Class of 2017 Qualifies 5 Nominees for Wall of Fame
2017 Wall of Fame Nominees
Matt Gibson – 1,750+ career rushing yards, 100 career points scored, 2,000+ all-purpose yards
Selwyn Simpson - 1,750+ career rushing yards, 100 career points scored, 2,000+ all-purpose yards
Stone Scarcelle – 1,000+ career receiving yards, 100 career points scored
Tanner Romano – 10+ career sacks
Nick Salomone – 1st Team All-League and 7,500 yards of offense while starting
Award Winners Named at 2017 TD Club Banquet
TD Club Award – Stone Scarcelle
Offensive MVP – Matt Gibson & Selwyn Simpson
Defensive MVP – Dan Cassidy
Vincent DiPaul Coaches Award – Ryan Yanulevich
Freed Award – Nick Salomone
Outstanding Offensive Lineman – Casey Callahan
Outstanding Defensive Lineman – Tanner Romano
Brian Clarke Special Teams Award – Erick Rodriguez
Burlsworth Character Award – Josh Tumelty
Stone Scarcelle's MiniMax Ad, Sponsored by the TD Club
Citizenship and All-Academic Team Announced
Daniel Cassidy, Spring-Ford
Josh Tumelty, Spring-Ford
Eight PAC football players honored by Tall Cedars
ROYERSFORD >> Eight Pioneer Athletic Conference football players were honored during the 75th annual Tall Cedars of Lebanon Forest No. 34 Football Night at the Masonic Lodge in Royersford on Wednesday night.
Guest speaker for the night was former Spring-Ford High School football star linebacker Ross Pennypacker, a member of Spring-Ford’s Class of 2000 who went on to play at Millersville University. Ross currently serves as defensive coordinator, linebacker coach and recruiting coordinator at Kutztown University. He is also the son of longtime Pottsgrove High School head football coach Rick Pennypacker, a star offensive tackle/inside linebacker at Spring-Ford with the Class of 1972 as well as a Tall Cedars honoree.
Honorees for this past fall season included: Lee Albert, Spring-Ford; Javontae Tinson, Pottstown; Kyle Kooker, Boyertown; Matt Garcia, Phoenixville; Ryan McCourt, Perkiomen Valley; Adam Spencer, Pottsgrove; Dan Hultz, Owen J. Roberts; and Nick Yerger, Pope John Paul II.
“Lee was a tremendous player as a linebacker for us this year,” said Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker about his Ram standout who doubled as a tight end on offense. “He has been a big-play tight end specialist the last two years. We want to bring someone who is a good player, a good person and who comes from a good family. We felt he was the best representative for this banquet.”
Albert made 56 solo tackles this season and also made a critical pass interception during the District 1 6A playoff game against North Penn. Albert also caught nine passes, including two for touchdowns, in the Rams’ two-tight end formation.
Tinson played on the offensive line and at defensive end for Pottstown under coach Gary Rhodenbaugh. Tinson was chosen as the Trojans’ Most Valuable Player.
“Javontae was the glue that held our O-line together at center,” said Rhodenbaugh. “He showed selflessness. He moved from guard, his more natural position, to center. He did a tremendous job as our captain and was elected by his teammates.”
Kooker played running back and started at outside linebacker for Boyertown. He displayed all the traits coaches want in their players, that according to George Parkinson.
“He has an outstanding work ethic and is coachable,” said Parkinson. “He is a team player who leads by example. I present the Coach’s Award to the player who is most coachable. To me, this is the highest award a player can get.”
Kooker had won the Coach’s Award as a junior and now again as a senior.
“Kyle is very intelligent,” said Parkinson. “He is a student of the game and is eager to learn. He was at chalk talk and film review and wanted to get better. He even called signals on defense from the sidelines for one game as a sophomore. He paid attention.”
Phoenixville was represented by Garcia, who enjoyed a record-setting season as a running back for the Phantoms. Garcia totaled 1,820 yards on 255 carries during a phenomenal regular season that averaged out to a 7.1-yards per attempt. He broke Phoenixville’s single-season rushing record, which was held by the late Jimmy Johnson for 50 years.
“He will go down as one of the best players I ever coached and the best at Phoenixville,” said head coach Evan Breisblatt. “There is a strong history in Phoenixville football, so this is quite an accomplishment.”
Garcia, originally a Texas native, doubled as a linebacker on defense and also played on all special teams.
PAC Champion Perkiomen Valley was represented by McCourt, a senior outside linebacker on the strong side of the defense. His start to the season was pushed back due to an injury in the team’s opening scrimmage.
“He was a first team all-league player coming back and we were certainly counting on him, and then to see him go down hurt,” said PV head coach Rob Heist. “It was a freak accident.
“He came back on the practice field and was Coach McCourt. He helped with reads and had an outstanding season for us. It was a testament to his character that he was there and a testament because of the adversity he faced.”
McCourt is also an outstanding student whose curriculum includes Advanced Placement courses.
Pottsgrove coach Rick Pennypacker brought along Spencer, who despite weighing around 100 pounds, played three years of quality football on the Falcons’ special teams.
“This little guy is one person who needs to be honored,” said Pennypacker. “I have been coaching a long time. Next year will be 40 years, and I have never seen a player like this.”
Spencer, who weighed just 85 pounds as a sophomore, compensates with a mighty heart.
“He is the most inspiring kid I have ever been around,” said Pennypacker. “Whenever I was having a bad day, I’d see him, and that always picks me up. He is the ultimate team man. He inspired us and was the reason for the success we had as any kid on the team. He was inspiring to me and to everybody in the school. He is one of my favorites.”
Owen J. Roberts was represented by assistant coach Brian Leister and Hultz, a defensive tackle who doubled as a guard and tackle along the offensive line. Halt was one of only five seniors on the Wildcat team this season, and only three of those seniors finished the year.
“There was a lot of pressure on our seniors,” said Leister. “But we went 7-5 last year and 6-6 this year with a new coaching staff.”
Despite knee and ankle injuries, Hultz became an emotional team leader who also demonstrated his work ethic in the weight room.
Pope John Paul II coach Rory Graver spoke about Yerger, a team captain for the Golden Panthers who played outside linebacker and fullback during a playoff campaign.
“Nick started as a sophomore but missed his junior year with a knee injury,” said Graver. “He came back to be our team MVP as a senior.”
Yerger also carries a 4.1 GPA in the classroom and has made the Honor Roll ever since his freshman year.
“He is a good student, a good football player and an even better person,” said Graver.
All-Liberty and All-Conference Teams Announced
All Conference Receiver
All Conference Offensive Line
All Conference Defensive Line
All-Liberty Division Offense
2nd Team Quarterback
1st Team Running Back
Selwyn Simpson II
2nd Team Running Back
1st Team Receiver*
2nd Team Receiver
1st Team Offensive Line
All-Liberty Division Defense
1st Team Defensive Line
2nd Team Defensive Line
1st Team Inside Linebacker
2nd Team Inside Linebacker
1st Team Defensive Back
2nd Team Specialist
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: Central Bucks East fell to a Spring-Ford team that will travel to North Penn on Friday night. Your thoughts.
Drew Markol: “I know East got beat up with the injuries. Everyone has injuries this time of year. Neshaminy lost Zach Tredway for most of its game against Pennridge. He might be their best player. Everybody has injuries, it happens, but East got a rash of them, and that Spring-Ford team is pretty good.
“We joke about the PAC-10, but between them and Perk Valley, they’re a decent team. Can they hang with North Penn for four quarters with what North Penn will give them? No. Could it be a 35-21 final score that North Penn wins? Yes, I think it could be because North Penn – it’s a credit to them – hasn’t really been tested since early September or August even when they were playing La Salle and Downingtown East. They just kind of blitzed their way through the Continental Conference schedule.
“Last week against Haverford, that game played out like a one versus 16 game usually does. North Penn hangs 50 on them, and that’s that. Granted, the 10th seed, Garnet Valley, beats the seventh seed in CB South, but it took a miracle to do it. There are just too many teams in the tournament. If there’s going to be a district playoff – and there shouldn’t be, give me 12 teams in it, and the top four teams get a bye in the first round, and then you go from there. Sixteen teams is just too many. Everybody will say – ‘Oh, Pennridge almost beat Neshaminy,’ but the key word there is almost. Again, the field is way too big in 5A.”
Kevin Cooney: “East lost four players to injuries, and it would have been interesting to see if East was fully healthy if that would have changed anything, but look, Spring-Ford is a good football team.
“Again, the question about North Penn has been – are you able to withstand some little problems. They haven’t faced adversity all year – if they get pushed down, will they respond? The problem is I’m not sure if I could see Spring-Ford pushing them. The next week against Coatesville or Ridley, absolutely. This will be the last relatively easy game on North Penn’s schedule.
“To North Penn’s credit, when they get a team down, they put them away. They take your soul early, and it’s over. They don’t mess around. They come in and say, ‘We’re going to score and score and score, and we’ll stop you, and boom – you’re done. You know it, and we know it. The game is over.’
“It will be interesting to see what happens this week. I had Neshaminy closing the gap a little bit on North Penn, but I don’t know. I think this team is better than their state title team. It’s just they didn’t have to deal with St. Joseph Prep back then. That’s the de facto state title game when they play in the state semifinal.”
Jen Weilgus: “I had to look a little bit deeper at what happened in the CB East-Spring-Ford game because I was so shocked. I picked CB East to win that game, and I’m not saying that was a great pick. Maybe I didn’t respect Spring-Ford for what they were. It sounds like it was a bit of a body bag game for CB East. That doesn’t mean Spring-Ford was overly physical. I’m not suggesting that, but it sounds like CB East really got unlucky in terms of losing guys that were crucial to them.
“I don’t think that means Spring-Ford is going to give North Penn a hard time. I don’t think anybody is going to give North Penn a hard time. If they do, good for North Penn because I feel like they need to get tested at some point. They need a test if they’re going to go play for a state championship or if they meet St. Joe’s Prep on the way to Hershey, but I don’t think it’s going to be Spring-Ford.”
Unbeaten North Penn defends Crawford Stadium again in playoffs
LANSDALE >> A perfect regular season earned the North Penn football the opportunity to play on its home field for the entire District 1-6A tournament. It is an advantage the Knights want to use to its fullest.
“I think the most importantly part about playing at Crawford is (you are) in front of the home fans and North Penn has been undefeated in playoffs home (all-time), that’s a big thing on our shoulders, we always think about that,” North Penn senior Nick Vasger said. “We get to show out for all our peers and friends and that’s really a big thing. And we just never really want to lose at Crawford.”
North Penn defended Crawford Stadium easily in the opening round, now the Knights prepare for another challenge as eight-seeded Spring-Ford visits for a district quarterfinal matchup Friday night. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
“We’re excited that we’re coming back to The Swamp,” said Vasger, a first-team All-Suburban One League Continental Conference pick at defensive end. “Obviously we’re stepping up every week, everyone has to consistently get better every week and Spring-Ford’s a good team. And they’re game-planning for us well and we’re game planning for them. I’m just excited for the game overall.”
Bob Raines–Digital First Media
Nick Vasger (North Penn) pulls in Reece Udinski’s pass in the endzone during the Nov. 4, 2016 home game against Haverford.
Winner advances to face either No. 4 Coatesville or No. 5 Ridley in the semifinals.
The top-seeded Knights (11-0) are in the district quarters for the second straight season after starting the playoffs with a 56-7 victory over No. 16 Haverford. The point total was the highest this season for a North Penn team now averaging 42.1 points per contest. It also surpassed the 55-20 win over Downingtown East in the District 1-AAAA final in 2005 as the most points the Knights have score din the postseason under head coach Dick Beck.
Spring-Ford (9-2) also rolled in their district opener, scoring the first 35 points en route to a 38-7 win visiting No. 9 Central Bucks East. Quarterback T.J. Pergine threw for 216 yards and a pair of touchdowns as the Rams continued to pound teams since their Week 7 loss to Perkiomen Valley. Spring-Ford has outscored its last four opponents 204-14.
“They got some good athletes. No. 12 (Stone Scarcelle) is a good player. I think they flow well as a team,” said Vasger of the Rams. “I think they don’t make a lot of mental mistakes and that’s big especially at this level not making a lot of mistakes, not shooting yourself in the foot and I think they do a good job of that. They’re a tough team overall. They have a good defense, they’re defense is really good, so that’s what we’re worried about.”
Spring-Ford — which is the first PAC opponent for North Penn since the Knights beat Perkiomen Valley in the 2013 District 1-4A semifinals — is scoring 43.7 points a game this season while its defense has posted three shutouts in holding teams to 11.6 points per contest.
Pergine comes into Friday night having throw for 2,122 yards and 26 touchdowns with his top target Scarcelle, who has caught 41 passes for 760 yards and 12 touchdowns. On the ground, Selwyn Simpson has 731 yards and 22 touchdowns on 97 carries.
North Penn quarterback Reece Udinski is in charge of a NP offense posting 438.0 yards per game. Udinski has passed for 2,814 yards and 28 touchdowns in 2016, going 11-of-14 for 168 yards and one score in last Friday’s win over Haverford. Udinski has a bevy of options to throw to including Ricky Johns (39 catches, 769 yards, seven TDs), Justis Henley (33 receptions, 601 yards, five touchdowns) and Jake Hubler (32 catches, 733 yards, five touchdowns).
Nick Dillon scored four rushing touchdowns for the third time this season in the first-round win. Dillon paces the Knights on the ground with 731 and 17 touchdowns on 117 carries.
Spring-Ford out to prove the doubters wrong
By Sam Stewart
ROYERSFORD >> North Penn stands No. 1 in the district, is second in the district in points per game and ranks sixth in points allowed.
No chance for Spring-Ford? In the words of legendary College Gameday analyst Lee Corso: “Not so fast, my friend.”
No. 8 Spring-Ford heads into North Penn’s Crawford Stadium Friday night at 7 p.m. with upset on its mind as the Rams try to knock off an undefeated Knights squad that looks to make the district semifinal for the second straight season.
“I’m sure no one will pick us to win,” Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubaker said. “When it comes to the District 1 playoffs and to some of our non-league games over the past four years (2012 – Whitehall, Garnet Valley, Ridley, Pennridge; 2013 – Downingtown West; 2015 – State College; 2016 – last week vs. CB East), we haven’t been the odds on favorite in the media’s eyes. But our staff and players go into games expecting to win. When our players see people predicting the game will be over by halftime, I think they take that personally. Each playoff game is a challenge and every week every team has to play four quarters of excellent football to advance.”
The Rams and Knights enter the quarterfinals after destructions of their first-round opponents; Spring-Ford a 38-7 winner over CB East, North Penn a 56-7 victor over Haverford. Rams senior running back Matt Gibson returns after missing last week’s game due to injury and will head a backfield that ran for 118 yards in last week’s win — Selwyn Simpson picking up 81 of those yards to go along with two scores. TJ Pergine, fresh off shattering the Rams’ single-season record for passing yards in a season (2,122), has come along in his first year starting. The junior quarterback has thrown for 150-plus yards in three of the past four wins.
“Matt is back,” Brubaker said. “He had a really frustrating past week on the sidelines. We’re excited to have him back. TJ’s learning curve has sharply ticked up throughout the season. He was extremely green through the first half of the season. However, as the season has progressed, he has demonstrated to the staff and team that he is more mentally prepared and focused throughout the practice week and on Friday nights. Our program is senior-oriented. This is not their first rodeo. We expect them to play well.”
North Penn (11-0) comes in Friday seeking its second straight trip to the district final. The passing game, once complementary to the Knights typical ground-and-pound offense, has become a major weapon for the team in 2016. Reece Udinski leads the Suburban One with 2,781 passing yards with 28 touchdowns compared to five interceptions. His major targets: Ricky Johns and Jake Hubler both have more than 700 yards receiving this season, Johns with 774 yards and Hubler right behind at 728.
Getting pressure up front will be critical for the Rams to compete.
“It’s not just on the secondary (to contain them),” Brubaker said. “We need to get pressure from our front four and get maximum effort. As the season has progressed, we have been able to rotate more players on the defensive line. Hopefully, that enables us to stay fresh and keep pressure coming throughout the game. Obviously, we will need to know where No. 8 (Johns) is lined up the whole game, but they have more than just one weapon on offense.”
Common Opponent | CB East >> North Penn defeated CB East 33-14 in Week 7. Spring-Ford defeated Patriots last week 38-7.
Playoff History >> Spring-Ford is in the district quarterfinals for the first time since 2013. Rams fell to Neshaminy in last year’s first round. North Penn is in the quarterfinals for a second straight year. The Knights advanced to the district final last season, losing Upper Dublin 46-21.
Prediction >> Spring-Ford 28, North Penn 27.
PIAA District 1 AAAAAA Week 2 Playoff Trailer by Chase Parr
ROYERSFORD >> Earlier in the week, Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubaker said he wanted to make Friday night a statement game.
Think his players heard the message?
Loud and clear.
The Rams jumped all over Central Bucks East early and often Friday night, taking a 38-7 win inside Coach McNelly Stadium in the opening round of the District 1 Class 6A playoffs.
With the win over the ninth-seeded Patriots, No. 8 seeded Spring-Ford will now travel to top-seeded North Penn (a 56-7 winner over Haverford) for the second round of the district playoffs next Friday.
After the game, Brubaker sounded a bit like a baseball coach, especially talking about the Rams’ opening drive — an 80-yard, 13-play march down the field that took nearly six minutes before Selwyn Simpson rumbled his way into the end zone.
“We were moving the ball well, which was really good to see,” said Brubaker. “We don’t have to hit the home run every time — we’ll take the five yards, then come back and live another down.
“That first drive was probably our longest drive of the year. That’s not our norm. Of course, we’ll take the home run, but it’s nice to mix in a drive like that.”
Simpson, who racked up 26 of his 80 rushing yards on the opening drive, echoed similar sentiments to his head coach.
“We ran the up-tempo early on,” he said. “That gives us an advantage, because we have a lot of playmakers so we can spread the ball out nicely and spread teams out. That helps us create and find mismatches that they can’t cover.
Quarterback TJ Pergine threw for 216 yards and a pair of touchdown strikes to Stone Scarcelle (four receptions, 75 receiving yards) and Quinn McKenna (four receptions, 72 yards).
The Rams also had their way with the Patriots defensively throughout. Spring-Ford forced four turnovers, including on CB East’s first two drives — the latter proving to be a 58-yard interception return for a touchdown by Dan Cassidy.
Three separate CB East players took snaps under-center, with starter Matt Szczypiorski and second-stringer Evan O’Donnell both leaving with injuries. Third-stringer Chad Guzzi accounted for the Patriots’ lone score — an 11-yard touchdown run with a shade over two minutes remaining in the third quarter.
“We didn’t have a full-barrel, but our guys constantly battled,” said CB East head coach John Donnelly, who had already been down four starters entering the game. “(Spring-Ford is) a very good football team, they’re well-coached and they execute. They’re got a lot of weapons and they’re really athletic.”
Jake Novriski hauled in a team-high four catches for 37 yards while Wes Verbit had 29 yards receiving.
After taking a first-round bow in last year’s district playoffs, Donnelly was quick to note the feats his seniors have surpassed over the past two seasons.
“These seniors are responsible for 16 wins in two years and two playoff berths,” he said. “There’s a lot to be proud of from that standpoint. They’ll realize that down the line.”
Beaten & Battered
The Patriots entered Friday down four starters, according to Donnelly, and boarded the buses afterward without another two of them.
Szczypiorski and receiver Conor Larkin were each taken in ambulances, Szczypiorski suffering an upper-body injury while Larkin suffered a gruesome leg injury while blocking on the opening play of the second half. O’Donnell left during the second half with an ankle injury.
Donnelly and Brubaker each had similar comments on the injuries — both noting that hits were clean, just an unfortunate part of putting on the pads.
“I love the game, but this is the part that’s really tough to swallow,” said Donnelly. “We’ve played a lot of physical football games this season, just freak stuff today.”
“Our thoughts are with those guys; you hate to see that,” said Brubaker.
Since their Oct. 7 loss to Perkiomen Valley, Spring-Ford has been absolutely dominant in every aspect. The Rams have been out-scoring opponents 204-14 with a pair of shutouts.
“Right now, we’re just trying to play our best football,” said Spring-Ford lineman Casey Callahan. “We went out there and did everything we needed to do. Now we’ve got to get better and get ready for North Penn.”
Cassidy, Spring-Ford pick off CB East
By DAVE KURTZ
ROYERSFORD – Spring-Ford catalyst Danny Cassidy was racing down the left sideline on a 58-yard Pick Six while CB East quarterback Matt Szczpiorski lay motionless on the turf on the opposite side of the field after throwing the interception.
That snapshot provided a harbinger of the carnage that lay ahead at Coach McNelly Stadium as the eighth-seeded Rams cruised to a 38-7 romp over the ninth-seeded Patriots in the opening round of the District 1-AAAA playoffs.
Spring-Ford (9-2) forced four turnovers including three picks, held CB East to 168 total yards and rode an efficient, balanced attack to their fourth straight victory and a second-round date next Friday at No. 1 North Penn (56-7 winners over Haverford).
But that wasn’t the worst of it for CB East.
Already down four starters according to head coach John Donnelly, the Patriots (8-3) saw Szczpiorski (upper body injury) and receiver Conor Larkin (serious leg injury) leave the field in ambulances, backup quarterback Evan O’Donnell propped up on the medical table with an ankle injury and a lot of other players with broken spirits and shattered dreams.
“Our thoughts are with those guys, you hate to see that happen,” said Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker. of the injuries.
As for his own team's effort, Brubaker said, “I thought we did some good things. We tackled pretty well and executed within ourselves.”
The machine-like execution began on the opening series for the Rams, who drove 80 yards in 13 plays, chewing up 5:39 of clock before Selwyn Simpson scored from one yard out. Cassidy’s interception return swelled the advantage to 14-0 with 1:22 still remaining in the first quarter.
“The first drive, we did a good job,” said Brubaker. “We had a couple of penalties, one a big holding call, but we fought through that. It was probably our longest drive of the year. Of course we’ll take the home run but it’s nice to have a drive like that.”
Simpson scored again on a 6-yard run at the end of a 10-play, 46-yard jaunt with 4:01 left in the second quarter before the Rams unleashed their trademark longball game to go up 28-0 at the break. TJ Pergine, who threw for 218 yards on 14-for-20 accuracy, hit Stone Scarcelle with a 23-yard TD pass at the 37-second mark after a slick hook-and-lateral executed perfectly by Pergine and Scarcell resulted in a 26-yard run by Simpson.
“We ran the up-tempo early on, and that gives us an advantage,” said Simpson, who accounted for two TDs and 125 yards (79 rushing) from scrimmage. “We have a lot of playmakers so we can spread the ball and the other teams out. That helps us create mismatches that they can’t cover.”
Nearly impossible to cover all night, Spring-Ford turned on the running clock when Scarcelle hauled in a 29-yard TD pass from Pergine with 5:55 left in the third quarter.
Chad Guzzi, East's starting running back forced to take the reins as the third-string quarterback for the decimated Patriots, averted the shutout with an 11-yard bolt up the middle out of the Wildcat formation at the end of third quarter.
But it was too little, too late.
Spring-Ford capped the scoring with 7:00 remaining when Erik Rodriguez split the uprights with a 36-yard field goal, and it the attention was shifted to the unbeaten Knights (11-0).
“Right now, we’re just trying to play our best football,” said Spring-Ford lineman Casey Callahan. “We went out there and did everything we needed to do. We're playing well right now. Now we’ve got to get better and get ready for North Penn.”
Rick's Pa. Pick Six: C.B. East to visit raucous Spring-Ford in playoff opener
by Rick O'Brien, STAFF WRITER
Last year, when they were scouting a playoff game between Neshaminy and host Spring-Ford, the Central Bucks East coaches witnessed the raucous atmosphere at Coach McNelly Stadium.
C.B. East will get to experience it firsthand when it visits the Rams in the opening round of the PIAA District 1 Class 6A tournament at 7 p.m. Friday in Royersford.
The No. 9-seeded Patriots (8-2) will enter the energized setting with an air of confidence. They have won five of their last six games, with the lone setback against top-seeded and undefeated North Penn (10-0).
Since a 28-16 loss to Pioneer Athletic Conference champion and No. 3 seed Perkiomen Valley (10-0), No. 8 Spring-Ford (8-2) has won three straight league games by a combined score of 166-7.
East's up-tempo offense is fueled by quarterback Matt Szczypiorski, running backs Chad Guzzi and Jake Ventresca, fullback Dakota Knipe, and receivers Wes Verbit and Jake Novrotski.
Szczypiorski, a southpaw, has converted 88 of 171 passes for 1,289 yards and 13 touchdowns. Verbit has 45 catches for 847 yards and 11 TDs.
Spring-Ford likewise employs a fast-paced attack, with quarterback T.J. Pergine, running backs Selwyn Simpson and Mike Gibson, multipurpose threat Stone Scarcelle, and tight end Quinn McKenna as the catalysts.
Pergine, a first-year starter whose sophomore campaign was derailed by a broken collarbone, has hit on 106 of 184 passes for 1,910 yards and 24 touchdowns. "He's gotten better each week," Rams coach Chad Brubaker said.
Brubaker said Gibson, who has carried 109 times for 702 yards and five scores, is questionable with an injury.
A C.B. East defense that has yielded 14 points per game is keyed by ends Nate Ventresca and Ryan Plack, linebackers Brian Stella and Mike Glauber, and free safety Matt McKenney.
"Their front six is very good, and they put a lot of pressure on the quarterback," Brubaker said.
Spring-Ford's defense, which has allowed 14 or fewer points in seven outings, is spearheaded by end Tanner Romano, linebackers Lee Albert and Ryan Yanulevich, and safety Dan Cassidy.
Inspired by late brother’s determination, McKenna returns to Rams for home stretch
By Sam Stewart
ROYERSFORD >> This season wasn’t the one Spring-Ford’s Quinn McKenna had envisioned.
A high ankle sprain and strained Achilles tendon suffered in Week 2 kept the Rams’ versatile tight end on and off the sideline throughout Spring-Ford’s run to clinch the No. 8 seed in the District 1 Class 6A playoffs, foiling his aspirations of increasing his stat totals and becoming more of a contributor to the already potent Rams’ offense.
But there he was Thursday afternoon, jogging out to the turf at Coach McNelly Stadium for a pregame walkthrough. His white sock blended in with the tape that rode well up to the mid calf. After a solid performance in last week’s regular season-ending 56-7 victory over Upper Perkiomen, McKenna is willing to give it another go as the Rams host No. 9 Central Bucks East Friday night.
Staying motivated amid trying times runs in the McKenna family.
It’s been nearly five years since McKenna lost his older brother, Conor, to a rare form of cancer, angiosacroma, a cancer of the inner lining of blood vessels that can occur in any area of the body but most commonly occurs in the skin, breast, liver, spleen, and deep tissue. He was 15.
Up until the last two years, his death was a subject no teammate, or even McKenna for that matter, wanted to go near. The wounds were too fresh to start prodding for answers to a question that maybe didn’t have one.
Yet through it all, one thing was always clear. His life left an indelible mark.
“I was in shock for a while,” McKenna said. “I just remembered being in denial for so long about not having him here anymore. It was really hard to go through but I think my family really came together during that time.
“It took me a while to accept his death, especially since I was young. I didn’t really know what was going on most of the time. I wasn’t really expecting it but now I’ve come to terms that everything happens for a reason. I’ve learned a lot from it, and as much as I’d like to have him here today, what he showed me has helped me in my life.”
Conor was a ballplayer. More importantly, he was a fighter, a model of inspiration. Diagnosed at the age of 13, Conor went through a litany of tests, procedures and treatments during a taxing 19-month battle — all to combat a growing cancer that wound up taking away partial use of his right arm due to a surgery on a mass on his upper right arm.
Admittedly, McKenna was “young and naive” about the ongoing battle. A fifth-grader when Conor was diagnosed, the toll of the disease and the setbacks were — and still are — a blur to Quinn.
“Honestly, I don’t remember anything where I heard one day that he had cancer,” McKenna said. “It was just him going through treatments. In between treatments he’d be doing well but then something would show up. I knew he was sick but not to the level of what it was.”
What stuck with McKenna was something he hasn’t forgotten.
“It was hard work,” he said. “He had the one goal of playing baseball and he did anything in his power to be able to do that.
“He really wanted to get back onto the field. In between treatments he’d be hitting baseballs in the backyard. He’d be playing in the Babe Ruth League right back there,” McKenna said as he pointed toward Ram Stadium. “That just showed me how much passion and courage he had for playing baseball and how willing he was to work hard to get back to playing it. When I got hurt in Week 2, I kept all of that in the back of my mind in trying to get ready for the Wilson game.”
McKenna never made it back for the Wilson double-overtime loss, but made his way back to the field in Week 4’s victory over Exeter before playing in full against Norristown and Metacton. After aggravating his injury in the Rams’ 28-14 loss to Perkiomen Valley, McKenna sat out the next two games before playing in the first half of the team’s 56-7 victory over Upper Perkiomen.
Now, as the Rams try to advance into the second round of the district playoffs, McKenna is ready to take the field with a motto he’s held all throughout his high school career:
“I just play my hardest every game. I dedicate every game I play to Conor and all the things he wasn’t able to do.”
RCTV's Week 11 The Gridiron - Sponsored by The Peanut
RED HILL >> Neither sideline took to the locker rooms looking all that satisfied on Friday night.
Fresh off their 56-7 win over Upper Perkiomen inside Indian Stadium, Spring-Ford didn’t appear to be a team that had just about everything going their way throughout.
“I don’t know that this will do anything for our district ranking,” said Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubaker. “The big thing for us is to try and get a home game.”
Prior to Friday night, the Rams (4-1 PAC Liberty; 8-2 overall) held the No. 8 seed in the District 1 Class 6A power rankings. Even the conference crossover win over Upper Perk, a District 1-4A contender, wouldn’t do all that much to help boost Spring-Ford’s ranking.
From the opposing sideline, Upper Perk (4-1 PAC Frontier; 5-5 overall) head coach Tom Hontz echoed similar sentiments. Regardless of Friday’s outcome, Upper Perk had been set for a rematch with fellow Frontier Division member Pottsgrove in next week’s District 1-4A opener.
“This is what happens when these matchups happen,” he said. “We’ve seen it for a bunch of years now. It wasn’t good for Spring-Ford because they didn’t really gain any points, and it wasn’t good for us either because we were just completely out-matched.
“We worked hard to have a nice season against teams our size. To have to play an opponent like Spring-Ford … it’s a tough way to end our regular season against a team that caliber.”
Spring-Ford jumped out to a 42-point lead by the half, well before Upper Perk quarterback Zeke Hallman threw his lone touchdown pass — an 8-yard strike to Ryan Kendra — to move him to the top of Upper Perk’s list of all-time passing touchdowns thrown in a single season. On the night, he also broke the school-record for passing yards in a season.
“Coach said we were gonna come out, throw the kitchen sink at them and attack,” said Hallman. “We knew this would be a really tough test, but hopefully this is something that will help us to get ready for next week.”
Selwyn Simpson paced the Spring-Ford offense throughout. The senior running back racked up 241 yards of total offense — 168 yards rushing — to go along with five total touchdowns.
With the district playoffs short on their sights, Simpson hopes his running Friday provides a small glimpse of the Rams’ postseason run.
“We really want to play playoff-style football,” he said. “We always have a lot of confidence, but a game like this could help push us to that next level. We’ve just got to keep it rolling. Everything was going well, and we’ve got to bring that with us to playoffs.”
Quarterback TJ Pergine completed eight of his nine passing attempts for 192 yards and a touchdown while Stone Scarcelle hauled in two catches for 118 yards, including a 96-yard touchdown catch and run on the Rams’ first play from scrimmage.
Brubaker and the Rams will likely be doing some scoreboard watching through the weekend. With the win, the Rams currently sit at 1,550 power points, which may be just enough to give them a coveted home game next week.
On the other side, Hontz and the Tribe know fully what they’re up against. Pottsgrove, which had its way with Upper Perk during the regular season, holds the No. 2 seed in the District 1-4A rankings.
“We’ve got to give them a much better game than we did during the regular season,” said Hontz. “No excuses there. We’re playing a team the same size as us next week. We’ve got to be ready for it.”
Including Pergine’s 96-yard strike to Scarcelle to open their first offensive drive, the Rams scored on the opening play of four drives. Early in the second quarter, Scarcelle hit Simpson on a swing pass before the senior sprinted up the middle for a 58-yard score. He also busted loose for a 90-yard rushing touchdown later in the quarter. Justin DeFrancesco broke it for a 62-yard touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter.
With his touchdown pass during the third quarter, Hallman passed Bill Gebert (1966) with his 23rd passing touchdown this season. He also pulled ahead of Sean Nevin (2005) for the school-record in passing yards in a season with 1,734.
“A lot of dreams came true this season,” said Hallman, “but it wasn’t me all alone. It’s definitely a tribute to the guys around me. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without them.”