Downingtown East crushes Spring-Ford in District 1-6A opener
By Rob Senior
ROYERSFORD >> The inclement weather at McNelly Stadium played directly into the hands of Downingtown East. But not in the way observers might have expected.
The Cougars, known for their punishing running game (averaging 250 yards per contest), broke out a no-huddle offense that moved at breakneck speed — something they hadn’t put on tape all season.
“The weather definitely helped us,” said Downingtown East coach Michael Matta. “We pride ourselves on running the ball and stopping the run.”
The 10th-seeded Cougars followed that precise recipe, accumulating 349 yards on the ground on an eye-popping 75 carries, in throttling No. 7 Spring-Ford 39-12 and advancing to the District 1 Class 6A quarterfinals.
Spring-Ford’s Stephen Brill rushes to the outside against Downingtown East. (MJ McConney – For Digital First Media
Zach Hamilton ran for 194 yards and three TDs as the Cougars took advantage of four first-half turnovers in building a 25-0 lead before Spring-Ford could get on the board.
His backfield mate Garvey Jonassaint, the Ches-Mont’s leading rusher, chipped in with another 124 yards on the evening and a score of his own.
The idea of 124 yards rushing constituting a description of “chipping in” speaks to the pure dominance of the Cougars, who brought out a new, up-tempo attack and had their way most of the night.
“These games are won in the weight room,” said Hamilton, echoing Coach Matta’s sentiments.
“Everybody wants to win out here tonight,” Matta added. “But not everybody is willing to do what it takes in January to get here.”
Downingtown East, now 9-2, moves onto a rematch with No. 2 Coatesville, a winner over Central Bucks East on Friday night. The Cougars fell to Coatesville, 42-7, just last week.
“We can beat them,” Matta emphasized. “We’ll need to get some breaks, take better care of the football.
“But we’re not afraid of them. Everybody else seems to be; we are not afraid of them.”
For Spring-Ford, the season comes to an end with a record of 8-3.
“We can’t make any excuses,” lamented Spring-Ford’s coach Chad Brubaker. “Too many times, things get away from us when we freelance.”
The first quarter featured some big gambles on both sides, as Downingtown East went for a first down on 4th and short at their own 10-yard line, but were stuffed by the SF defensive line. But the golden opportunity went for naught as Spring-Ford fumbled on a reverse, giving it back to East at the Downingtown 33.
The Cougars effectively ran a no-huddle for 14 plays in only about 2:30 of game time, and seemed poised to take the lead when another fumble led to a touchback.
But early in the second quarter, the Cougars cashed in what was already the game’s fifth turnover when Stan Bryant picked off Ryan Engro and returned the ball 47 yards down the left sideline for a 7-0 Cougars lead.
The ensuing kickoff was coughed up by the Rams, and three bruising Hamilton carries later, the Downingtown East lead was 13-0 early in the second quarter.
Hamilton, who regularly churned out an extra 2-3 yards after meeting first contact, moved with in 25 yards of the 1,000-yard mark himself for the season.
After another Spring-Ford drive stalled, a low snap to the punter gave D-East the ball at the SF 30. Again, it was Hamilton doing the dirty work, finishing off the drive from nine yards out to give the Cougars a 19-0 advantage.
Spring-Ford drove deep into East territory right before the break, but ran out of time on the one-yard line, just as a momentum-changing TD looked certain.
The Rams never recovered. After the break, East picked up right where they left off, going 74 yards in 14 plays and just over three minutes before Jonassaint’s six-yard scoring run made it 25-0.
“I don’t think the weather had too much to do with (the outcome),” said Jonassaint. “We were going to come out and run the football no matter what.”
The Rams would get on the board early in the fourth quarter when Engro found BJ Beard for a 10-yard touchdown. However, the Cougars responded with an 11-play, 53-yard drive with Luke Davis finding Matt Harootunian for a 5-yard score to widen the lead to 32-6.
Juniors Engro and Dante Bonanni had big nights in the losing effort for Spring-Ford. Engro threw for 302 yards, 202 of them to Bonanni, whose yardage total and 12 receptions accounted for PAC season highs. Their 82-yard connection with seven minutes to play would bring the Rams within three scores.
But it was Hamilton, capping his night with a powerful 24-yard run to widen the lead once again, this time to the final margin of 39-12.
Now the Cougars move onto to face the District and perhaps state favorites in the Red Raiders of Coatesville. Matta’s emphasis on not fearing the heavy favorites resonates with his pair of senior running backs.
“We came out tonight and exerted our will, ran it down their throats,” said Jonassaint. “We will have the same exact mentality next week.”
Week 10 Gridiron Sponsored by Wirant Orthodontics
PAC’s Frontier Division continues its rise with strong showing in crossover play
When Don Grinstead left his head coaching position at Pottstown High School in 2015, the idea of the Pioneer Athletic Conference’s ‘crossover week’ was just coming into formation.
“Back then, everybody was playing everybody,” he recalled. “And the frustration among the ‘small schools’ was as simple as depth. We’re fielding rosters of between 35-45 players, and the big schools had so much more depth due of the sheer size of their schools.”
Grinstead wasn’t alone in this feeling. The school of thought led to the creation of divisions within the PAC. This past weekend, the ‘small-school’ Frontier Division — featuring Grinstead’s new charges, the Phoenixville Phantoms, who topped Methacton 14-7 — gained quite a feather in their cap, winning four of six games during the third annual ‘crossover week.’
When Grinstead returned this winter to take over at Phoenixville, he walked back into an entirely new PAC. In 2016, the conference added two schools — Norristown and Upper Merion — who fell into different classifications in the state’s new system that grouped schools, based on enrollment, from Class A to Class 6A. The additions left the PAC with 12 schools — six in Class 6A; six that fell anywhere from 3A to 5A.
Thus the league was divided into two divisions. The Liberty Division would host the ‘big’ 6A schools, while the Frontier Division would be home to the ‘small’ 3A, 4A and 5A schools. PAC teams would play a round-robin against their own division, then conclude the regular season with a crossover game against their competitive counterpart from the opposing division (first-place Liberty plays first-place Frontier, second-place Liberty plays second-place Frontier, and so on).
The 2016 and 2017 seasons weren’t particularly kind to the Frontier Division, as the big schools rolled up a cumulative 11-1 record in the crossover matchups, including Perkiomen Valley’s two PAC championship victories.
But while the Vikings claimed a third consecutive title this past Friday in their win over Pottsgrove, the rest of the Frontier Division put some icing on the cake for their 2018 regular season, winning four of the other five matchups. What’s more, five of the Frontier Division’s six schools qualified for the postseason in their respective classifications.
“I thought this week was our offensive line’s best performance this season,” said Pottstown head coach Mark Fischer after his squad’s come-from-behind 19-14 win over Norristown that gave the Trojans their first district berth since the new system was enacted. “It showed the effort and determination of our players.”
In perhaps the most competitive of the games, Upper Merion cemented its 5A playoff berth — and earned a first-round home game — by avenging a regular-season loss to Owen J. Roberts with a 29-27 victory. Meanwhile the Wildcats finished their season at 6-4 with the heartbreaking distinction of being the No. 17 team in a 6A field that accommodates 16 teams for district playoffs.
“We were down early, but our kids fight,” said UM coach Victor Brown. “They are so resilient, and that’s how you win games against tough opponents.”
Upper Perkiomen also avenged a regular-season loss to Boyertown with a resounding 35-8 victory Friday night in Red Hill. But the Indians’ coach didn’t allow the victory to color his overall feelings.
“After the way we lost to Boyertown to start the year, it was a real boost for us to end the season with a win against them,” said Tom Hontz.
“But I think our (Frontier Division) elite teams are still behind the (Liberty Division’s) upper-echelon teams, and when I look at what happened with OJR — this year’s crossover games were kind of detrimental to some of our conference’s playoff hopes.”
For the Frontier schools, while crossover week provides an opportunity to see how they measure up with the ‘big boys,’ the new system more importantly allows for an even playing field throughout the regular season, and an opportunity to compete for district playoff standing against opponents with similar depth and roster size.
“The hardest part for me,” said Grinstead, remembering back to the pre-divisional format days, “was we’d play 4—5 big schools within a six-week span. It’s hard to overcome the amount of wear and tear that puts on a small roster.
“So by the time we got around to playing like-sized schools, we were never fully healthy.”
But what about the Liberty Division? Obviously, the playoff push reaches a fever pitch in the final week of the regular season, so the larger schools are at an automatic disadvantage when playing non-6A opponents, due to the reduced number of win points teams receive from playing schools in lower classifications. Does the new tradition offer any benefits to mitigate that sacrifice?
“When we originally went to two divisions, the concept was to go out and schedule non-division games outside the league, hopefully win some games and thereby bring playoff points into the league,” said Chad Brubaker, head coach of Spring-Ford. Brubaker’s Rams were one of two Liberty Division teams to claim a Week 10 victory, topping Pope John Paul II, 42-21.
“Once the divisions happened, some schools chose to schedule teams from the other division in the name of tradition or rivalries, etc. I’ve always felt it should be one or the other. We’ve had numerous (rematch) games over the past few years, which hurts everyone on the cusp of going to the playoffs.”
Brubaker said he does take the crossover into consideration when making non-league scheduling decisions, especially since the aspect of playoff points is magnified in the final week of the regular season. But does he feel that Spring-Ford and other 6A schools are hurt by the “pick on someone your own size” stigma?
“You have to beat the team on your schedule,” he emphasized.
And in the end, that one factor matters than any divisional scoreboard. Crossover Week was never meant to be a referendum on which is the stronger division. If that were the idea, no single data point would outweigh the fact that Perkiomen Valley—a Liberty Division squad—claimed the PAC title for the third time in as many years as the two-division format has been in place. But taken as a whole, there are clear benefits to dividing the league into two divisions and allowing like-sized schools to play one another—both for the sake of playoff points and competitiveness.
“I don’t know if the (Frontier Division’s) 4-2 record this year is a definitive statement of ‘see, this works!’” Grinstead concluded. “But I do believe playing the crossover at the end—essentially, a one-game season—makes it more favorable for all of us.”
Offensive Player of the Week >> Ryan Engro tied TJ Pergine’s single-season record for TD passes thrown in a season at Spring-Ford as he threw for four more scores in the Rams’ 42-21 win over Pope John Paul II.
Engro’s next TD toss will give him sole possession of the single-season record. He currently stands at 27 TD passes in 2018, tied with PJP’s Kamal Gray for the PAC lead.
Fast start sends Spring-Ford past Pope John Paul II, 42-21
By Rob Senior
ROYERSFORD >> After last week’s disappointing loss to Perkiomen Valley, the best thing Spring-Ford could hope for was a lightning-fast start against Pope John Paul II in its Week 10 Pioneer Athletic Conference crossover game.
A 35-0 lead early in the second quarter certainly qualified as ‘fast’, but late-game woes plagued the Rams in the final three quarters. In the end, while Spring-Ford (8-2, 5-1 PAC) walked away with a 42-21 victory, coach Chad Brubaker and his players were left wanting.
“I guess (fast starts) weren’t that important, since we let them right back into the game,” lamented Brubaker. “Two straight weeks, we’ve allowed teams to get back into the game. Are we taking our foot off the pedal? We have to figure that out.”
The game marked the second straight year the Rams have defeated the Golden Panthers during the conference’s annual ‘crossover week.’ Last year, it was Spring-Ford throttling PJP, 51-13.
Spring-Ford really couldn’t have asked for a better start, forcing a PJP fumble on the opening kickoff. Following a Blaize Scarcelle reception at the one-yard line, Stephen Brill powered across to give the Rams a 7-0 edge just 74 seconds into the contest.
After a couple first downs, Nick Uba pounced on another PJP fumble, leading to Ryan Engro connecting with Dante Bonanni for 18 yards and a 14-0 lead.
“We’re not gonna beat a team like Spring-Ford fumbling the football,” said PJP coach Rory Graver. “Maybe this is a different game if we don’t come out like that. We’ll learn, hopefully, going forward.”
A 40-yard completion to Andrew Yoon set up SF’s next score, a short Engro pass to Alex Koretke, and all of a sudden SF had a 21-0 lead only seven minutes into the game.
Meanwhile, the Golden Panthers could gain no traction—after the two fumbles to begin the game, the next two possessions ended when Spring-Ford stopped PJP on 4th-and-short opportunities.
By quarter’s end, Engro had amassed 154 yards passing and three touchdowns through the air, and the Rams had an insurmountable 28-0 advantage.
The lead was 35-0 before PJP’s Kamal Gray found Steve Skarbek for a 79-yard gain down the left sideline, setting up a short toss to Justin Kormos to get the Golden Panthers on the scoreboard 6:14 before halftime.
After CJ McCafferty picked off a Engro toss at the Rams’ 32, Gray would lead a short drive that culminated in his own 4-yard keeper to bring the Golden Panthers within 35-13 at the break.
In the third quarter, the junior QB found Skarbek for a 45-yard score, and brought the Panthers within 14 with 4:37 on the clock.
Gray was the bright spot for a PJP offense that committed four turnovers on the evening, accounting for 255 of the team’s 329 total yards (203 passing, 52 rushing) and three total touchdowns (two passing, one rushing).
“All year long, I’ve said the best thing about Kamal is he’s a competitor,” said Graver. “He keeps going no matter the score. He can do it with his feet, his arm–he’s been phenomenal for us.”
Steve Skarbek added eight receptions for 145 yards and a score in the loss.
The combined efforts of the two quarterbacks left them tied for the PAC regular-season lead in TD passes with 27 a piece. Engro would finish 20-for-28 for 287 yards and 4 TDs through the air, his lone interception coming on McCafferty’s second-quarter effort.
Toward the end of the third quarter, Spring-Ford would fumble away the ball after a big completion, but Leo Van Hulst stopped the bleeding, picking off Gray at the Rams’ 9-yard line.
After that, the Rams took away the deep ball and forced Gray to beat them underneath—which he was able to do for a time, until the Spring-Ford pass rush harassed him into a couple quick throwaways and on fourth down, a highlight-reel scramble that would ultimately end in an incompletion and turnover on downs. A late sack by Nathaniel Orkfritz-Robinson snuffed out the Panthers’ final hope.
Stephen Brill added a late 22-yard TD run for the final margin.
The confluence of the win and other results around the district (losses by Haverford and Downingtown East) means Spring-Ford is all but assured of opening the District One Class 6A playoffs at Coach McNelly Stadium next week. Their opponent won’t be official until Sunday, but should be all but determined Saturday.
Similarly, the Golden Panthers will open at the A Field in Conshohocken in their district opener against either New Hope-Solebury or District 12’s School of the Future. Coach Graver hopes the lessons of Friday night’s loss carry over into the postseason.
“Our goal is clear: We want to earn the first district win in our program’s history,” he said. “But we’re not going to do it turning the ball over like we did tonight. If you play a poor first quarter, that could be the end.”
PV 27 - Spring-Ford 21
ROYERSFORD >> The athletic rivalry between Perkiomen Valley and Spring-Ford is fast becoming one of the most storied in all of District 1. In fact, an author could fill a book with tales of the twists and turns of Friday night’s football game alone.
The Rams’ faithful may want to skip the last few chapters.
Perkiomen Valley staged a furious comeback at Coach McNelly Stadium Friday night, scoring the game’s final 24 points in the last 12:41, including Jon Moccia’s 20-yard TD run with 1:47 to play, stunning Spring-Ford and a capacity crowd with a 27-20 win to clinch the Pioneer Athletic Conference Liberty Division for the third consecutive year.
“I don’t know what to say,” said an emotional Rob Heist, head coach of Perkiomen Valley. “Our defense was incredible all night — we put them in some tough positions with turnovers, and you can’t do that against a team as good as Spring-Ford.”
The Vikings’ defense would turn the tables, getting their own offense good field position for the late rally.
Perkiomen Valley (7-2, 5-0 PAC Liberty) advances to next Friday’s PAC championship game at undefeated Pottsgrove, attempting to claim their third straight PAC championship.
Rivalries have ways of making unlikely heroes. Bucky Dent and Dave Roberts are a pair that comes to mind this time of year. Now, the SF/PV rivalry has one of their own in Ethan Kohler.
Pressed into action late in the second quarter, the Vikings’ freshman quarterback shook off early jitters to finish with 138 yards and a late TD pass that tied the contest before Moccia’s deciding points.
“I was in a situation with a bunch of great guys around me,” said Kohler. “Offensive line, receivers, our running backs… this is an amazing team and a great situation for me.”
Cole Peterlin, the Vikings’ starting QB, wouldn’t allow such modesty toward Kohler. “This kid is a beast,” said the starter who left in the second quarter after aggravating an ankle injury. “He’s gonna be unreal for the next three years — he’s got what it takes.”
Moccia’s deciding TD came on the heels of a pass interference penalty that may be long debated between fans from both sides. On 4th and 14, Kohler threw a jump ball for Domine, double covered down the right sideline. Was it the right call? Hard to say, but it did take an extra second for the flag to emerge from the referee’s pocket.
Regardless, Perk Valley made it a moot point, dominating up front and overwhelming the Rams at the point of attack, freeing Moccia who broke through a tackle at the goal line for the deciding score with 1:47 to play.
“That,” said Moccia, “was all the offensive line. I don’t even deserve to share the credit!”
The night started slowly for both offenses, but PV capitalized, forcing an early punt then embarked on a 19-play, 72-yard drive that appeared destined to yield seven points when Cole Peterlin found Jon Moccia for a first down at the SF 3. The Rams defense stiffened, however, stopping a Jacob Sturm dive and two Peterlin keepers to force a 23-yard Brayden Basile field goal.
It was the closest PV would come for the remainder of the half. But for a while, neither offense could get much traction, until Rams’ senior LB Nick DelRomano changed the early complexion of the contest.
Facing 3rd and 5 at his own 13, Peterlin tried to thread a tight needle along the sideline to extend the drive. DelRomano wasn’t fooled, however, leaping in front of the pass and keeping his feet in bounds to give the Rams the ball at the PV 21.
One play later, Ryan Engro found Dante Bonanni across the middle at about the 10-yard line, with Bonanni doing the rest to give SF their first score—and lead—at 7-3.
The first of Nathaniel Orkfritz-Robinson’s three sacks ended the ensuing PV drive—and may have played a role in ending the night of PV’s Peterlin. The quarterback, who played on gamely since a Week 5 ankle injury, was forced from the game following the play, unable to return.
Undeterred, Engro hit Bonanni for a 29-yard gain down the left sideline on the prettiest pass of the evening. Three plays later, the junior QB drew in the front end of PV’s defense on a mesh with Stephen Brill, but pulled the ball and ran up the middle untouched for a 22-yard score and a double-digit Rams halftime lead, 14-3.
The Vikings’ hope appeared to dissipate after half, as an errant snap past Kohler was recovered by DelRomano at the Perk Valley 4. From there Andrew Yoon powered through a host of PV tacklers and into the end zone for a 20-3 Rams advantage.
Yoon wasn’t finished, intercepting Kohler on the very first play of the ensuing drive. The Rams were set up on the PV 27, poised to put a cherry on top on a dominant performance. But it was PV linebacker Malik Smith who came up with a big hit to thwart that drive, the first of his two big game-changing plays. Suddenly, a turnover on downs gave PV the ball back. With three minutes to play in the third quarter, everything was about to change.
“Defense — we call ourselves the Hit Squad,” smiled Smith. “Heads-up football, secure the tackle. At that point it was like, ‘OK, let’s go.’”
Another Basile field goal, this one from 29 yards, brought PV within two touchdowns by the end of the third.
A big stand by the PV defense got the Vikings the ball back at SF’s 48, where Kohler came to life, starting the fourth by leading PV’s best drive to that point of the half, culminating in his own five-yard keeper around right tackle to close the gap to 20-12 with eight minutes to play.
As Spring-Ford tried to run clock, senior LB Smith made big play number two,forcing and recovering a fumble at the SF 35. After a Jacob Sturm eight-yard run, Kohler would find leading receiver Isaiah Domine, who’d been quiet all night, down the right sideline for a leaping 27-yard score. After Jon Moccia’s two-point conversion, the game, suddenly, incredibly, was knotted at 20.
“Isaiah’s a great receiver,” said Kohler. “A lot of our offense goes through him for that reason.”
With the game tied, PV’s defense stood tall once more, before the offense embarked on a 92-yard, game-deciding drive that started with Jacob Sturm’s (12 rushes, 115 yards) 51-yard scamper. The ensuing play to Domine and a timely penalty set the stage for Moccia.
Spring-Ford had one last chance, but PV’s tight coverage and pressure forced four straight Ryan Engro incompletions, the last a deep attempt down the seam for Noah Baker. As the ball struck the turf, the PV sideline and student section leapt for joy.
“I’m just so proud,” said Heist. “They never gave up. All respect to Spring-Ford, they always play us tough.”
For the defeated Rams (7-2, 4-1 PAC Liberty), there’s still plenty on the line next week when they travel to either Pope John Paul II or Upper Merion (depending upon the result of that game Saturday.) But the sting of Friday night will be difficult to leave in the past.
“The second half was awful,” Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker said. “I don’t know, we seemed to take our foot off the pedal. Bad reads, big mistakes. It wasn’t good, and I don’t understand it.”
Both teams came into the night in the top 10 of District 1 Class 6A, and remain in the running to host a first-round game.
Week 9 Gridiron Sponsored by Wirant Orthodontics
#10KCameras: A Crowd-Sourced Documentary of the PV / S-F Football Rivalry
Have some commentary, superstitious game week activities, school spirit, faculty commentary, and / or household practices related to the Perkiomen Valley / Spring-Ford football rivalry? Make sure you purchase and are wearing your school’s #10KCameras t-shirt and record it according to the video below. Show your school’s pride and excitement! If it’s good enough, your footage may appear in the final cut of the documentary! Please note that all school rules apply to your video and anything crass or unsuitable will not be considered.
T-shirts will go on sale on October 14th from 7-8p in the teardrop in front of the HS building. We highly encourage you to be there early to reserve your spot in line.
Share on your instagram account with #10KCameras or share to email@example.com.
Lights, camera, action: Perkiomen Valley-Spring-Ford square off for spot in PAC championship
Friday night, the Perkiomen Valley Vikings and Spring-Ford Rams will clash at Coach McNelly Stadium in Royersford with the Pioneer Athletic Conference’s Liberty Division title on the line. The winner will advance to battle Pottsgrove next week for the league championship.
A rivalry that’s quickly becoming the area’s best deserves a big stage, and this one will certainly have that.
The two schools are combining to record a crowd-sourced documentary on the game under the hashtag #10KCameras. That’s one camera for each person Perkiomen Valley coach Rob Heist expects to see in attendance. In fact, Heist seemed somewhat enthused that the game will be played in Royersford, as Spring-Ford’s stadium can accommodate a larger gathering than Perkiomen Valley’s.
“Who can play the best under those bright lights?” asked Heist. “That’s what this will come down to — who makes fewer mistakes? I think our defenses are comparable, and we have similar skill sets on offense.”
For Perk Valley (6-2, 4-0 PAC Liberty), the key lies in the sustained health — such as it is — of quarterback Cole Peterlin (1,331 pass yards, 17 TDs in 2018; plus another 377 yards and 5 TDs rushing.) Peterlin’s hot start to the year was slowed by a Week 5 injury against Owen J. Roberts. He returned in a limited capacity the following week to a close out a win over Norristown, and has seen his role expand in the past two games against Methacton and Boyertown.
“I’m not sure he’s going to be 100 percent [the rest of this year],” admitted Heist. “He’s steadily getting better, but the rigors of a varsity football game left him pretty sore last week —and the conditions on our field this past week didn’t help him either. I can’t say he’s totally healthy, but he’s a tough kid and he’s playing through it.”
Peterlin figures to lean on the Liberty Division’s most explosive receiver, senior Isaiah Domine, whose 10 receiving TDs lead the conference this season. Running backs Jacob Sturm and Jon Moccia have stepped forward to carry more of the load in the rushing game, and will be pivotal in extending Vikings’ drives Friday night and keeping the 7-1 Rams’ potent attack tethered to the sideline.
Defensively, PV is led by senior safety Austin Rowley, tied for the PAC lead in interceptions with five this season. The challenge this week will be simply matching numbers — four Spring-Ford pass-catching targets (WRs Dante Bonanni, Blaize Scarcelle, Nicholas Teets, and TE Noah Baker) plus running back Stephen Brill all rank among the top 15 in area receiving. The quintet has afforded Ryan Engro a multitude of options throughout the first eight games of his breakout season (1,733 pass yards, and a 22-2 TD/INT ratio.)
This week, the Rams will be without center Kyle Kennedy, hurt last week against OJR, which will result in some reshuffling of the Rams’ offensive line, including a move for Dante Cioci back to his natural position of center.
Brill is coming off his best performance of the season, carrying for 124 yards last week against Owen J. Roberts on only 14 carries, and adding another 62 yards receiving in a 30-7 Spring-Ford win.
“OJR spent some time doubling either Dante (Bonanni) or Noah Baker, putting an extra guy out there,” said Rams coach Chad Brubaker. “It allowed us to run the football. When we’re outnumbered in the box, we throw the ball. It’s just a matter of taking what the defense gives us.
“7-8 years ago, we probably ran plays out of more formations than anyone. Now we’ve simplified that, which makes it a lot easier for our quarterback to make decisions.”
That’s not the only thing that’s changed over the past several years. As Coach Heist, a Perkiomen Valley graduate, pointed out, there was a time not too long ago when the Vikings couldn’t really compete with Spring-Ford in football. It took some time for the program to get its footing, and they ultimately would do so throughout the coaching tenure of Scott Reed and now into the third year’s of Heist’s regime. Even with two consecutive victories under their belts in the rivalry, that underdog mentality’s never really faded from the Vikings’ locker room.
“They (Spring-Ford) routinely thumped us,” Heist recalled. “For me, my staff — we’re PV guys, and that feeling’s never really gone away. And our players are a reflection of their coaching staff. We do our best to remind our kids of the importance, the tradition, and heritage of this game. It’s a great opportunity, to play in this game — this rivalry is certainly known throughout the Eastern part of the state, and maybe the whole state.”
Before this season, Brubaker said in his estimation, Perkiomen Valley has been more prepared and ready to play in this game the past two years. Perhaps more notably, no one really stepped forward to challenge his assertion. Will it be different in 2018?
“It’s not as if we’ve dominated this league (through my tenure),” Brubaker said this week. “We’ve won the PAC twice in nine years. You have to guard against the belief that you can just show up and everything will fall into place. The past two years, it felt like (PV’s) kids just wanted it more. This year, our kids recognize that PV has won the league two years straight. We should be the hungrier team.”
Speaking of hunger, each week Brubaker has a different coach address his team after their pregame meal. This week’s choice was an easy one. “Coach (Jim) Mich (SF’s defensive coordinator) is sure to give a very poignant speech,” said Brubaker. “He’s had this one circled on the calendar from the jump.”
In this area, he’s far from the only one.
Perkiomen Valley, Spring-Ford square off for Liberty Division football title
By Rick O'Brien
Perkiomen Valley vs. Spring-Ford has become one of the area's most intense and heated rivalries in recent years.
It continues when the Vikings clash with the host Rams at 7 p.m. Friday before an expected overflow crowd at Coach McNelly Stadium in Royersford.
The Pioneer Athletic Conference Liberty Division crown is on the line, with the victor taking on the Frontier Division titlist, likely Pottsgrove, for the league championship next week.
Perkiomen Valley defeated Spring-Ford, 28-7, in Week 7 last year and went on to win the Liberty Division. Rob Heist's squad topped Pottsgrove, 43-26, in the league final.
The Vikings (6-2 , 4-0 conference) have won six straight games since opening the season with back-to-back losses against Downingtown West and Downingtown East.
The Rams (7-1, 4-0) have won five straight since a 33-27 overtime nonleague loss to Berks County's Wilson, of District 3, on Sept. 7.
Our defense has been really consistent," Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker said. "That's played a big part in our success so far."
Perkiomen Valley's offense is ignited by dual-threat quarterback Cole Peterlin, tailback Jon Moccia, fullback Jacob Sturm, and receivers Isaiah Domine, Austin Rowley, and Mike Dougherty.
Peterlin, who has been nursing a high ankle sprain, has hit on 89 of 163 throws for 1,331 yards and 16 touchdowns. He has rushed 90 times for 359 yards and five scores.
Spring-Ford counters with QB Ryan Engro, running backs Stephen Brill and Andrew Yoon, and receivers Dante Bonanni, Noah Baker, Nick Teets, and Blaize Scarcelle.
Engro has connected on 105 of 189 passes for 1,688 yards and 22 TDs, with only two interceptions. Bonanni has 31 receptions for 442 yards and seven scores.
Of Engro, Heist said, "He seems to be progressing nicely, especially when it comes to making reads."
With a 3-5-3 scheme on defense, the Vikings have strong playmakers in tackles Brett Kuiken and Jake Sterling, outside linebackers Zach Lomonaco and Malik Smith II, and backs Rowley (five interceptions) and Domine.
The Rams' 4-3 defense is headed by end Nate Orkfritz-Robinson, tackle Walter Molishus, linebackers Nick Delromano and James Albert, and safeties Brill and Alex Koretke.
"No matter what, it's going to be a great game," Brubaker said.
After last season’s letdown, Spring-Ford makes no mistake at Owen J. Roberts in 30-7 win
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.
Bombs Away: Spring-Ford explodes offensively in 66-31 win over Boyertown
By Rob Senior
ROYERSFORD >> Friday night’s game against Boyertown represented Spring-Ford’s last chance to fine-tune their preparation for the biggest two-game stretch of their regular season. They did so in impressive fashion, topping Boyertown by a final score of 66-31 to move to 6-1 on the season (3-0 PAC Liberty).
Ryan Engro threw for 298 yards and five TDs before halftime in the Rams’ most explosive offensive performance thus far in 2018. The Rams amassed 52 points by halftime, putting up six TDs in the second quarter alone.
Engro would finish with 358 yards passing and six TDs through the air, a season-best for the league.
“Just an all-around great offensive performance tonight,” said Engro. “The line gave us time, the receivers made plays. It was just a fun night for us.”
The win leaves the Rams tied atop the Pioneer Athletic Conference’s Liberty Division with Perkiomen Valley and one game ahead of Owen J. Roberts. Not so coincidentally, those two teams represent the Rams’ final two regular season opponents. Spring-Ford controls its own destiny and could reach its first PAC championship game since the league went to a two-division system with wins in the next two contests.
The Rams got off to a similar fast start last season before everything came crashing down in those final two contests a year ago. After dropping the OJR and PV games by a combined score of 61-7, Spring-Ford barely recovered in time to qualify for the District 1 Class 6A playoffs, where they lost to Neshaminy in the first round.
“Right now, it’s just OJR,” coach Chad Brubaker said in regard to the Rams’ lookahead. “We’re not looking ahead at all — we were embarrassed by them last year, and they scheduled us for Homecoming again. We’re going to go in there with a lot of fire next week.”
The returning members of the squad say that experience has fueled their motivation for the stretch run this year.
“Last year’s been bothering me a lot,” Engro admitted. “33-0 last year against OJR — we’re definitely ready to get some revenge.”
The Rams’ offense wasted no time Friday night showing why they expect this season’s outcome to be different.
After forcing a quick three-and-out, Leo Van Hulst’s punt return set Spring-Ford up in Boyertown territory. After a tough 4th down run from Stephen Brill extended the drive, QB Engro found his favorite target Dante Bonanni all alone down the left sideline for a quick 7-0 lead.
The ensuing Boyertown drives each ended in fumbles recovered by Armante Haynes, who was dominant for the Rams defensively. The first resulted in a 28-yard Taylor Smith field goal.
The second turnover was converted into a nine-yard Brill TD run that ignited a second quarter that was (unofficially) one of the longest of the season and (officially) the highest-scoring of the PAC campaign, with the Rams and Bears combining for 60 points. What follows is a synopsis of the most chaotic quarter of football anyone in attendance could remember:
Boyertown quickly responded with a lateral pass from Noah Segal to Connor Rohrbach, who found tailback Jamie Moccia all alone downfield for a 74-yard Bears TD. After a blocked PAT, Boyertown had trimmed the Rams’ lead to 17-6.
But it only took Spring-Ford one play to respond, as Engro hit Brill down the seam for a 58-yard score. In the first 39 seconds of the second quarter, the teams had combined for three touchdowns.
The teams took about a two-minute break from scoring until Segal hit Rohrbach for a 22-yard TD on a drive aided by Spring-Ford penalties.
But the Rams wouldn’t take long to answer, as Engro found Bonanni again, this time for 37 yards and a 31-12 Rams advantage. Three minutes later. Engro continued his excellent first half, finding Noah Baker for a 23-yard TD—his fourth of the half.
Moccia would respond with a 97-yard kick return—unlike an earlier effort, this one was not flagged—and Boyertown cut the deficit to 20 points with 2:30 remaining before halftime.
Engro quickly made it five TD passes, finding Max Bunn after a prolonged scramble from 24 yards away. After Boyertown fumbled the ensuing kickoff, it was Baker’s turn to join in the fun, as he took an end-around and tossed it to Nicholas Teets for a six-yard TD.
When all was said and done, the teams combined for 60 points and 23 accepted penalties in a second quarter that took one hour, nine minutes to complete.
“No, I haven’t ever seen anything like that,” Brubaker said. “(Jamie) Moccia’s a very good player, but our kickoff coverage was horrendous, and then we get a punt blocked. It definitely gives us plenty to work on for next week.”
Halftime did little to break the Rams’ momentum, as the first play saw another Engro-to-Baker connection to make it 59-18 and put the game into running clock territory.
“It’s just a matter of the read on each play,” Engro responded when asked if he had a go-to receiver. “Whoever’s open—I’m gonna hit ‘em.”
Andrew Yoon quickly added another Rams touchdown on a 20-yard run that showed great vision on a bounce to the outside.
Boyertown got a couple of late touchdowns to close out the scoring on runs from Dylan Robertson and Segal. The Bears fell to 1-6 (0-3 PAC Liberty) on the season. Six lost fumbles on the evening doomed the Bears, who nonetheless turned in some impressive plays against a tough Spring-Ford defense.
“They (Spring-Ford) are at the level we’d like to get to,” said Boyertown coach TJ Miller. “Right now, though, we are two steps and a few turnovers behind.”
Reading Eagle's Boyertown Article
By Dennis Weller
Boyertown was on the wrong end of an incredible 60-point second quarter Friday night at Coach McNelly Stadium in Royersford on the way to a 66-31 Pioneer Athletic Conference Liberty Division loss to Spring-Ford.
Ryan Engro threw for 347 yards and six touchdowns and Spring-Ford (3-0, 6-1) blew the game open with a 42-18 outburst in the second period. Jamie Moccia caught a long touchdown pass and returned a kickoff 97 yards for a score for the Bears (0-3, 1-6).
"Where we want to take the program, that's where we want to go," Boyertown coach T.J. Miller said about the Rams. "Right now, we're two steps and three turnovers behind."
The Bears trailed by just 10-0 after a quarter and were within 24-12 early in the second as Connor Rohrbach took a toss in the backfield from quarterback Noah Segal and hit a wide-open Moccia cross-field for a 74-yard TD play and then caught a 28-yard scoring pass from Segal.
But five lost fumbles and nine penalties by the Bears in the first half were too much to overcome.
Engro threw touchdown passes to five different receivers.
"A great offensive performance for everyone," said Engro. "The receivers made the plays. It helps greatly when you can spread the ball to so many receivers."
"They kept seven in the box a lot of the night," added Rams coach Chad Brubaker. "We're going to take what the defense gives us. We've got a pretty good receiving corps. We're starting to get to the point where guys can catch the ball in traffic and break away for extra yards."
Miller was pleased to see his team continue to battle in the second half, which included a 76-yard scoring drive that took up most of the third quarter and another touchdown in the fourth.
"I'm happy with the effort the team gave," he said. "They never quit."
That was especially true of the young offensive line.
"It's absolutely huge," he said about its performance in the second half. "We didn't start one senior on the offensive line. They got to see what needs to happen."
Inspired Spring-Ford drops Methacton on Homecoming
By Jeff Stover
ROYERSFORD >> By nature, Spirit Weeks at high schools generate an abundance of enthusiasm and excitement among students.
In some instances, they become emotional affairs. Such was the case at Spring-Ford this week, with the week leading up to Saturday’s Homecoming ceremony and football game with Methacton.
Prior to the game, district resident Eli Vivian was recognized for his inspiration in the face of dealing with metachromatic leukodystrophy, a progressive inherited disorder for which no cure exists at present.
Vivian, a seventh grade Spring-Ford student, was made an honorary captain for the Spring-Ford squad, leading the players onto the field and taking part in the pre-game coin toss. He then joined the players on the sideline and watched the Rams roll up a 41-7 victory over the Warriors, a satisfying contribution to the Homecoming extravaganza.
“It was an emotional week,” SF head coach Chad Brubaker said. “Our honorary captain … he showed us how important and precious life and health is.”
The inspiration was magnified by the Rams, who secured this Pioneer Athletic Conference (Liberty Division) game with help from a potent passing game. Five players caught passes from quarterback Ryan Engro, who threw for three scores before running for another.
Engro completed 20 of 31 passes for 273 yards. Each of his targets had multiple catches, with Noah Baker, Blaize Scarcelle and Dante Bonanni all on the receiving end of scoring tosses.
“We have a pretty good unit of receivers,” Brubaker said. “We try to find different ways to get them the ball. They did all right.”
A particularly exciting Homecoming was had by Baker. The senior wide receiver was announced as the school’s Homecoming King Friday, and he came away from Saturday’s game with four catches covering 56 yards.
“It was a big weekend … a good weekend,” Baker said.
Like his coach, Baker echoed poignant sentiments about Vivian’s circumstances and the impact it had on the team.
“It’s emotional,” he agreed. “Eli has gone through a lot. It makes us appreciate what we have, and motivates me to have a good game.”
Baker’s catch of a 19-yard Engro pass with 5:10 left in the first half was the break-open play of what had been a tight contest to that point. After Stephen Brill scored on a five-yard run 6:52 in the first quarter — one of two he had in the first half — ball possession went back and forth six times before Baker took the catch and outran the defense to the end zone.
That touched off a flurry of scoring by Spring-Ford (2-0 Liberty, 5-1 overall), which hit paydirt on its next four possessions. The Rams came out of the half up 27-0, after Bonanni took a 30-yard pass from Engro to the house and Brill scored his second rushing TD, and they added a 52-yard Engro-to-Scarcelle toss before Engro went around his left end for a two-yard scoring run with 6:04 left in the third.
“We had a lot of mismatches with the safeties being 10, 15 yards back,” Baker noted. “Me getting passes, the offense moved forward.”
It all made for a long afternoon for Methacton (1-1, 1-5), which came into the game off the euphoria of last week’s slide-busting 36-7 win over Boyertown. The Warriors averted the shutout when quarterback Dylan Schultz capped a fourth quarter drive — it was set up by the recovery of a Spring-Ford fumble one play after turning the ball over to the Rams on downs — with 8:06 left in the game.
“We fought hard all day, but Spring-Ford made plays and we didn’t,” was the assessment of Methacton head coach Dave Lotier. “We came into the game fully believing we were in for a battle.
“The kids have to believe that’s the way it’s going to be each week. We fully believe we can compete with anybody.”
The Warriors worked a wildcat offensive package several times, having Mike Torcini take the direct snap. Gary Knox also got a pass play in, hooking up with Steve Brown on a seven-yard pass early in the third quarter.
“The wildcat is part of our offensive package,” Lotier said. “We’re giving kids the opportunity to run it and show what they can do. It keeps defenses honest with our passing game.
“We got a good mix with it.”
Alex Koretke had one of Spring-Ford’s bigger defensive plays, intercepting a Schultz pass at the Methacton 30 to set up Engro’s TD toss to Bonanni. Josh Booz and Nathanial Orkfritz-Robinson also had sacks on Schultz in the second half.
“Our defense did an outstanding job,” Brubaker said. “We had excellent field position through the day.” NOTES >> Mike Ciriello and Brent Romano had sacks for Methacton in the first half. … Ashley Hudak was crowned Spring-Ford’s Homecoming Queen during halftime ceremonies.
WEST NORRITON >> Norristown and Spring-Ford may be at different stages in their respective program building, but they have a similar core belief.
With each week that goes by, the Eagles and Rams want to finish it a little better than they started. Spring-Ford got a pretty complete game on both sides of the ball Saturday afternoon at Norristown and the Eagle, despite a loss, saw some guys step up.
A breakout game from Nick Teets helped the Rams to a 36-6 victory in the PAC Liberty Division opener for both teams.
“We were able to do a few more things, but there’s still a few more things to clean up here early in the season,” Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker said. “As long as you see progression in each week, that’s what you’re after right now.”
Saturday favored the passing attack for both teams. Norristown (1-4, 0-1 division) never really established a running game, but quarterback Daniel Watson was able to connect with a few of his receivers for some nice gains. On the other side, the Rams ran the ball 20 more times than Norristown but found yardage tough to come by.
Outside of a 64-yard keeper by quarterback Ryan Engro, the Rams (4-1, 1-0) couldn’t break off many significant gains against a tough Norristown front.
“We’re still trying to see who’s going to rise to the occasion,” Eagles coach Joseph Milligan said. “Expectations are pretty high for what we want out of the kids and we’ve let them know they have to play at a certain level. Right now, we’re not getting it out of everyone so we have to keep pushing, pushing and pushing.”
Engro rushed for 95 yards with a touchdown and threw for 228 yards and three scores. His 15-yard keeper put Spring-Ford on the board on its first drive and his 64-yard jaunt set up Stephen Brill’s one-yard plunge, which only came after the Eagles stuffed him three times at the goal line.
The Rams’ passing game was a little up and down early, due to the play of Norristown’s secondary but once Engro hit Teets for the first time, things opened up. The 5-foot-6, `140-pound sophomore shined at slot receiver, catching five balls for 163 yards and two scores.
His 14-yard catch put Spring-Ford up 19-0 at the half, then he went 78 yards for a touchdown on the Rams’ third play of the second half.
“We’ve been waiting for Nick, he’s been switching in and getting some time and he’s been struggling as sophomore sometimes do, but today he was in the right spots,” Brubaker said. “We felt like we could make some plays over the middle. He made the one big play, made it to the end zone and showed some speed too.
“He finally had that breakout game and when you look at our receiving core with him stepping up, we have some kids that if teams want to continue to go man against us, we’re going to make some plays.”
Brubaker also felt his secondary played well against Norristown’s passing game. The Rams picked off three Eagles passes with safety Alex Kortetke snaring two of them.
Norristown’s passing game is still a work in progress, but there are clearly pieces to work with. Travis Cummings had 86 yards receiving while Christian Thomas had 68 yards and Thomas threw for 198 yards. Nick Dinolfi got in for a few snaps at QB as well, but had to exit the game with an injury.
“It comes down to working at it and getting them to trust each other,” Milligan said. “We have a first-year player at quarterback, a sophomore at quarterback. It’s basically a whole new receiving corps, we had a guy that came in from Carroll, so for us to be together and doing what we’re supposed to be doing after only having the job for four months is big.”
Engro made it 33-0 when he hit Noah Baker for a 19-yard touchdown. Taylor Smith hit a 22-yard field goal to make it 36-0 before Norristown moved down the field and scored on a three-yard keeper by Watson.
“People aren’t going to get credit unless you win and we win together and we lose together,” Milligan said. “As much as they’re playing at a certain high level, they know they have to play at an even higher level until we can get the rest of the crew together. It’s all about being a team.”
Spring-Ford hopes early-season tests lead to success
By Rob Senior
When the Pioneer Athletic Conference went to its current two-division format and dropped the round-robin league schedule in 2016, it opened the doors for league members to start up some new non-league rivalries of their own. PAC teams have the opportunity to test themselves against schools from different classes, areas — even out-of-state opponents — before embarking on a five-week, divisional round-robin in conference.
After a season-opening shutout of Central Bucks South, last week’s 33-22 setback at the hands of Wilson, and Friday night’s tilt with Exeter, there’s no questioning that Spring-Ford will enter PAC play plenty battle-tested.
“That was a heck of a football team,” Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker said after his team’s thrilling 33-27 overtime victory. “They had depth, size — I’m really proud of our effort.
The squads went back and forth in the first half and the lead changed hands four times before Spring-Ford was able to attain the first two-score lead on quarterback Ryan Engro’s fourth scoring pass of the night to Dante Bonanni that saw the junior receiver break several tackles en route to the end zone. Engro finished 16-for-39 for 314 yards passing and 4 TDs plus the game-winning TD carry in overtime. His top targets were Noah Baker (4 catches, 80 yards, 3 TDs) and Bonanni (7 rec, 130 yards, TD). Exeter quarterback Colby Haag impressed going 13-for-19 with 187 yards and 2 TDs before exiting due to injury.
“It was the kind of game where if I try to describe the highlight plays … I would be here all night,” laughed Brubaker. “Just so many kids, from both sides, stepping up time and again.”
Exeter’s man defense employed no safeties, loading the box to quiet the Spring-Ford rushing attack, forcing Engro to put the ball in the air 39 times. As is often the case with such defenses, the strategy suppressed the junior QB’s completion percentage, but when the Rams connected, they made it count. Engro averaged almost 20 yards per completion.
“I give [Exeter] credit,” said Brubaker. “I didn’t think any team could do that to us for 48 minutes, but they made their plays. They have some tremendous athletes in that secondary.”
But just as it looked like the Rams were pulling away, Exeter’s Alex Javier stepped up with a 12-yard TD off Engro’s lone interception of the evening. With seconds remaining in regulation, Sean Henry treated the crowd to some free football, courtesy of a 41-yard field goal.
High school football overtime features each team taking a turn to score, starting with a first-and-goal at the opponent’s 10-yard line. Exeter went first, working their way into a 4th-and-goal after Spring-Ford stopped Feeney short on a 3rd down reception. As the Eagles decided to go for it and put the pressure on the Rams, the SF defense stacked up Jeremiah Nixon (31 carries, 153 yards) at the goal line to give their offense a chance to win it.
The two coaches offered differing viewpoints on the 4th down decision.
“I should’ve gone for the field goal,” Exeter’s Matt Bauer second guessed. “I told my kids we can put this loss on me.”
“I certainly agreed with his call,” countered Brubaker. “They were killing us with the run all night (205 yards on 47 carries) so it wasn’t a longshot to punch it in there.”
No matter. Engro rendered the point moot with his fifth TD of the evening, this one a QB sneak inside the one-yard line to bring the instant classic to a close.
Coming off their first loss of the season, Brubaker pondered the character-building nature of Friday’s win as opposed to an easier outing against a less challenging opponent.
“As a coach, you always enjoy those [40-50 point] victories from a lack of anxiety standpoint,” he laughed. “But the way we played tonight, getting ourselves out of jams — the next time we’re in a similar situation, we can draw on that experience, knowing we’ve done it before.”
* * *
Offensive Player of the Week >> Spring-Ford QB Ryan Engro made the most of his 16 completions, throwing for 314 yards and compiling five total touchdowns (four passing, one rushing) in Spring-Ford’s OT win over Exeter.
Spring-Ford edges Exeter in overtime, 33-27
by Tucker Bagley
ROYERSFORD >> Exeter coach Matt Bauer came into Friday night’s game at Spring-Ford with an aggressive mindset. His Eagles blitzed and played with no deep safeties for much of the game as they took the hosting Rams down to the wire.
But eventually, Bauer’s aggressiveness backfired.
“I should’ve went for the field goal,” the coach admitted minutes after Spring-Ford defeated Exeter, 33-27 in overtime, in a game that couldn’t be settled in just four quarters of football. “I told my kids, we can put this loss on me.”
After Spring-Ford won the overtime coin toss, the Rams elected to play defense, setting up Exeter with four plays to score from just 10 yards out. The Eagles pushed the ball to the 1-yard-line on a pair of runs by Jeremiah Nixon and a pass to Matt Feeney. But instead of taking the chip-shot field goal, Bauer trotted his offense out there on fourth down and Spring-Ford stuffed Nixon to end the possession.
“I certainly agree with his call,” Rams head coach Chad Brubaker said. “They were killing us with the run all night, so it wasn’t a longshot for them to punch it in there.”
Brubaker’s offense won the game three plays later when quarterback Ryan Engro sneaked the ball in from one-yard out for his fifth touchdown of the night.
However, things didn’t start well for the Ram offense, as Spring-Ford was flagged for a false start before their first play from scrimmage and Ryan Engro was sacked on the next snap. Buried in a second-and-19 hole, Engro lofted a ball deep down the sideline to Blaize Scarcelle, who snuck behind the Eagle defense and caught the pass for a 33-yard gain.
From there, the Rams were off to the races. Halfback Stephen Brill ripped off a 23-yard run and Engro ended the drive with a 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Noah Baker for the game’s first score.
“We knew they were going to play a real aggressive style of defense,” Brubaker said. “We couldn’t run the ball when they had all the extra men in the box, so we had to protect our quarterback and hope our receivers could beat their man coverage.”
Spring-Ford had a chance to extend their lead later in the first quarter after an Engro pooch punt pinned the Eagles inside their own 1-yard-line. However, after three unsuccessful runs, Exeter’s punt was muffed by the Rams and the Eagles recovered at midfield.
A 14-yard run by Jeremiah Nixon then put the Eagles at the Spring-Ford 32, but three plays later, Exeter was facing a fourth-and-10. However, quarterback Kolby Haag hit Feeney over the middle and a vicious block by Joe Rohrbach sprung the tight end for the tying score.
If there was any doubt their first scoring drive was a result of good fortune, the Eagles took over at their own 1-yard-line again on their next possession and proceeded to march 89 yards on 15 plays to set up a 27-yard, Sean Henry field goal that gave Exeter their first lead of the game.
It took the Rams just two plays to respond as Engro hit Baker on a slant, and the tight end beat the Eagles cover-zero defense, racing to the end zone for a 62-yard score that put the Rams in front, 14-10. Baker finished the night with four catches for 81 yards and three touchdowns.
“Noah is a basketball player,” Brubaker said. “At least in his mind, he is. I think he is a good example of someone who can succeed at multiple sports and help different teams win.”
But once again, Exeter had an answer. The Eagles put together another methodical drive, with the 8-play, 80-yard possession highlighted by a 38-yard pass to Devon Scott and punctuated by a 5-yard fade to Rohrbach for the go-ahead score and a 17-14 halftime lead.
The Eagles seemed to be on their way to posting a two-possession lead in the opening minutes of the second half, but a botched snap derailed their momentum and led to a missed 43-yard field goal attempt.
Spring-Ford took advantage of the over-eager Eagles defense in the second quarter, racking up 144 passing yards on their two drives, but more importantly, the Rams scored 13 points on passing touchdowns to Baker and Dante Bonanni to take a 27-17 lead into the fourth quarter.
The Eagles turned the ball over on downs on their next drive, but climbed within one possession when Javier Austin intercepted Engro and returned the ball 10 yards for a touchdown.
Gavin McCusker, who took over for the injured Haag in the third quarter, led the Eagles down the field in the closing minutes in an attempt to even the score. Exeter tied the game at 27 with just seconds remaining in the fourth quarter thanks to a 41-yard field goal by Sean Henry.
“It was hard for our guys in the fourth quarter,” Brubaker said. “We we’re struggling running the ball and controlling the clock against the stacked box. It led to us having to throw the ball in hopes of moving the chains and keeping possession.”
The Spring-Ford offense lived and died by the long ball on Friday night, with Engro finishing the night with 314 passing yards, despite completing only 16 of his 41 attempts. On the flip side, Exeter clawed their way back into the game thanks to a dominant second half by Nixon, who had 176 yards from scrimmage.