense was by far the best in the PAC, averaging only 12.5 points per game — nearly six points better than PAC’s second-best in Perkiomen Valley. The Rams also led the PAC in rushing yards allowed per game (94.4) and total yards allowed per game (236.8). The team finished with 31 sacks and 14 interceptions.
E is for Ellen: Always a good PAC season when Ellen DeGeneres gets a mention in the A to Z review. Pottstown’s own Marvin Pearson was given a $10,000 scholarship to a college of his choice and was given a chance to fly to New Orleans to meet Drew Brees on “The Ellen Show” in November. More on Pearson shortly.
F is for Faison: During preseason camp it was instantly recognizable the talent that the Rahsul Faison, an Archbishop Carroll transfer, would bring to Pottsgrove. Faison rushed for a PAC best 2,093 yards — the first 2,000-plus effort since OJR’s Ryan Brumfield in 2010 — as the Falcons won its first District 1 championship since 2011, beating Interboro in comeback fashion in the Class 4A title game.
G is for Garcia: It wasn’t the best season for Phoenixville, but senior running back Matt Garcia made it memorable. Garcia shattered the school’s single-season rushing record of 1,507 yards set by Jimmy Johnson in 1966, finishing with 1,820 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns in 10 games.
H is for Honoring the Military: Pottsgrove and Phoenixville both honored the military with annual Military Appreciation nights.
I is for Interceptions: Five players led the PAC with five interceptions in 2016: Koran Butler (Norristown), Jake Bildstein (Pope John Paul II), Matt Ford-Bey (Perkiomen Valley), Ryan Kendra (Upper Perkiomen) and Dan Cassidy (Spring-Ford).
J is for Jaworski: Perkiomen Valley’s Justin Jaworski broke his own record for most receiving yards in a season, finishing with 1,396 yards receiving with 14 touchdowns, all while missing some of the season with a MCL injury. Jaworski, who returned during the Vikings’ victory over Spring-Ford in Week 7, shattered the PAC career mark for receiving yards in Week 3, besting the mark set by Upper Perkiomen’s Ronnie Gillespie in 2011 (2,147 yards). Jaworski finished his career with 3,270 career yards.
K is for Kickers: Whether it be Perkiomen Valley’s Garrett Patla, or Spring-Ford’s Erick Rodriguez, this year was definitely the Year of the Kicker. Patla finished with a PAC record 85 points, including nine field goals (one a 49-yarder in the District 1 Class 6A quarterfinals). Rodriguez broke Spring-Ford’s single-season record for most points of 70 set by Ryan O’Hara in 2011. Rodriguez finished with 76 points.
L is for Liberty: The Liberty Division made easy work of its Frontier Division opponents in the Week 10 crossover matchups. Highlighted by Perkiomen Valley’s 28-14 victory over Pottsgrove in the PAC Championship, the Liberty Division went 6-0 in the Week 10 crossovers.
M is for Marvin: Pottstown’s Marvin Pearson scored his first varsity touchdown in the Trojans’ 48-8 loss to Pottsgrove in October. Pearson, blind since the age of 10 and deaf a short time after, came back to Pottstown for his senior season and made memories along the way.
N is for Newcomers: Norristown and Upper Merion’s first season in the PAC could have been better (teams combined to go 3-6 in the conference), but the two finished off the season with an epic clash in their annual Thanksgiving Day game.
O is for Okuniewski: Daniel Boone’s Ryan Okuniewski finished with a team-best 836 receiving yards on 41 receptions. His totals are No. 2 in Berks, behind only Exeter’s Gabe Schappell (47-908).
P is for Pope John Paul II: Whether it be its first three-game winning streak since 2011, or its first victory over Pottsgrove in school history, the Golden Panthers’ season was a surprise to many, especially after a winless 2015. PJP junior quarterback Matt DeLaurentis fared extremely well in his first year starting, finishing with 2,307 passing yards, while the defense finished fifth in the PAC with 267.3 yards per game.
Q is for Quarterbacks: Three quarterbacks finished with more than 2,000 yards passing (PV’s Stephen Sturm, SF’s TJ Pergine and PJP’s Matt DeLaurentis).
R is for Romano: Spring-Ford’s Tanner Romano bettered his brother’s school record for most tackles for loss in a season, his 23 TFL four better than Mason’s mark set in 2012. Mason, however, holds the mark for most career tackles for loss with 40.
S is for Stephen Sturm: Perkiomen Valley’s Stephen Sturm wrapped up the best career of any District 1 quarterback at the largest classification, passing for a PAC-record 3,438 yards with 42 touchdowns opposed to just nine interceptions. Sturm, who set the District 1 single-season mark for passing yards in a season for a week before North Penn’s Reece Udinksi bettered it in the district title game, passed Downingtown East’s Pat Develin (2006) for most career passing yards with 8,554 yards. His 94 career passing touchdowns tied Manheim Township’s Pat Bostick (2003-2006) career mark.sturm1
T is for TJ Pergine: Spring-Ford’s TJ Pergine Spring-Ford single season record for passing yards in a season, finishing with 2,275 yards, a new single-season record for passing yards.
U is for Undefeated: Perkiomen Valley completed its first undefeated regular season in school history.
V is for Victory: The Perkiomen School finished the year with six wins, finishing the year with a 54-6 victory over St. Andrew’s School.
W is for Wilson: Game of the Year goes to Spring-Ford and Wilson in Week 3. The much-hyped matchup that pitted Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubaker against his former school (Brubaker spent 12 years as an assistant coach for the perennial state powerhouse, the last four as the offensive coordinator under head coach Doug Dahms), went in Wilson’s favor in a double-overtime thriller that saw the Bulldog defense stuff Stone Scarcelle one inch shy of the goal line on a two-point conversion. Wilson won 41-40 and most recently won the District 3 Class 6A championship.
X is for X-Factor: Every team had one, whether it be PJP’s Dan Cirino, Upper Perkiomen’s Tyler Whary, Phoenixville’s Nasir Green, Perkiomen Valley’s Sean Owens or Spring-Ford’s Selwyn Simpson.
Y is for Yazujian: He isn’t in high school anymore, but that’s OK. Tyler Yazujian, Penn State’s longsnapper, was part of what many media members are calling the story of the year: the Penn State 2016 team that earned a Big Ten East title and will vie for the conference championship Saturday in Indianapolis.
Z is for Zeke: Upper Perkiomen advanced to the District 1 Class 4A playoffs this season in large part due to the play of senior quarterback Zeke Hallman, who cleaned up his play from 2015. Hallman finished with a career-best 1,938 yards with 24 touchdowns and seven interceptions as the Indians finished the year 5-6 (4-1 PAC). Hallman’s season totals for yards and touchdowns were bests for in Upper Perkiomen history.

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WFMZ's Big Ticket Report on North Penn Game

Spring-Ford’s loss to North Penn doesn’t diminish season filled with milestones

By Tom Nash
 
TOWAMENCIN >> While the North Penn football team marched out of Crawford Stadium in jubilation led by their band, Spring-Ford’s players made the long walk back to their locker room in complete and utter silence Friday night.
Some players took the walk solo.
Others walked it in packs.
Yet every player made that walk together.
“We came such a long way these past three months,” said senior receiver Stone Scarcelle following the Rams’ 28-19 loss against top-ranked North Penn in the quarterfinal round of the District 1 Class 6A playoffs.
“From three-a-days to now — it seems like an eternity,” he added. “All you get is these three months and then the season’s over. You’ve gotta take what you can get.”
All season long, Spring-Ford took just about everything it could get against nearly every opponent. Following their mid-season loss against eventual-PAC Champion Perkiomen Valley in early-October, the Rams renewed their focus and got on a roll.
Bob Raines--Digital First Media Spring-Ford running back Justin DeFrancesco finds himself surrounded by North Penn defenders Jake Hubler,   Nov. 11, 2016.
Bob Raines–Digital First Media
Spring-Ford running back Justin DeFrancesco finds himself surrounded by North Penn defenders Jake Hubler, Nov. 11, 2016.
Spring-Ford rattled off four consecutive dominating wins, out-scoring the opposition 204-14, including last week’s 38-7 district-opening win against Central Bucks East — their first district win since the 2013 season.
“We knew who we were,” said Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubaker of the Rams’ season. “I think a lot of people discounted us, but we knew we were a good football team.”
Even after they were down 21-0 just eight minutes in, the Rams never truly seemed out of it. A team that can score in bunches and through several different options will give off that vibe.
Selwyn Simpson — the team’s workhorse during the late stretch of the season — scored two touchdowns during the second half, bringing his season rushing touchdown total to 24.
Quarterback TJ Pergine, who had set the program’s record for passing yards in a season the week before, got into a solid rhythm with Scarcelle, connecting five times for 85 yards, including a 33-yard touchdown strike in-between Simpson’s touchdown runs.
“I’m gonna tell these guys, you know ‘Don’t hang your heads,’” said Brubaker. “I know this loss stings, but we were in this 48 minutes. This won’t take away from some of the things we did this season.”
Running back Matt Gibson was forced to watch last week’s district opener from the sideline while dealing with a concussion.
That said, he knows a thing or two about district football.
“One loss and that’s it,” he said. “I knew this could potentially be my last time putting on the uniform and the pads. There was no way I could miss this game.”
Gibson provided the Rams plenty of spark on kick-off returns, and also opened up the second half with a 31-yard burst through the left tackle.
“It was great to be back onto the field and to be able to contribute again,” he said. “I didn’t want this to be my last game, but I’m glad that I was able to actually be in it with my teammates one last time.”
“This team means everything to me … and all of us,” added Gibson. “Everyone on this team is my brother. We stick together.”

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North Penn starts, finishes strong in District 1-6A quarters win over Spring-Ford

By Kev Hunter
 
TOWAMENCIN >> It was late in the third quarter with North Penn holding on tight to a 21-19 lead when quarterback Reece Udinski — on a 3rd-and-9 from the Spring-Ford 27 — fired a deep slant to wide receiver Ricky Johns.
Two Ram defenders converged on Johns, each delivering a hit. The two defenders went down, Johns remained up, and raced away to what would be the clinching score on a blustery, cold night at Crawford Stadium.
“They rang my bell,” Johns said of the play, “and the next thing you know I’m in the end zone.”
The touchdown was symbolic of the evening. The eighth-seeded Rams gave the Knights their best shot, but North Penn persevered and still pulled away to a 28-19 victory that sends them to next week’s District 1-6A Semifinals against Coatesville.
“That was really big. We needed to score on that drive,” Johns said of his third-quarter TD. “We had been stopped on the previous possession but that gave us momentum.”
#FOOTBALL: 4:43 3Q @KnightsLoyalty 28, @SFRamsFB 19. @ReeceUdinski to @ricky_johns8 27 yard TD. pic.twitter.com/dcYO5sy07U
— Mike Cabrey (@mpcabrey) November 12, 2016
Top-seeded North Penn (12-0) never relinquished it. The Udinski-to-Johns connection would be the only points of the second half, as the Knights’ defense shut out Spring-Ford in the final two quarters.
“The halftime adjustment was we had to tackle better,” North Penn coach Dick Beck said. “In the second quarter, we did not tackle well. (Spring-Ford) got a lot of extra yardage after the first contact.
“We tackled better in the second half and I think that was the big difference.”
Bob Raines--Digital First Media Spring-Ford receiver Quinn McKenna gets a pass up the middle against North Penn Nov. 11, 2016.
Spring-Ford receiver Quinn McKenna gets a pass up the middle against North Penn during their District 1-6A quarterfinal on Friday, Nov. 11, 2016. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)
After Spring-Ford (9-3) trimmed a 21-0 deficit down to just 21-19 at the break, the Rams received the second-half kickoff with the hope of pushing in front for the first time.
A 31-yard run by Matt Gibson provided quite a start, but a 1st-and-10 at the North Penn 42 soon turned into 4th-and-5 at the 37.
That is where Gibson — and Ram comeback hopes — were stopped cold by linebacker Owen Thomas, who corralled Gibson in the backfield for a two-yard loss.
The next three Ram possessions would be three-and-outs. Then, on Spring-Ford’s first possession of the fourth quarter, Johns — from his linebacker position — intercepted quarterback T.J. Pergine, setting the Knights up for one of their three clock-killing drives in the final period.
“I like to bait my quarterbacks,” Johns said. “I let them think I’m blitzing and then bail back to cover the slant.
“Our defense always plays well,” Johns said of a unit that surrendered just 51 yards in the second half. “We gotta keep improving but our defense has been amazing.”
Johns later supplied a 29-yard catch that would help allow NP to keep the ball until the final seconds of the game ticked away.
It was a night that began with North Penn scoring on its first three drives, quickly bolting to a 21-0 lead at Crawford.
A 60-yard run by Nick Dillon on the first play from scrimmage led to a seven-yard touchdown run by Jason Prince for the first points of the evening.
Then, on NP’s second offensive series, facing a 2nd-and-14 from his own 13, Udinski went back and uncorked what would be an 87-yard score to Johns, who caught the ball in stride and raced his way for six.
“I had to get a deep one on them. That was gonna be a tough match-up between me and (Stone Scarcelle),” said Johns, who hauled in seven catches for 192 yards and two scores. “He’s a great athlete. That was gonna be a big match-up this game and I just broke loose.”
#FOOTBALL: 8:56 1Q @KnightsLoyalty 14, @SFRamsFB 0. @ReeceUdinski to @ricky_johns8 87 yard TD pass. pic.twitter.com/qRWIKqSD81
— Mike Cabrey (@mpcabrey) November 12, 2016
The lead grew to 21-0 when Udinski hit Justis Henley for a 21-yard score on 3rd-and-Goal, as the Knights appeared on the brink of enforcing the mercy rule for the second straight week in the playoffs.
But Spring-Ford rallied back.
Bob Raines--Digital First Media North Penn quarterback Reece Udinski passes over Spring-Ford's Tanner Romano Nov. 11, 2016.
North Penn quarterback Reece Udinski passes over Spring-Ford’s Tanner Romano during their District 1-6A quarterfinal on Friday, Nov. 11, 2016. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)
“We knew who we were. We’re a good football team, and that’s a big hole to climb out of,” Rams coach Chad Brubaker said, “but our kids were gonna play 48 minutes no matter what.”
A pair of rushing touchdowns by Selwyn Simpson — a four-yarder and a one-yarder — were sandwiched around a 33-yard TD pass from Pergine to Scarcelle, which came on 4th-and-9.
The Rams scored on all three of their second-quarter possessions and forced a pair of Knights turnovers to get within two points at the half. But the go-ahead score never came.
“(I told the guys) you lost to a good football team,” Brubacker said. “They played their hearts out. We felt like in the second half we needed that one more big play or one more break and it just never came for us.
“We made a couple mistakes and (North Penn) switched its front up a lot and caused us some problems. But I told the guys to hold their heads up high. They played well and were in that game for 48 minutes.”
With a contest that was as tight as it could be in the third quarter, the Knights came up with the play they needed, when Udinski fired a strike to Johns, who bounced off two tacklers and was free.
Said Beck: “Ricky making that play, splitting the defenders and walking in the end zone…That was probably the play of the game.”

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Johns, defense big in 2nd half when North Penn tested by Spring-Ford

By Mike Cabrey
 
TOWAMENCIN >> On a cold and windy Friday night, things seemed to be blowing out of the North Penn football team’s grasp just before halftime.
Less than nine minutes into their District 1-6A quarterfinal with Spring-Ford at Crawford Stadium, the Knights had a 21-0 lead and look on their way to doing what they have done all season – burying teams until a large pile of points.
The visiting Rams, however, would not go down that path. With North Penn derailed by penalties, an interception and a turnover on downs, Spring-Ford high-tempo spread attack found momentum and reach the end zone three times in the second quarter – Selwyn Simpson’s 1-yard rushing touchdown trimming the Knights’ lead down 21-19 just 75 seconds before intermission.
Bob Raines--Digital First Media Spring-Ford quarterback TJ Pergine gets off a pass as he is grabbed by North Penn's Ricky Johns Nov. 11, 2016.
Spring-Ford quarterback TJ Pergine gets off a pass as he is grabbed by North Penn’s Ricky Johns during their District 1-6A quarterfinal on Friday, Nov. 11, 2016. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)
“I started to get a little greedy. I should have stayed on the ground a little more in the second quarter,” North Penn coach Dick Beck said. “We got the wind to our back we’re thinking we can throw a couple deep and what happed was that the wind to the back it was really affecting the ball more than with the wind to the face. So I think that was a little bit of a mistake on my part.”
The Knights had won their previous 11 games by an average of 30.2 points. They trailed in games for a total 11 minutes, 4 seconds, all of that coming in the first half against Pennridge Week 5. Friday’s two-point lead at halftime was the smallest for North Penn so far in 2016.
“In the locker room we told the guys, ‘Hey, we’re still up,’” North Penn senior Dan Drop said. “Facing adversity for one of the first times this year and we just tried to battle. Our defense we just tried to keep our heads in the game, make tackles like we didn’t do in the first half.”
The NP defense made a stand on the opening drive of the second half and kept Spring-Ford stuck on 19 points – just the second time in 2016 the Rams’ could not eclipse 30 points. A great catch and run by Ricky Johns for a touchdown gave the Knights a nine-point cushion that turned out to be the final score, the 28-19 win sending North Penn into the semifinals to face Coatesville, a 41-21 winner of Ridley.
#FOOTBALL: The @KnightsLoyalty defense stuffs Spring-Ford on 4th down with NP holding a 21-19 lead early 3rd quarter. pic.twitter.com/k9R25EfjwC
— Mike Cabrey (@mpcabrey) November 12, 2016
“I think the halftime adjustment was we had to tackle better. In the second quarter, we did not tackle well. They got a lot of extra yardage after the first contact,” Beck said. I can’t tell you how many time we hit them at the line of scrimmage and he fell for two or three yards. We hit him for a two-yard gain, he’d get five. So, when you’re doing that we start to press more on defense where everybody’s trying to get after the runner next thing you know we’re giving up the passes down the seams because the linebackers are really trying to be more aggressive.
“So, when we tackled better in the third quarter and actually in the second half, I think that was the big difference.”
With North Penn still holding only that two-point edge, Spring-Ford moved into Knights territory on the opening drive of the second half. On a fourth down inside the 40, the Rams elected to go for it but NP bottled up the run attempt and Owen Thomas made the tackle for loss.
“I think we sent a lot of pressure up the middle,” Drop said. “Owen Thomas came free, hold him up and we just swarmed to the ball.”
North Penn punted on the ensuing series, but pinned Spring-Ford deep in its own end and forced the Rams to go three-and-out, Thomas on third down again slicing into the backfield to send a runner to negative yardage.
#FOOTBALL: @KnightsLoyalty‘s @ricky_johns8 with big yards off a @ReeceUdinski pass to convert a 3rd down 4Q vs. Spring-Ford pic.twitter.com/9qvvNR6bML
— Mike Cabrey (@mpcabrey) November 12, 2016
Johns provided the Knights some much-needed breathing room on the next drive. On a third and long from the 27, Johns hauled in a Reece Udinski pass at the 15, took hits from two defenders but slid out of the tackles and dash to the end zone at 4:43 in the third quarter.
“They rang my bell and two seconds later I’m in the end zone, so that was just a great play,” said Johns on his second TD of the night, having scored on a 87-yarder from Udinski that made it 14-0 in the first quarter.
Johns helped maintain the nine-point lead in the fourth quarter first with his interception then later turning a short pass over the middle on third down in a big gain, allowing the Knights to salt away the final minutes.
“He was great tonight,” said Beck of Johns. “Reece was getting him the ball, but he made some really special plays. And that’s why he’s going to West Virginia. The kid’s a special player and we expect him to come up big all the time.”

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No.: 7 Team: Varsity
First Name: Matt Position: RB/DB
Last Name: Gibson Classification: SR
No.: 10 Team: Varsity
First Name: Dan Position: WR/DB
Last Name: Cassidy Classification: SR
No.: 12 Team: Varsity
First Name: Stone Position: ATH/DB
Last Name: Scarcelle Classification: SR
No.: 16 Team: Varsity
First Name: Quinn Position: TE/DE
Last Name: McKenna Classification: SR
No.: 20 Team: Varsity
First Name: Adam Position: WR/DB
Last Name: Sharkey Classification: SR
No.: 26 Team: Varsity
First Name: Selwyn Position: ATH/DB
Last Name: Simpson Classification: SR
No.: 45 Team: Varsity
First Name: Ryan Position: RB/LB
Last Name: Yanulevich Classification: SR
No.: 54 Team: Varsity
First Name: Tanner Position: OL/DE
Last Name: Romano Classification: SR
No.: 55 Team: Varsity
First Name: Nick Position: OL/DL
Last Name: Salamone Classification: SR
No.: 68 Team: Varsity
First Name: Toby Position: OL/DL
Last Name: Poet Classification: SR
No.: 71 Team: Varsity
First Name: Casey Position: OL/DL
Last Name: Callahan Classification: SR
No.: 82 Team: Varsity
First Name: Lee Position: TE/LB
Last Name: Albert Classification: SR