By Beth Hudson
Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker and his football team walked away from a seven-point loss to Wilson last week feeling like they were close.
Close enough that the loss nagged at them. This week, the Rams left no doubt.
Senior running back Justin DeFrancesco rushed for 251 yards and three touchdowns on just 14 carries, leading Spring-Ford to a 45-21 non-conference victory over Exeter Friday night at Don Thomas Stadium.
Exeter senior Nick Sarangoulis wasn't far behind DeFrancesco's totals. He finished with 18 carries for 186 yards, including 169 in the first half, and a touchdown.
Brandon Unterkoefler ran for 95 yards and two fourth-quarter touchdowns for the Eagles.
But the Rams (2-2) improved to 4-0 in the series after defeating Exeter 38-6 in 2016.
Brubaker said his team appeared to raise its game another notch after a strong showing in a 28-21 loss to Wilson.
"From last week, we absolutely did," Brubaker said. "We had a sour taste in our mouth from last week. We were in that game, and we didn't finish.
"We talked about it this week. We should be sour about that and continue to improve. I feel like we did, but we'll look at the film."
He's bound to see some positives, starting with his offense's ability to churn out yards - the Rams had 352 on the ground - and big plays.
Exeter (2-1) took its only lead, 7-3, on Sarangoulis' 20-yard touchdown run with 5:38 remaining in the first quarter.
Spring-Ford responded by scoring the next 42 points.
The Rams went ahead for good with a 10-play, 69-yard drive. Ryan Engro caught a 9-yard touchdown from TJ Pergine, and Spring-Ford had a 10-7 edge with 1:04 left in the first quarter.
The Rams forced the Eagles to punt on their next three possessions. Spring-Ford, meanwhile, scored on all five of its first-half drives to build a 31-7 halftime advantange.
Pergine threw for 174 yards and three first-half touchdowns.
Brubaker said the statistics tell only part of the story for his senior quarterback.
"How many times did he escape from situations that he shouldn't have and extend plays?" Brubaker said. "He just does a tremendous job all-around."
DeFrancesco put the game out of reach on the third play of the second half, turning a third-and-13 into a 93-yard touchdown dash. He added another long run - this time an 87-yarder - to give his team a 45-7 lead with 4:42 left in the third quarter.
Unterkoefler scored twice, on runs of 30 and 20 yards, in the final 7:21.
Taylor Smith kicked a 31-yard field goal for Spring-Ford.
The teams combined for 18 penalties.
Exeter, which leads the Berks Football League in yards, will open the Section 1 schedule next week at Gov. Mifflin.
Contact Beth Hudson: 610-371-5064 or firstname.lastname@example.org.