Spring-Ford's Jake Leahy rises above tragedy
Spring-Ford's 43-21 victory over Downingtown West in Friday's District 1-AAAA Tournament opener game was an emotional one for the Rams, who successfully returned to the scene of last year's season-ending district championship loss to Coatesville — Kottmeyer Stadium — and flipped the script.
For Rams senior Jake Leahy, it was oh-so-much more.
On the night of last Nov. 30, as the Rams exited their team bus back at school after the 59-28 defeat to the Red Raiders, Leahy was confronted with a loss far more devastating.
His older brother, Anthony, had died earlier in the evening at the age of 20 of a heroin overdose. And suddenly, losing a football game was put in harsh perspective.
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Leahy was pretty much a role player for the Rams last season, playing on special teams and seeing token time at defensive end and fullback for a squad that went 12-3 and won its first three District 1 Tournament games in school history.
Anthony, who had struggled with substance abuse issues, had been living in a halfway house but was making progress, according to his father James.
"We were all together for Thanksgiving and he looked the best he'd looked for the past few years,' James said.
Eight days later, however, James got the tragic news of Anthony's passing shortly after the district final kicked off — and fainted near the Rams sideline.
After being helped up by his sister, niece and nephew, James made the decision to wait until after the game to tell Jake.
"I felt so bad for him, because he had worked so hard,' the elder Leahy said. "It was the district championship, and I didn't want it to distract him.'
Leahy subsequently received a postgame text message from his father.
"He was like, ' When you get home, call me right away, it's a family emergency,'' Leahy recalled. "I didn't really think anything of it at first, but when I got off the bus, he was there with my grandfather (James Sr.) and told me the news. I didn't believe it at first, but then I saw the look on the face of my grandfather, and knew it was real. That will always stay with me.'
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Needless to say, the holiday season didn't afford much cheer for the Leahy family.
"It was devastating,' Jake said. "Christmas was coming up, and it wound up being the worst Christmas I ever had. The first couple weeks after the funeral, it was bad. And it got worse over time. Me and my dad were hit hard. I'm still messed up about it.'
Thankfully for Leahy (whose mother, Heather, lives in Florida) and his father, the outpouring they received from Spring-Ford and the football program made things easier.
"They were very supportive of our family,' James said. "The coaches were phenomenal. Coach (Chad) Brubaker really wants the best for the kids, and the support from the team was tremendous. A lot of players' families brought food over and were very comforting. They were there for us 24/7 every day.'
"My teammates have all been there for me,' Jake said, specifically mentioning the quartet of Gary Hopkins, Jarred Jones, Connor Murphy and Jack Haney.
Brubaker had run into similar situations of team members losing loved ones when he was an assistant at Wilson, and in his four years at the helm of Spring-Ford the squad has been hit with its share of tragic circumstances — including the death of Rams player Brian Clarke in 2012.
"We always want to win, but that's not really what this is all about,' Brubaker said. "What's important is how the kids on our team turn out as individuals, and they've taught me a lot of how resilient they are. I have a younger brother, and I can't imagine what Jake is going through at the age of 17 or 18.'
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On Aug. 21, Anthony's birthday, Leahy and his family held a memorial at nearby Victory Park.
The 6-foot-1, 195-pound Leahy has dedicated his final season to his older brother, and over the past 11 weeks his play has been plenty purposeful on both sides of the ball.
"I know it's been difficult at times on Jake, but he's been playing better and better for us,' Brubaker said.
When Jones missed Spring-Ford's Week 5 showdown with Pottsgrove, Leahy stepped in an rushed for a career-best 96 yards.
Defensively, he has been an emerging force at linebacker and has totalled 60 tackles, second only to Robby Varner's team-high 62.
And he was recently honored by the Lower Perk Longhorns, who put Leahy on their Wall of Fame.
"When he puts his mind to it, he's capable of anything,' James said of his son. "He's shown a lot of resilience. I'm extremely proud of him; I can't tell him that enough.'
"I just want to give the whole team everything I have,' Leahy said. "I want to let everything out there; this is my last year of high school football.'
Friday's game may have been Leahy's most shining moment on the gridiron.
He spearheaded a bend-but-don't-break defensive effort with a couple of defining plays — a third quarter interception of Whippets' QB Nick Pagel and fourth quarter, fourth-down sack of Pagel.
He also ran for 35 yards and caught one pass for six yards as the No. 12 seed Rams (9-2) advanced to this weekend's district quarterfinal at No. 4 seed Neshaminy (10-1).
"It (Friday's game) was really emotional for me,' Leahy said.
And therapeutic, as Leahy attempts to cope with a tragic loss that resonates far beyond the football field.
Follow Darryl Grumling on Twitter at @MercSmokinD.
Jones-powered Spring-Ford takes down Downingtown West
By Darryl Grumbling
DOWNINGTOWN — The last time Jarred Jones and his Spring-Ford football teammates visited Downingtown West's Kottmeyer Stadium, in last year's District 1-AAAA championship, the Rams saw their dream season end in a nightmarish 31-point loss to Coatesville.
When the Rams made the return trek for Friday night's district tourney opener against Downingtown West, they did so with plenty of purpose.
"It was all about redemption,' said Jones, the Rams' scintillating senior tailback. "We came in here with a bad taste in our mouths. After what happened last year we had to rectify that.'
Thanks to a monster 231-yard, five-touchdown outburst by Jones and a gaggle of big-time performances from the rest of the Rams, that mission wound up being accomplished in emphatic fashion as Spring-Ford came away with a 43-21 victory.
Matt Daywalt enjoyed an outstanding starting quarterback debut by going 10-for-13 for 136 yards and a touchdown and Jake Leahy was a strong factor on both sides of the ball as the 12th-seeded Rams (9-2) advanced to next week's quarterfinal at No. 4 seed Neshaminy (10-1), a 41-7 victor over No. 13 Unionville.
"The effort on both sides of the ball was tremendous,' Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker said. "Just a tremendous effort on everybody's part.'
That included the defensive front of Robby Varner, Mason Romano, Alec Vagnozzi and Tim Rudderow (taking Daywalt's spot on the D-line), which was able to pressure Whippets QB Nick Pagel enough to disrupt coach Mike Milano's hurry-up attack.
Linebackers Leahy and Andy Lovre-Smith did yeoman work, with Leahy and corner Brandon Barone each collecting an interception as the Rams survived a 27-for-42, 274-yard barrage from Pagel.
When push came to shove, however, Jones was simply the difference-maker as he cracked the 4,000-yard career rushing barrier.
He provided arguably the play of the game midway through the third quarter, after the Whippets had cut what was once a 16-point lead to 23-21 on Pagel's 19-yard TD run.
One play after Barone took the ensuing kickoff to the Spring-Ford 22, Jones received a handoff from Daywalt and bulled his way off left tackle before shedding a would-be tackler and bouncing it outside. Jones shifted into another gear to gain the edge, then somehow managed to stay inbounds before racing down the sideline for a highlight-reel 78-yard scoring run.
"It was a simple zone (play), reading the block,' Jones said. "Somebody (on the line) came in on the linebacker and once I started moving out, I just took off and it was over.'
"What a tremendous run,' marveled Brubaker. "I think he broke two tackles. We really couldn't get the defensive end (blocked) on that play; he got inside of us. But Jared bounced off him and got to the end zone. What can you say?'
That TD put the Rams up 29-21 with 7:38 left in the third after the point-after failed.
Spring-Ford's defense then kept answering every Downingtown West challenge. First, Leahy came up with an interception to blunt one drive. Then, the 6-foot-1, 195-pound Leahy sacked Pagel on a fourth-and-3 play with 7:37 left and Daywalt hooked up with Gary Hopkins (three catches, 70 yards) for a 35-yard scoring strike that made it 36-21.
Jones sealed the deal with a 13-yard TD run with 2:26 left set up by Barone's interception.
"The difference tonight was that our offense came to play,' Jones said. "We wanted to come out and make a statement.'
That message was loud and clear from the outset.
Spring-Ford drew first blood on a 4-yard TD run by Jones with 3:11 left in the first quarter, then Tim Vu blocked a Downingtown West punt on the ensuing possession to set up Dave Gulati's 23-yard field goal that made it 10-0.
The Ches-Mont National Division champ Whippets, who had a seven-game winning streak snapped, got back into it with a 13-play, 81-yard drive capped by Jake Barr's 2-yard TD run with 8:07 left in the second quarter.
The Rams answered as Daywalt hooked up with Cody Davis for a 35-yard gain and Jones ran it in from 18 yards out to make it 17-7.
Then Lovre-Smith stuffed Jimmy DiSantis on a fourth-and-2 run to give the ball back to Spring-Ford, which needed just two plays — a 34-yard completion from Daywalt to Hopkins and a 6-yard scoring run by Jones — to extend the lead to 23-7 — before Pagel's 11-yard TD run got Downingtown West within nine at intermission.
"What a gutsy job he did tonight,' Brubaker said of Daywalt, who had thrown just eight passes all year. "He's a gritty kid and a tough kid, and he just played that way tonight.'
"For him only practicing (at QB) this week,' echoed Jones, "to execute like that was beautiful.'
And integral to an impressive return to the District 1-AAAA tourney.
Former Spring-Ford star Andrew Scanlan, now a redshirt freshman receiver at Northwestern (which has a bye week), was in the stands to cheer on his alma matter. According to Brubaker, Scanlan and other former Rams such as Hank Coyne, R.J. Sheldon, Matt Glowacki, [Zameer McDowell], Mike Gilmore, Yousef Lundi and Ty Yuzijain taped motivational messages for the squad. ... Downingtown West finished with 430 total yards, getting 11 receptions from Barr and nine catches for 93 yards from Thomas Mattioni. ... Spring-Ford had 424 total yards. ... Jones has 1,593 rushing yards and 25 TDs for the season and 4,030 career rushing yards.
Follow Darryl Grumling on Twitter at @MercSmokinD.
Jones stars as Spring-Ford thwarts Whippets
By NATE HECKENBERGER
DOWNINGTOWN -- Sometimes what makes coaches great can also come back to bite them.
Downingtown West coach Mike Milano has won a lot of games with his aggressive, gambling style. Friday, against visiting No. 12 Spring-Ford, Milano's No. 5 Whippets dealt with a sloppy first half and were stopped twice on fourth-and-shorts in their own territory, leading to their demise.
The Rams walked out of Kottmeyer Stadium 43-21 victors, ending West's season a week after winning its first outright Ches-Mont National Division title.
Spring-Ford (9-2) scored two touchdowns in three combined plays on drives following West's fourth-down tries at its own 39 and 44, respectively.
"We've always done that,' Milano said. "That's who we are. We're not afraid to go for it on fourth down.'
Despite the 22-point margin, the contest was tight for 40 1/2 minutes. The Rams went ahead early on the first of five touchdowns by Jarred Jones. A blocked punt gave Spring-Ford the ball at the West seven the following possession and a 23-yard field goal gave the Rams a 10-point lead.
The Whippets (8-3) put the ball on the turf five times in the first half, and though they didn't lose any, they struggled to get anything going in the first quarter.
"(Spring-Ford) is a very good football team,' Milano said. "I just wish we could have played a better football game. I don't know if it was the last three weeks of big games, but we were flat early. We were emotionless. We played hard, but we were emotionless, early.'
West responded with a Jake Barr TD run and had a recovery on a well-placed kickoff squirt right through the hands of Kyle Goodrich. Spring-Ford made it hurt, scoring four plays and 70 yards later on Jones' second score to go up 10 again.
On the next drive, Jimmy DiSantis was stopped for a one-yard loss on fourth-and-two, and the Rams went 38 yards on two plays to take a 23-7 lead midway through the second quarter.
"Those (fourth-down stops) were huge,' Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker said. "Early in the game, I was a little surprised they did that. They have a lot of confidence in their quarterback and we were able to get pressure from our front four all night.'
Pagel, who passed for 298 yards on the night, scored the final TD in the first half, and the first in the second half, making it a 2-point game.
But like they did all night, the Rams swung the momentum right back on the next offensive play with a 78-yard TD by Jones, who finished with 186 yards.
"The first play after we got within two, they run a zone play and we couldn't make a tackle he goes (78) yards,' Milano said. "He's a great back and we didn't do enough things right.'
West reached Spring-Ford territory the next drive but a sack on first down led to an interception on third. On its first drive of the fourth quarter, West had a fourth-and-three at its 44, but Pagel was sacked for a nine-yard loss.
The next play Rams' quarterback Matt Daywalt hit Jake Leahy for a 35-yard score with 7:31 to go and the game was all but over at 36-21.
"We didn't come out with the same level of emotion as the previous two weeks against Downingtown East and Coatesville,' Milano said. "We maybe ran out of gas, I don't know.'
The Whippets outgained the Rams 451-420, and had 23 first downs, while giving up just eight. But Spring-Ford was able to make key plays on both sides of the ball at just the right times, and it will be the Rams traveling to Neshaminy next week.
Pagel's 298 passing yards were the most since Bret Gillespie cracked the 300-yard mark in 2009. The senior signal-caller finished his season with 1,213 yards and nine TDs on the ground and nine more through the air.
"It hurts right now, but this team accomplished a lot.' Pagel said. "The Ches-Mont title, that's ours and we'll always hold that with us.'
Thomas Mattioni, who didn't have a reception coming into the game, hauled nine passes for 106 yards, while Barr caught 10 for 87.
PAC-10 quartet set for District 1 tourney openers
In the early part of Rick Pennypacker's 25-year tenure as Pottsgrove football coach, qualifying for postseason play was a big deal for the Falcons.
"Some people are just happy to be there, and that's the way it used to be here when we first started making the playoffs,' Pennypacker said.
In recent seasons, however, the Falcons have had more of a big-picture approach.
"This is our ' second season,' and they know that,' Pennypacker said. "We want to go there and do well. Now, it's a one-game season every week.'
That season begins Friday for the Pioneer Athletic Conference champion Falcons as well as fellow league squads Spring-Ford, Perkiomen Valley and Phoenixville.
Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker during pregame. (Photo by John Strickler/The Mercury)
Top seed Pottsgrove (10-0) plays host to eighth seed Phoenixville (4-6) in a District 1-AAA quarterfinal, while in District 1-AAAA first-round games No. 12 seed Spring-Ford (8-2) visits No. 5 Downingtown West (8-2) and No. 15 seed Perkiomen Valley (8-2) travels to No. 2 seed Bayard Rustin (10-0).
The Falcons, who were ousted by Henderson in the district semifinals last year, won District 1-AAA titles in 2009 and 2011 — and are hoping the odd-year motif can continue.
"Our kids have been there before,' Pennypacker said. "They know how it works and understand it. To be honest, this week has been one of the best weeks of practice we've had.'
Pottsgrove features a rock-solid defense led by the linebacking duo of Jeff Adams and Tyrone Parker and corners Mike Fowler and Marquis Barefield.
On the other side of the ball, Barefield has rushed for a team-high 1,380 yards (second in the area) to go along with an area-best 22 total touchdowns. Fowler has been a playmaker at wideout, with eight of his 12 receptions going for touchdowns, with fullback Sene Polamalu providing a powerful between-the-tackles rushing presence. Quarterback Riley Michaels has thrown sparingly (16-for-32 on the season), but made them count with 10 touchdown passes.
"We are trying to win and move on,' Pennypacker said. "But at the same time we want to improve in practice and get better every day.'
The Phantoms have shown improvement of late, despite a season-long slew of injuries that has made things difficult for coach Bill Furlong's crew.
Junior Donnie Jackson stepped in at quarterback for Kyle Karkoska, who was injured against Boyertown four games ago. And there is a promising sophomore contingent led by emerging linebacking force Matt Raniszewski, versatile two-way threat Matt Palubinsky and lineman Mike Vargo.
"We have a lot of kids playing now that weren't when the season started,' Furlong said. "They're young and working hard, and hopefully it's going to pay off. We have a bright future, and we have to take advantage of every opportunity we get. It's a great opportunity to make the playoffs and play Pottsgrove. We're trying to focus on those positives and play better.'
That said, it will likely be an uphill struggle against the Falcons, who defeated the Phantoms 52-14 three weeks ago.
"Obviously, they're a good team, but what we have to worry about is us,' Furlong said. "We need to play better, cut down on mistakes and do a better job of executing. If we block everyone we're supposed to block and stay on them until the whistle, that will give us a chance.'
In the 1-AAAA field, Spring-Ford is hoping its memorable experience of advancing to the district final last year will give the Rams a chance to take down Downingtown West.
The Rams feature one of the most dynamic backs in all of District 1 (and the state as well) in senior Jarred Jones, who has rushed for 1,380 yards and 20 touchdowns despite missing two games. Jones has eye-popping averages of 172.5 rushing yards per game and 10.8 yards per carry, and didn't play in both of his team's losses (a 37-21 Week 1 setback to Whitehall and 14-7 Week 5 loss to Pottsgrove). The 5-foot-11, 195-pound Jones is 203 rushing yards shy of 4,000 for his career.
Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker has had somewhat of a revolving door at quarterback, and indicated senior Matt Daywalt (who spent most of the year on the defensive line) will get the starting nod against the Whippets.
"At this point of the year, you have to be able to go down the field,' Brubaker said. "Matt gives us the best chance to do that.'
Spring-Ford's defense, led by down lineman Robby Varner and Mason Romano and linebacker Andy Lovre-Smith, has given up just 17 total points over the past five weeks, and has a plus-16 turnover margin over the past six games.
"Our mantra has always been that we go on the field expecting to win,' Brubaker said. "Our coaching staff isn't married to anything in particular; we're going to do what we feel it takes to win the game. We've been telling our kids that District 1 is wide open, and they're excited for the opportunity. If you protect the football and play good defense, you're always going to have a shot.'
Downingtown West has won seven straight games since a 1-2 start, including a 24-7 victory over defending 1-AAAA champ Coatesville last week that secured the Ches-Mont League's National Division title. A defensive effort led by the front four of Pat Coyne, Mike Withka, Brandon Peterson and Eric Stanko held the Raiders' high-octane attack to just 180 total yards.
"You watch them on film and you can tell they just play with passion,' Brubaker said. "They're not a huge or physically imposing team, but you never see guys taking a play off. They're a very sound team, and it's going to be a real challenge.'
That will also be the case for Perkiomen Valley, which is making its first district playoff appearance since 2007 (and just the second in coach Scott Reed's 10 years at the helm).
Since defeating Methacton 14-6 in its opener, Rustin hasn't had a game closer than 13 points. The Golden Knights feature workhorse back Terry Loper — the leading rusher in the Ches-Mont League with 1,658 yards and 22 touchdowns — on offense and linebacker Sean Steinmetz on defense.
"They're not fancy,' Reed said. "They line up, and it's like, ' Here we are, can you stop it?' That's always our challenge, because we're not overly big on the defensive side of the football. It's going to come down to our ability to run to the ball and tackle, and to use our speed to be able to contest their big offensive linemen.'
By the same token, Rustin will have to deal with a multi-faceted PV offense quarterbacked by star Rasaan Stewart, who has completed 99 of 168 passes for a PAC-10 high of 1,451 yards and 19 touchdowns while also rushing for 836 yards and 11 TDs. For his career, Stewart has 3,821 passing yards and 40 TDs and 2,582 rushing yards.
Senior Mark Bonomo has rushed for a team-high 842 yards and nine TDs, with the receiving tandem of Clay Domine (29 catches, 485 yards, seven TDs) and Dakota Clanagan (29-405 yards, nine TDs) providing a dose of double trouble for opposing secondaries.
"We're going to need to make plays, get first downs and attack the entire field,' Reed said. "We were knocking on the door last year and just missed it (the district tourney), so we're very excited.'
As are the other three PAC-10 squads as they prepare for district tourney action.
AROUND THE AREA
Spring-Ford assistant coach Steve Schein was inducted into the Bristol Township School District Athletic Hall of Fame last weekend. ... The mind-boggling 88 plays run by Boyertown last week against Pottsgrove gave the Bears 647 in PAC-10 play, shattering Perkiomen Valley's record of 562 set last year. The Bears' 3,713 total yards fell shy of PV's record 3,840 of last season. Speaking of Boyertown, senior running back Cody Richmond's 46 carries against the Falcons established a Berks County single-game record. ... Methacton (6-4) can notch its first seven-victory campaign since 2000 with a win over 0-10 Norristown Saturday.
Coaches share memories of playoffs past
With five local teams in action this weekend in the opening round of the PIAA District One Class AAAA football playoffs, there will be no lack of interest among area fans, who would all like to see their favorites snake through to the bracket's final horizontal line.
Of the five schools in action, all are coached by gentlemen who have dipped their toes into the district pool before.
Some, like North Penn High's Dick Beck, are old hands at district play, while Perkiomen Valley's Scott Reed has coached in just one district playoff game, and that was way back in 2007.
But all have vivid memories from their times in the scholastic coaching spotlight.
Beck, who has guided the Knights since 2002, has a district coaching resume that would humble Knute Rockne.
In his 12th season as head coach, Beck has already watched his Knights claim six District One titles, while his record in district-playoff action is an eye-popping 29-4.
Still, when it comes to memories, Beck's most memorable came in his first district playoff game as a head coach.
It came in 2002, when the 8-2 Knights found themselves as the lowliest team in the eight-team bracket of what was then a sub-regional that District One shared with Districts Two and Four.
"We got in by a miracle,' Beck recalled. "Three teams lost in the final week that had no business losing, and that put us in against the undefeated, No. 1 team in the state, Downingtown.'
Downingtown was in its final season as a program before the district split into what are now Downingtowns East and West.
Their stadium was brand new and their fans were rabid, anticipating an easy blowout win.
But it wasn't to be.
"We were lucky to get in,' Beck said, "but we were pretty good. Most of the players on that team came back the following year and helped us win the state title.
"We had lost two of our first four games, to a real good team from Colorado in our opener and then later in the season to Neshaminy.'
And when they got to Downingtown, the Knights weren't concerned about stadiums, rankings or fans.
Beck said the turning point in the game came with North Penn up, 14-7.
"We had a fourth-and-goal from the 18,' Beck said, "and our quarterback, Justin Wutti, threw and out-and-up to Deanco Oliver for a touchdown. And that was it.'
North Penn would go on to win, 35-12, and two weeks later the Knights would bring home their first district title under Beck.
Some playoff memories are not about ends of games and seasons, but about beginnings.
Like Beck, Plymouth Whitemarsh head coach Dan Chang's vivid playoff memory came at the beginning of his first playoff coaching experience, and involved a quarterback from Central Bucks South High School named Matt Johns.
"His ability to control that offense, and his arm were just unbelievable,' Chang recalled. "That was just at another level for us.
"You can see his ability on film, but when you see it in person, it's different.'
The Colonials would drop that contest, 52-24, and Johns would do his part to aid in PW's demise, throwing for 218 yards and a pair of scores.
"Just watching him in warmups and how easy that ball came off his hand,' Chang said, "is something I won't forget.'
And there's a performance that Perkiomen Valley's Reed won't soon forget. It was in his first and only district playoff coaching experience, and it happened in the 2007 playoffs with Reed's seventh-seeded Vikings playing host to 10th-seeded Glen Mills.
"What I won't forget is watching Bernard Pierce running the ball against us,' Reed said of the Temple product and current member of the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens, who had 159 yards rushing and a touchdown in the Battlin' Bulls' 36-26 win. "He had a good night, (Glen Mills) made a couple of big plays and beat us.
"It was a close game, we were up 10, then they went up 10,' Reed recalled. "But I won't forget watching (Pierce) run.'
For Spring-Ford's Chad Brubaker, his vivid memory was the most recent, coming from last year's District One semifinal matchup with Pennridge, won by Spring-Ford, 35-24, to propel his team into the District One final against Coatesville.
"We had had a real tough game against Ridley the week before,' Brubaker said. "We got up big, let them back in the game and had to hold them off at the end.
"Going into the Pennridge game, we were confident. And what I remember is what a great atmosphere it was for a playoff football game. It was a Saturday, cold and it even snowed, and it was a great win.
"There were a number of great memories from last year, but that Pennridge game was a good one.'
A good one for Upper Dublin head coach Bret Stover came in the first of four playoff games in which he has guided the Cardinals, and it came in a first half that no one could have expected.
"The knock against Upper Dublin was that we were the team that had never been to the playoffs,' Stover said, recalling the Cards' 2007 meeting with Neshaminy. "We knew we were going up against a great team in Neshaminy, but that's what happens to small squads when they get into the playoffs.'
Surprisingly, however, Upper Dublin was anything but small in the first half against the Redskins, holding them scoreless until the final play of the second quarter.
"They scored on the final play of the half, and it really could have been scoreless at halftime,' Stover recalled proudly.
Neshaminy would go on to win easily, 42-7, but the Cardinals gave their coach a lasting memory.
"We're trying to get beyond that now,' Stover said. "We want to start winning playoff games and get the program to the next level.'
The Keller-Williams Gridiron
Spring-Ford pounds Pottstown 49-7, shifts focus to districts
ROYERSFORD — For Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubaker, a 49-7 victory over visiting Pottstown didn't offer the silver lining that the score may have indicated.
For the fourth-year head coach, going forward became his mantra post game as he saw parts that needed to be adjusted and schemes that needed to shored up before the Rams head off into district play next Friday.
"We were just trying to execute (tonight),' Brubaker said. "We learned some things on what we need to do going forward.'
Jarred Jones — who Brubaker had called "white-out' the week before due to his play-making ability that can masquerade missed assignments on the O-line — ran for a game-high 135 yards on 11 carries and, at times, looked to be unstoppable as he carried Trojans defenders with him on nearly every carry.
"You have to give their offensive line credit (for Jones' performance), "Pottstown first-year head coach Don Grinstead said. "He's a heck of a back. He's one of those guys that can make all the cuts, do a bunch of a different stuff.'
For Brubaker, however, despite the 348 yards of total offense put forth in the 42-point win, there was room for improvement. "Our offensive line did a decent job,' Brubaker said. "There were a couple of plays where there was some leakage. We've got to correct that going forward.'
For Grinstead — he saw the silver lining in the score. The numbers on the scoreboard meant nothing. Facing adversity all season while suiting up only 23 players for Friday's game, Grinstead was ecstatic about the team's performance.
"I'm so proud of these kids. I can't even look at the scoreboard I'm so proud ... I'll go to any game with that 23-24 kids. I just love them. They've been through a lot, we just move on. We're going to move on from this and get ready for this week.'
Similar to last week's victory over Owen J. Roberts, the Rams' defense was rattled a bit in the early going. Following Jake Leahy's 18-yard touchdown run and a Zac DeMedio interception on the Rams next possession, the Trojans submitted their highlight of the night as Denzel Harvey, who was working against man-to-man coverage, broke free of his defender and hauled in a strike from Gary Wise. With full momentum going forward, Harvey broke a would-be tackler before sprinting to the end zone for the 42-yard touchdown, tying the game 7-7.
"I was disappointed in our first drive,' Brubaker said. "The turnover was disappointing, it wasn't the right read. They caught us in man coverage and picked a good matchup and they executed on that. The kid (Harvey) made a nice move down the field.'
"Everyone of one of them came out and practiced hard,' Grinstead said of the Trojans. "They came out and played hard. We gave them everything we had for the first quarter.'
After the first quarter it was all Rams.
Spring-Ford struck for four second-quarter touchdowns, highlighted by a Brandon Barone 48-yard punt return for a touchdown midway through the second quarter. Barone, who was trying to get to the left edge, received a bone-crunching block from Connor Crawford allowing him to sprint down the field in front of his elated home crowd.
"Connor Crawford — he'll be on the awards board this week,' Brubaker said.
With a running clock in the third quarter, the Rams struck again midway through the frame as Leahy scampered for a 30-yard touchdown run — their sixth touchdown in six possessions since the second-drive interception. Their defense kept up the blistering pace from the end of the first, holding the Trojans to 26 yards of total offense in the half.
"We're going to build off what we did in the first quarter, what we did in practice this past week. I think it's going to carry us next week. We're playing a good team in Great Valley and it's a good opportunity for us to keep getting better,' Grinstead said.
For Brubaker and Spring-Ford, it's all about going forward.
"Everyone (in districts) is going to be good going forward,' Brubaker said. "We can't allow those lapses going forward.'
Spring-Ford honored the life of Brian Clarke, as his parents were made honorary captains for the coin toss. Clarke was struck while riding his bicycle on Township Line Road in July 2012. In honor of Clarke, the Rams played their first play from scrimmage with 10 players. Spring-Ford utilized two quarterbacks in the game as Matt Daywalt and DeMedio both saw a significant number of snaps. Brubaker said that "he wanted to get both quarterbacks as much playing time as possible.' DeMedio finished the game 7-for-15 for 103 yards and two touchdowns. Daywalt had one touchdown on 1-for-3 passing and also ran for two touchdowns. Pottstown's Wise was 4-for-9 for 54 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
The Keller-Williams Gridiron
Jones' 4 TDs carry Spring-Ford past Owen J. Roberts
Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubaker calls running Jarred Jones white-out; a running back who's ability allows him to cover up a mistake that a teammate may have.
Owen J. Roberts might have a different nickname for him — Houdini. Yes, Jones performed his best now-you-see-him-now-you-don't routine in Spring-Ford's convincing 47-3 victory over Owen J. Roberts on Friday night as he transformed would-be losses into masterful runs en route to a 184-yard performance, racking up four touchdowns.
"He does everything we ask him to on the field. He's a player,' Brubaker said.
"We gave up too many long runs from Jones,' Owen J. Roberts senior running back Wyatt Scott said.
For Scott, his senior night started promising as the Wildcats, aided by a fake punt on the team's first fourth down, took the opening drive and marched down the field 53 yards, prompting a timeout from a frustrated Brubaker.
The Rams held their ground, forcing two straight incompletions from Mitch Bradford, prompting a 29-yard field goal by Matt Dinnocenti to give the Wildcats the early 3-0 advantage.
"We should have converted seven points at least, we were pretty happy picking up three,' Scott said. "That was a pretty long kick from our sophomore kicker, so it was good for him — a good confidence booster.'
"We were upset defensively,' Brubaker said. "From there on we played a little bit better.'
Boy did they ever.
After holding the Wildcats to a three-and-out on its next possession, the Rams began to get their offense in gear. Throughout the next 42 minutes the Rams offense became unstoppable — scoring on eight of their nine possessions throughout the game.
Highlighted by Jones' 46-yard run where he swept right, broke a tackle in the backfield, broke two more in the mid-level before breaking off down the right sideline for his third touchdown, the Rams built a comfortable 24-3 cushion with five minutes remaining in the half.
Things then got unlucky for the Wildcats.
After seeing their last drive end with a Scott fumble, the Rams took possession with 21 seconds left in the half. As two Zac Demedio passes fell harmlessly to the turf, his last, a 47-yarder to Gary Hopkins was the proverbial back-breaker. Demedio's pass had hung in the air long enough for an OJR safety to get a hand on it, but the tip landed right in the hands of Hopkins who then proceeded to drag another OJR defender into the end zone with him as time expired, giving the Rams a 37-3 lead entering the half.
Scott and the Wildcats offense tried to make a game of it in the second half as the senior added to his 111 yards on the ground, but a fumble and a turnover on downs after an 11-play, 74-yard drive negated any shot of a comeback.
"We were moving the ball on them,' Scott said. "We turned the ball over too many times and they converted on those.'
A DeMedio quarterback keeper at the 10:23 mark of the fourth quarter culminated the scoring for the Rams who still hold out hope for a shot as co-champion in the PAC-10 depending on Pottsgrove's outcome next week at Boyertown.
"We were a little inconsistent on the defensive front. We weren't consistent in our techniques and fundamentals,' Brubaker said. "We played well over the last three games, but they did some nice things like getting 6-7 yards a carry. That's something we need to address.'
Spring-Ford's David Gulati hit two field goals on the day, one a 24-yarder, the other a 42-yarder that clanked off the upright and in. Brandon Leacraft was excellent through the air throwing for 126 yards on 6-for-8 passing. Brandon Barone led the team with 47 yards receiving as six different receivers caught passes for the Rams. William Dawson led the Wildcats with a game-high two sacks.
Schein to go into Hall
By Karen Sangillo Staff writer
Posted on October 24, 2013
Steve Schein has been coaching football for 39 years. And he got his start in Levittown.
The 1969 Woodrow Wilson graduate is one of 10 slated to be inducted into the Bristol Township School District Athletic Hall of Fame.
“It’s a long time ago, but it’s a great honor. I’m very humbled and surprised about it, especially with all people I know in there,” Schein said. “There are so many really good coaches and players from the past, and I’m very happy to be among them.
“I had some great coaches at Wilson and in addition to helping me as an athlete they also helped me formulate my coaching philosophy.”
Other inductees include Thelma Finney-Johnson (1957 Delhaas, field hockey, basketball, softball); Sherry Polk VanCleve (1959 Delhaas, field hockey, basketball, softball); Jack Watts (1971 Woodrow Wilson, football); Michelle Terry Reitz (1977 Woodrow Wilson, basketball, softball); Matt Given (1985 Harry S. Truman, football, wrestling); Jody Sleppy (Harry S. Truman 1990, soccer, volleyball); Chad Bailey (Harry S. Truman 1991, wrestling) and Tyrone Lewis (2006 Harry S. Truman, football, winter track, baseball).
Also being inducted is the late Henry Johns, a teacher and coach who served in the district from 1974 until his death in 1999. Johns is the distinguished service honoree.
Schein was a standout in football, basketball and baseball for the Golden Rams. After graduation, he played four years of football at West Chester, where he majored in health and physical education and received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
He taught at Spring-Ford, where he coached football, track and wrestling. After 10 years at Spring-Ford, he was named the head football coach at Upper Merion, where he coached for 17 years.
He retired from teaching in 2008 but continues to coach, currently serving as an assistant football coach at Spring-Ford.
He and wife Stephanie live in Royersford. They have one son, Ben, who graduated from Spring-Ford and is now at Miami majoring in physical therapy with a minor in health care management.
An induction ceremony and reception dinner will be held at Georgine’s Restaurant, 1320 Newport Road in West Bristol on Nov. 2. The program will begin at 6 p.m. and the dinner at 7 p.m.
Tickets are $30 per person. Reservations must be made by this Friday, through Rebecca Compton at 215-757-2408 or RCompton@BTSDUS.
Make checks payable to Bristol Township Athletic Hall of Fame and mail to Rebecca Compton at Harry S. Truman High School, 3001 Green Lane, Levittown, PA 19057.
If you have a seating preference at the banquet include that with your check.
In addition to the ceremony at Georgine’s Restaurant, the inductees will be introduced at the football game this Friday night. The game is also Homecoming, and the opponent is Suburban One League National Conference rival Council Rock North. Game time is 7 p.m.
The Gridiron - October 21, 2013
' Big Three' separating themselves from PAC-10 pack
By Darryl Grumbling
The Miami Heat has LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh.
Pioneer Athletic Conference football has Pottsgrove, Perkiomen Valley and Spring-Ford.
For the past two seasons, the PAC-10's version of the "Big Three' has broken away from the rest of the league pack on the gridiron — and the disparity seems more apparent than ever this fall.
When the Falcons (7-0 PAC-10, 8-0 overall), Vikings (6-1, 7-1) and Rams (5-1, 6-2) have locked horns with each other, the games have been veritable Instant Classics.
That was the case in Week 3, when Spring-Ford held off Perkiomen Valley 14-7, and in Week 5, when Pottsgrove gutted out a 14-7 win over Spring-Ford.
It will likely be more of the same Friday night, when the defending league champ Falcons visit the Vikings in a showdown that is brimming with title implications.
When the threesome has faced the rest of its PAC-10 foes, however, the meetings have been one-sided affairs in which about the only drama has been when the mercy-rule running clock will be invoked.
Pottsgrove, Perkiomen Valley and Spring-Ford have outscored their opponents 746-90 in those contests this season. The average score has been 46.6-5.6, with the closest game being the Falcons' 28-7 win over Methacton in Week 4.
Pottsgrove, under veteran coach Rick Pennypacker, has been the standard bearer for the terrific trio, posting a 65-10 overall mark since the start of the 2008 campaign. The Falcons are 49-3 in league play during that time frame, and have won 21 straight PAC-10 regular season contests since a 49-35 loss to Spring-Ford in 2011.
The Rams, meanwhile, have compiled a 37-10 mark since Chad Brubaker took over as coach in 2010. They won the league title in 2011 and reached the District 1-AAAA final (and PIAA quarterfinal) last season. Spring-Ford is 24-3 in its last 27 PAC-10 games.
Perkiomen Valley has come on strong over the past two years, putting together a 15-4 overall mark. Coach Scott Reed's crew is 13-3 in its last 16 PAC-10 games, with those losses coming at the hands Spring-Ford (twice) and Pottsgrove (once).
THE ROCK SHOW
One big reason for Perkiomen Valley's ascension has been the presence of star quarterback/safety Rasaan Stewart — a.k.a "Rock' to his teammates.
The 6-foot-1, 176-pound Stewart earned All-Area Player of the Year honors last year as a junior, when he threw for 1,636 yards and 12 touchdowns and ran for 1,210 yards and 21 scores.
Those are hard numbers to top, but through eight weeks Stewart has continued to generate eye-popping stats despite rarely playing all four quarters. He has thrown for 1,059 yards and an area-high 16 touchdowns (with just four interceptions) and also run for 742 yards and 11 more TDs.
Stewart's performance in Friday's 48-6 victory over Boyertown, when he passed for 201 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 133 yards and two more scores, may have been his best of the year.
Lost in those gaudy figures is the dynamic effort Stewart brings at the defensive end, where he's been a huge part of a unit that's posted four shutouts and is allowing an average of 4.3 points per game.
Spring-Ford defense stifles Pope John Paul II in 47-0 win
UPPER PROVIDENCE — Most likely, the Spring-Ford defense did not really know every play that Pope John Paul II was going to run before it happened in Saturday afternoon's first half. But it sure did seem like it at times.
The well-prepared Ram defense executed its plans well and was quick to the ball while holding the Golden Panthers to a net total of one yard before the halftime break. The Spring-Ford offense wasn't bad either as it rolled up 40 points by the break en route to a 47-0 Pioneer Athletic Conference win.
The shutout was the second in the last three games and the third of the year for the Rams (5-1, 6-2), who have allowed an average of just seven points per league outing. Jarred Jones led the winning offense, that accumulated exactly 600 yards (361 rushing, 239 passing), with 199 yards and four touchdowns on 12 carries and quarterback Brandon Leacraft went 8-for-12 through the air for 160 yards and two scores.
"They were well-prepared,' Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker said concerning his defense that yielded just 74 yards for the day. "Our coaching staff prepared them well and picked up on a couple tendencies. They executed and recognized some things and got in the right formations. You take away one play from Methacton (which had scored on the first play from scrimmage the week before against Spring-Ford) and we've had 12 straight shutout quarters.'
"That's what our goal is every week,' Ram senior middle linebacker Andy Lovre-Smith said concerning the zeros on the scoreboard for the opposition. "And we take a lot of pride in that. You want to keep the zeros.'
Spring-Ford forced six straight punts in the first half and Pope John Paul II (1-6, 1-7) did not gain its initial first down of the day until a 15-yard penalty on the Rams with less than three minutes remaining in the half.
Then the Panthers moved the sticks again on a 16-yard run by John Bildstein to the Spring-Ford 40 yard line. PJP advanced to the 28 on that drive and nearly scored on a pass try down the middle from Matt Mesaros to Bildstein, but Joe Bush knocked it away at the last second to preserve the shutout.
Meanwhile, the Rams were forced to punt after three plays on the first possession of the game, but scored six times in a row after that — Jones on a 51-yard run, Gary Hopkins on a 27-yard pass from Leacraft, Jake Leahy on a 57-yard carry, Jones on a 10-yard run, Joe Sink on a 43-yard bomb from Leacraft, and Jones on a 40-yard rush.
"We were just working as a team together today,' said Leacraft. "Nobody's getting on anybody. If they made a bad play, we kept them up.'
The junior quarterback also appreciated the efforts of the defense.
"It helps out a lot,' he added. "The defense helps the offense even though we're not playing. It takes a lot of the pressure off the offense if it's a close game.'
Leacraft began the day with two incomplete passes. In fact, the first successful pass for the Rams came on a 37-yard toss from Matt Daywalt to Hopkins on a flea-flicker play. But Leacraft was nearly perfect the rest of the way.
"He started out a little hesitant,' said Brubaker. "We tried to get him comfortable. Once he completes a couple balls, he's fine.'
But the Ram defense seemed comfortable from the start and dropped PJP for losses nine times on the day.
"They had everything timed and they bring the house and we couldn't block it,' said Golden Panther coach Mike Santillo.
"We play as a team,' said Lovre-Smith. "We trust each other to do each other's jobs. You've got to play as hard as you can. You know someone will make the plays. It's a team effort.
"We prepare well every week. The big thing is stopping them, and we've done that.'
Brubaker made a point of mentioning all of his defensive coaches — Steve Schein, Jim Mich, Jr., D.J. Fox, Bob Swire, and Mike Holland — for the way they get the team ready to play.
"They just prepare our kids well,' Brubaker said. "We watch a lot of film during the week. They've been doing a great job all year.'
The Rams averaged better than 11 yards on their 32 rushing attempts. ... Danny Matthews had three receptions for Spring-Ford, good for 58 yards, and also intercepted a pass. ... Kirk Cherneskie caught two passes for PJP, including one for 16 yards that equaled the hosts' longest gain of the day. ... The Rams' punt on their first series was their only one of the game.
For one Spring-Ford family, a number's roots run deep
POSTED: TUESDAY, OCTOBER 15, 2013, 10:11 AM
Dean Vagnozzi never said anything to his kids. It was just something they did on their own. And that, he said, is what has made it so special.
Vagnozzi, the patriarch of an athletic clan in the Spring-Ford school district, was surprised when his son, Alec, came home a few years ago with a football jersey bearing 42, the same number he wore as a college football player. When his daughter, Gabrielle, a promising soccer player, struck a deal with a teammate to claim the number, he knew a full-blown family tradition was born.
And it’s one that won’t be dying soon. The two younger Vagnozzi children, 13-year-old Mitchell and 10-year-old Felicia, also wear the number for their travel baseball and soccer teams, respectively. Gabrielle is one of the area’s top sophomores and is likely to play in college.
“All their teammates know: hands off, that’s the number they’re wearing,” Vagnozzi said.
The No. 42 didn’t have any initial significance to the family. Vagnozzi selected the number randomly when his high school number was already taken at Albright. But now, the number has claimed a life of its own.
“To see them running around with the same number I had, it’s flattering,” Vagnozzi said. “It’s kind of neat, like a piece of me out there with them.”
With Alec, a two-way lineman and all-purpose player for Spring-Ford’s football team, set to graduate this year and unlikely to continue playing, the family wanted to capture the moment. Vagnozzi’s wife, Christa, recently commissioned a family portrait of everyone wearing their 42 jerseys. Vagnozzi’s still fit, albeit a little snugger than it did in the late 1980s when he was a three-year starter at fullback and punted for Albright.
The family posted the picture on their respective Facebook pages, and it generated hundreds of likes and comments.
“Normally, the kids fight us on everything,” Vagnozzi said. “But when we got that picture done, they were proud of it.”
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/rally/springfordvagnozzi.html#YOOYsVwHtuwBRVF2.99
Keller Williams of Limerick Gridiron
Spring-Ford forces 8 turnovers in win over Methacton
By DAVE KURTZ
ROYERSFORD – Spring-Ford’s defense forced eight turnovers and Jarred Jones rushed for 230 yards and two scores to power the Rams to a 30-7 PAC-10 victory over Methacton Saturday afternoon at Coach McNelly Stadium.
The opportunistic Rams celebrated Homecoming by recovering four fumbles and picking off four passes – two by Cody Davis – to raise their record to 4-1 in the league and 5-2 overall.
“It’s always a goal to get as many turnovers as we can,” said Davis, a senior CB/WR who also caught one pass for 28 yards. “The goal is usually three. Today, it had a huge impact on the game. Every time they would have an opportunity and get some momentum, we seemed to be able to turn it over.”
Methacton (3-3, 3-4) had plenty of early momentum when Akeem Walcott caught a bubble screen from Conner Derrickson and raced up the right sideline 80 yards to the house on the opening play from scrimmage. But the 7-0 lead would be short-lived, lost in the fog created by the 8 giveaways.
“If we could have finished the game after the first play the last two years, we’d have gotten two wins,” said Methacton coach Paul Lepre, remembering QB Brandon Bossard’s 66-yard scramble on the first snap last season that led to Dillen White’s 3-yard scoring run in a remarkably similar 31-7 setback. “It came down to turnovers. You’re not going to win many games turning the ball over that many times.”
The most crucial giveaway was a lost fumble recovered by Alec Vagnozzi at the Spring-Ford 30 with 6:02 left in the third quarter and the Warriors down by only 16-7. Michael Cassidy had ripped off a 36-yard run prior to the mishap, but that momentum swung quickly in Spring-Ford’s direction when Jones took a handoff on the very next play and darted 70 yards through traffic to the house.
“Cassidy had that nice run and then we put the ball on the carpet,” said Lepre. “We were right there, down 16-7. We had to play close to perfect and we didn’t do that.”
Ball security and execution were anything but perfect for the Warriors. Methacton had five second-half possessions – and all five ended with turnovers – three picks and two lost fumbles. Jared Shoemaker’s interception and 52-yard return led to a 29-yard touchdown pass from Zac DeMedio to Gary Hopkins with 11:53 remaining in the fourth quarter to essentially seal the deal.
“If you’re a defensive coach, you’ree happy with the 8 turnovers,” said Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker. “But if you’re an offensive coach and you only score 30 points off them, it’s a different story.”
The Rams struggled offensively at the start, getting only 9 points on field goals of 25, 24 and 36 yards from David Gulati out of four Red Zone possessions in the early going. Jones went 34 yards for his first touchdown with 3:07 left in the second quarter to put Spring-Ford in control at the break, 16-7.
“I had no idea I had 230 yards,” said Jones, who eclipsed the 3,000-yard rushing barrier for his career last week. “I’m really not into stats – that’s something my mom keeps track of.”
Jones’ numbers improved when the Rams went to a double tight-end set in the second half, getting 132 of his yards after the intermission.
“Methacton came out with a different defense than we expected,” Brubaker said. “We were expecting a 4-3 but they came out in a 3-3. We adjusted to the double tight-end set in the second half. Instead of running zone, we started running right at them.”
DeMedio did a commendable job running the Spring-Ford offense after starting quarterback Brandon Leacraft went out with a large gash on his chin after taking a nasty hit late in the second quarter. While the Rams picked up 382 total yards, it was the defense – keyed by DE Mason Romano (sack, 7 tackles, 3 TFL) and DT Robby Varner (2 TFL, 8 tackles, fumble recovery) that made the biggest impact.
“I have no complaints about our defense,” said Jones. “They helped the offense out a lot. Our offensive line started out a little shaky with a little bit of confusion, but they started doing their thing. They gave me some daylight and I just went for it.”
NOTES: Joe Bush had the other INT for the Rams, who got fumble recoveries came from Varner, Vagnozzi, Matt Daywalt and Michael Fuhrmeister … Cassidy was a beast on both sides of the ball for the Warriors. The gritty LB/FB had 8 carries in the second half and picked up 89 yards to lead an offense that posted 251 total yards … Helena Mullen was named the 2013 Spring-Ford Homecoming Queen … Lepre: “I can’t say enough about our defense. They stood tall and kept battling the entire game. They’ve been solid all year.”
- See more at: http://www.pac-10sports.com/article/content/football-spring-ford-forces-8-turnovers-win-over-methacton-0013596#sthash.yIy8jsma.dpuf
Spring-Ford tops turnover-plagued Methacton
By Darryl Grumbling
ROYERSFORD — Like bees to honey and sharks to blood in the water, the Spring-Ford defense had an abnormal attraction to the football Saturday afternoon.
The Rams forced no less than eight turnovers en route to a 30-7 Pioneer Athletic Conference victory over Methacton at Coach McNelly Stadium.
The Homecoming contest didn't exactly get off to a positive start for the hosts, as Warriors slotback Akeem Walcott took a short pass in the right flat from quarterback Conner Derrickson and raced 80 yards on the first play from scrimmage.
From there, however, it was virtually all Rams.
Jarred Jones ran for 230 yards and two touchdowns, quarterback Zac DeMedio was solid in a relief role and Cody Davis had two interceptions as Spring-Ford improved to 4-1 in the PAC-10 and 5-2 overall.
"We were ballhawks up and down the field,' said Davis, a senior strong safety. "We just work really well together. We have good communication. Our linebackers make big plays, our front four makes quarterbacks make bad throws and our D-backs take advantage of it.'
Though Spring-Ford had great field position early, the Rams couldn't cash in with touchdowns and had to settle for three David Gulati field goals — the final one a 36-yarder into a stiff wind that put the Rams up to stay at 9-7 less than two minutes into the second quarter.
Jones, who missed several plays after landing awkwardly on his neck in the first quarter, returned with a vengeance and
eventually ripped off a 34-yard TD run 3:07 before the half.
Methacton (3-3, 3-4), which had shown a penchant for coming on strong in the second half in several previous games, was still very much in the game after Mike Cassidy rumbled 41 yards to the Rams 30 midway through the third quarter.
On the next play, however, the Warriors fumbled and Spring-Fords' Alec Vagnozzi recovered it.
Jones immediately bolted through a gaping hole for a back-breaking 70-yard TD run that made it 23-7 with 5:52 left in the third.
DeMedio — who entered the game late in the second quarter after starter Brandon Leacraft took a helmet to the chin and didn't return — hit Gary Hopkins for a 28-yard scoring connection on the first play of the fourth quarter to close out the scoring.
"I knew I have to always be ready in case something happens like that,' said DeMedio, a 5-foot-11, 190-pound senior, who finished 6-for-11 for 103 yards. "When you're the next man up, you have to be ready for a situation like that.
"Offensively,the game plan was just to just run the ball more once we came out in the second half. Once we got that established, we saw some areas to throw the ball and took advantage of that.'
Joe Bush and Jared Shoemaker also collected interceptions, while Matt Daywalt, Robby Varner and Mike Fuhrmeister had the other fumble recoveries for the Rams.
"We had eight turnovers, but only scored 30 points,' Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker said. "If you're a defensive coach, I'm sure you're happy with that, but as a head coach, I'm disappointed we didn't put them away earlier when we had opportunities.'
Cassidy ran for a team-high 88 yards for the Warriors — all of that coming in the second half — and also had a strong game on defense, where Methacton also got a sack from Bido Gouda.
"I can't say enough about our defense today,' Methacton coach Paul Lepre said. "When you come away in that situation (four trips to the end zone) by giving up only nine points, there's not much more you can ask for. Our defense stood tall and kept us right there with an opportunity. But when you have eight turnovers it makes it tough.'
Hopkins had a game-high four catches for 49 yards for Spring-Ford. ... Gulati, who had been 0-for-1 on field goal attempts heading into the game, finished 3-for-5. His other makes were 24 and 25 yards and his misses were from 34 and 36 yards. ... Helena Mullen were named Homecoming Queen, with Eric Kramer crowned Homecoming King.
Follow Darryl Grumling on Twitter at @MercSmokinD.
Spring-Ford hosts Methacton in Homecoming clash
By Darryl Grumbling
Over the first few weeks of the season, offensive inconsistency plagued both the Spring-Ford and Methacton football teams.
Lately, however, the Rams and Warriors have both seemed to hit their strides as far as moving the chains, conjuring up big plays and putting points on the scoreboard.
Each Pioneer Athletic Conference squad hopes to continue that trend Saturday, when Spring-Ford plays host to Methacton in a Homecoming contest at Coach McNelly Stadium (2 p.m. start).
The Rams (3-1 PAC-10, 4-2 overall) are coming off a, what coach Chad Brubaker called their most balanced offensive effort, 47-0 rout over Upper Perkiomen.
The Warriors (3-2, 3-3), meanwhile, have racked up 104 points over the past two weeks in victories
Spring-Ford quarterback #9 Brandon Leacraft throw for a reception in second quarter. Photo by John Strickler/The Mercury
over Upper Perkiomen (56-20) and Pope John Paul II (48-14).
Methacton has also gained a reputation as a strong second-half squad — having outscored its opposition 109-34 over the final two quarters.
"They've been a strange team in that they've haven't had great first halves, but have had excellent second halves,' Brubaker said. "They play for 48 minutes, and that's something we're going to have to be prepared for. When they're on defensively, they are really tough, and I'm sure they'd like nothing more than to come in here on Homecoming and beat us.'
Spring-Ford got a season-high 204 passing yards and three TD passes from junior quarterback Brandon Leacraft last week, while four players — Jake Leahy, Zac Demedio, Brandon Barone and Jon Traywick — scored their first varsity touchdowns.
That's a theme Brubaker would like to see over the second half of the season, as the Rams try to grow other options besides feature running back Jarred Jones.
"We were trying to give Brandon (Leacraft) some confidence,' Brubaker said. "With the first five weeks of the season, we didn't have any easy games, so it was hard to do that.'
"Our goal and philosophy is to try and get different kids the ball, put themselves in situations they can be the most successful and let them go. We'd been struggling to be able to do that, so it was nice to see a lot of guys involved.'
The most involved continues to be Jones (614 rushing yards, 10 TDs) and the Rams defense — led by the front of Mason Romano, Robbie Varner, Alec Vagnozzi and Matt Daywalt. That unit has allowed just 253 combined yards over the past two weeks.
"Their defense is very fast and physical,' Methacton coach Paul Lepre said. "They play their first two levels very close to the line of scrimmage. They come up and shed blockers real well and run to the ball. My concern is what things we can do to breach the line of scrimmage, move the sticks and maintain control of the football.'
Lepre and Co. also need to reverse their recent motif of starting slow. In Week 2, they fell behind Perkiomen Valley 37-0 at the half. And in Week 4, they trailed defending league champ Pottsgrove 21-0 at the break.
Last week, the Warriors were tied with the Golden Panthers, 14-14, at intermission before reeling off 34 unanswered points.
"I compare them (the Rams) a lot to Pottsgrove,' Lepre said. "We're not going to be able to spot a team like that points early and expect to play catch-up. We need to come out and go toe to toe with them right from the kickoff, and we can't spend too much time on the field defensively.'
Since an 0-2 start, Methacton has won 3-of-4 games thanks to a much-improved offense led by the skill quintet of quarterback Conner Derrickson, fullback Mike Cassidy, wide receiver Dillon Alderfer and slotbacks Kyle Lowery and Akeem Walcott.
Derrickson, who took over as a starter in Week 3, has thrown for six TDs and run for six more; Cassidy has gained the hard yards inside; Alderfer has 20 receptions (four for TDs); Lowery has two long scoring catches over the past two weeks and Walcott is coming off a career-best 120-yard, two-TD rushing effort.
"I think you have to stop 36 (Cassidy),' Brubaker said. "What's really helped them is the quarterback's more of a dual threat, and it puts some added pressure on you defensively to handle those kids.'
Walcott (four interceptions), Cassidy and Alderfer (two defensive scores) are also key elements of the Warriors' defense, which will face one of its stiffest tests in trying to contain Jones and the evolving Rams attack.
"First off, we can't allow them to get a push up front,' Lepre said. "We need to fill gaps and make (Jones) run laterally instead of downhill. We have to make him make moves in the backfield instead of him getting through the line of scrimmage and then being able to run.'
How well the Warriors can carry out that plan — as well as how effective they can be on offense — will go a long way in determining whether they can take down the Rams for the first time since 2010, when Brubaker and Lepre were both rookie head coaches.
"We like being in the role of underdog,' Lepre said. "I think our kids are working hard at executing what it is we want to do, and hopefully that continues and gives us a chance.'
The area scene is chock full with Homecoming games Friday and Saturday, with Perkiomen Valley (vs. Pope John Paul II), Pottstown (vs. Pottsgrove) and Owen J. Roberts (vs. Upper Perkiomen) celebrating Homecoming tonight and Spring-Ford (vs. Methacton), Phoenixville (vs. Boyertown) and Perkiomen School (vs. Academy of the New Church) following suit Saturday.
Former Pottstown great Aaron Beasley will be honored before the Trojans' game and also be donating a jersey to the school.
Spring-Ford will induct Jim Haldeman, Merrill Bainbridge and Greg Faulkner into its Wall of Fame Saturday. There will also be a reception, sponsored by the Spring-Ford Touchdown Club, for alumni and parents of alumni to unveil the Almuni Hall at 11 a.m. at the school's 1012 Wrestling Room.
Phoenixville will induct 18 former athletes, coaches and contributors into its third Sports Hall of Fame class, including Charles "Art' Faddis, Chris Minor, John W. "Willie' Stevens, Kuhrt Wieneke, Amara (Thornton) Brown, Barb DiArcangelo, Lori (Way) Gulati, Laurie (McAvoy) Hissey, Barbara A. Isanski, Ashley MacLelland, Tim McAvoy, Jason Meister, Tara (Kramer) Rosenbaum, Carlos Garcia Samuels, Nick Sutyak, William Louis "Bill' Thornton, Greg Tull and Robert Vance. A morning luncheon and program will be held at the Phoenixville Middle School.
DISTRICT 1 DOINGS
Bayard Rustin (6-0) tops the latest District 1-AAAA power rankings with 790 points, with fellow unbeatens Garnet Valley (760), Neshaminy (750), Coatesville (740) and Upper Dublin (730) rounding out the top five. Spring-Ford ranks 10th with 630 points and Perkiomen Valley is 13th with 600. Pottsgrove is first in 1-AAA with 780 points, while Phoenixville is tied for eighth with 470 points. ... Since the start of the 2004 season, Garnet Valley has gone 90-21. ... Upper Darby's 21-14 win over Ridley last week was the Royals' first over the Green Raiders in 11 seasons.
AROUND THE STATE
Episcopal Academy (which defeated the Hill School 29-9 in Week 2) saw its 15-game winning streak halted in a 48-47 loss to Lawrenceville (N.J.) Academy Saturday. ... In a big-time Class AAAA clash Friday, St. Joseph's Prep (4-1), ranked first in the state by Pennylvania Football News, takes on sixth-ranked La Salle College High (5-1). ... Steel-High and Susquenita each received forfeit losses after Friday's game was marred by a brawl — forcing the officials to eject nine players and eventually suspend the game with the Rollers up 25-0 late in the first half.
Keller-Williams of Limerick Week 6 Gridiron
Halftime honors from a memorable first half of season
By Darryl Grumbling
Last week's action marked the unofficial midway point to the area scholastic football season, which has already provided more than its share of memorable moments and prime-time performances. Here's a quick recap of what's gone down on the gridiron thus far, with a few midseason awards thrown in:
Player of the Year: Perkiomen Valley quarterback/safety Rasaan Stewart is the reigning All-Area POY, and the 6-foot-1, 176-pounder hasn't done anything to make anyone think he won't repeat. He has thrown for Pioneer Athletic Conference-highs of 778 yards and 12 touchdowns and also run for a team-high 568 yards and eight more scores.
Top back: Spring-Ford senior Jarred Jones has had some off-field issues causing him to miss two of the
Upper Perkiomen running back Aidan Schaffer ran for 392 yards and six touchdowns in a win over Pope John Paul II, the second-highest single game rushing total in PAC-10 history. (Photo by Tom Kelly III)
Rams' six games (not coincidentally both of their losses). But when he's been on the field, Jones has been virtually unstoppable — racking up 614 yards, 10 TDs and 9.3 yards per carry in just four games.
Performance of the Year: Upper Perkiomen's Aidan Schaffer ran for a school-record 396 yards and six TDs — the second-best single-game yardage total in PAC-10 history — in a 37-14 win over Pope John Paul II in Week 4.
Game(s) of the Year: Spring-Ford kicked off what looks to be a three-part trilogy that will decide the PAC-10 title with a 14-7 Week 3 win over Perkiomen Valley.
Then in Week 5, defending league champ Pottsgrove came away with a 14-7 win at Spring-Ford, setting the stage for a highly-anticipated Week 9 showdown between the Falcons and Perkiomen Valley.
Mr. Touchdown: Pottsgrove's Marquis Barefield has an area-best 12 touchdowns and has taken it to the house in almost every way imaginable, including an interception return, fumble return and punt return.
Jerry Rice award: To Hill School's Grant Smith, who switched from quarterback to wideout with eye-popping results. In just three games, Smith has area-bests in receptions (24) and receiving yardage (471), highlighted by a 13-catch, 197-yard outburst in a Week 2 loss to Episcopal Academy.
Cris Carter award: When Buddy Ryan uttered the memorable quote "all he does is catch touchdown passes' about Carter, he may as well have been talking about Pottsgrove's Mike Fowler, who has seven receptions this year — five for TDs.
Deion Sanders award: Pottsgrove's Barefield and Methacton's Akeem Walcott share the area lead with four interceptions, while Pottsgrove's Fowler has provided shut-down coverage as the Falcons have allowed an average of just 48.3 passing yards per game.
Highly offensive: Boyertown leads the PAC-10 in rushing (294.8 yards per game), passing (130.1) and total yardage (424.7) thanks to an attack lead by the quartet of feature back Cody Richmond (league-high 828 rushing yards, nine TDs), quarterback Griffin Pasik (772 passing yards, 427 rushing yards, 14 combined TDs), wideout Nick Brough (18 catches, 363 yards) and slotback Eric Heller (322 rushing yards). If you like points, take in a Bears game. They are averaging 33.5 points per game and allowing 32.3.
Devout defenses: Perkiomen Valley is allowing an area-low 4.7 points per game and has pitched three shutouts. The Vikings have allowed zero passing yards in each of the past two weeks. Pottsgrove, meanwhile, has allowed an area-low 132.2 yards per game.
Sack-happy: Spring-Ford's defensive line of Mason Romano, Robby Varner, Alec Vagnozzi and Matt Daywalt has accumulated a combined 13 sacks. Pottsgrove leads the area with 20 total sacks, including 4.5 by Tyrone Parker and four by Nico Demetrio.
Strength-of-schedule award: To Methacton, whose three losses are to teams (Bayard Rustin, Pottsgrove and Perkiomen Valley) who are a combined 17-1.
Carrying the mail award: Boyertown's Richmond has toted the pigskin a staggering 162 times thus far (and average of 27 times per game), with Owen J. Roberts workhorse Wyatt Scott checking in at 150.
While we're on the subject of guys with big workloads, Daniel Boone's Kyle Myers has amassed a team-high 619 rushing yards while also notching 12 receptions to go along with a combined nine TDs.
Depth award: To Spring-Ford, which has had six different players complete passes, 14 different players run the ball and 14 different players with at least one reception.
Airing it out award: Hill School quarterback Matt Foltz has thrown for an area-high 795 yards in just three games, including a 351-yard performance in a 35-25 loss to Springside Chestnut Hill Academy.
Golden toe award: Perkiomen Valley's Matt Genuardi has booted 20 extra points (including eight in Friday's 62-0 win over Phoenixville) to go along with a 38-yard field goal in a Week 2 win over Methacton. Pottsgrove's Jon Klinger, meanwhile, leads the area with 21 PATs.
Tough luck award: To Pottstown and first-year coach Don Grinstead. The winless Trojans saw a 13-point lead disappear in a 29-13 Week 2 loss to Hatboro-Horsham, then came up empty on what would have been a game-sealing fourth-and-short play deep in Phoenixville territory before seeing the Phantoms rally for an 18-13 win.
Move-the-pile award: To Methacton senior running back Mike Cassidy, whose effective running between the tackles over the past two weeks has helped set up big plays for the Warriors.
Unsung hero award: Perkiomen Valley's Mark Bonomo and Pottsgrove's Sene Polamalu have solid rushing stats, but their blocking has been a key factor in the Vikings' and Falcons' strong ground games.
Line dancing: Speaking of blocking, Pottsgrove's offensive line of Pat Finn, Anthony Pond, Tommy Sephakis, Max Wickward, Jeremy Cuadrada, Jeff Adams and Matt Faulkner has been integral for the unbeaten Falcons, who have won 19 straight PAC-10 regular season games.
Best coaching move: Since Methacton coach Paul Lepre moved Kyle Lowery from quarterback to slotback and inserted Conner Derrickson at QB, both have thrived and helped the Warriors win 3 of 4 games. Derrickson has thrown for six touchdowns and run for six more, while Lowery has two long TD receptions over the past two weeks.
Mr. Big Play: Phoenixville's Mackensie Thomas might only have two catches, but he's made them count — a go-ahead 62-yard TD grab late in a 19-15 win over Owen J. Roberts and a 75-yard TD catch with less than two minutes left in an 18-13 win over Pottstown.
Mr. Versatility: Pope John Paul II's Kirk Cherneskie is a rusher, receiver, blocker, punter, kicker and key linebacker for the Golden Panthers. In a 24-0 Week 3 win over Pottstown, he ran for 74 yards and two touchdowns, kicked a field goal and three extra points and contributed to a defensive effort that notched PJP's first shutout in school history.
Mr. Efficiency: Pottsgrove quarterback Riley Michaels has completed 10 passes, with seven of them going for touchdowns.Mr. Consistency: Perkiomen School's Grant Briddell has rushed for between 50 and 73 yards in all five games despite getting double-digit carries just once.
Wildest ending: After Phoenixville QB Kyle Karkoska was whistled for grounding while running out the clock on a fourth-down play in Week 3 against Owen J. Roberts, the Wildcats received an untimed play from the Phantoms 23. Mitch Bradford hooked up with Kyle Hinrichs in the back edge of the end zone, but Hinrichs' foot came down inches out of bounds and Phoenixville escaped with an 19-15 victory.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Kyle Myers, Daniel Boone
The 5-foot-7, 185-pound senior ran for a season-high 231 yards and three touchdowns Friday to lead the Blazers to a 40-14 win over neighboring rival Twin Valley.
COACH OF THE WEEK
Paul Lepre, Methacton
Guided the Warriors to a 48-14 victory over Pope John Paul II Saturday, the squad's second straight win and third in four games since an 0-2 start. Methacton has scored 104 points over the past two weeks.
DISTRICT 1 DOINGS
A.J. Currotto hit Manny Nieves for a 65-yard scoring strike in the final minute as winless Souderton shocked Pennridge 32-29 Friday. ... After opening the season with three straight losses, North Penn has reeled off three wins in a row after piling up 405 rushing yards in Friday's 35-28 victory over Central Bucks South. ... D'Andre Pollard ran for 205 yards and two touchdowns as undefeated Neshaminy remained on a roll with a 42-20 win over Council Rock North. The Redskins have outscored their opposition 218-34 thus far. ... Tyler Burke intercepted a tipped pass from Downingtown East QB Ryan Rumer in at the five-yard line with four seconds left as Coatesville (6-0), ranked third in the state in Class AAAA by Pennsylvania Football News, escaped with a 14-7 victory over the Cougars. ... West Chester East's Jon Jon Roberts threw for 444 yards in Saturday's 62-34 win over Avon Grove.
Former Boyertown and Pottstown assistant James Martinez has guided Fleetwood to a 4-2 start. The Tigers had gone 2-28 in the three seasons prior to last year, when Martinez (who is 7-9 at Fleetwood) took over. They've won three in a row, including Friday's 17-7 win over Northern Lebanon that established a program record for wins in a season. ... Sto-Rox quarterback Lenny Williams threw three touchdown passes in Friday's 56-14 win over Union to give him a WPIAL-record 89 for his career. ... South Williamsport's Domonick Bragalone broke his own school record for the third time this season by running for 421 yards in Friday's 38-20 win over Hughesville.
Lincoln Park (Michigan) halted a 66-game losing streak — the longest in the state — with a 34-20 victory over Kennedy. It was the Railsplitters' first win since topping Dearborn Edsel Ford 24-19 in 2006. ... Canton McKinley (Ohio) picked up its 800th win in program history Friday, defeating Jackson 53-45. ... Justin Sawmiller of Kenton (Ohio) set a state career receptions mark Friday, when he caught 14 balls for 185 yards in a 34-10 win over Ottawa-Glandorf. Sawmiller (who has 64 receptions for 1,057 yards this year) has 351 career catches for 4,994 yards.
Spring-Ford shuts out Upper Perkiomen, 47-0
PENNSBURG — Although Spring-Ford's Jarred Jones didn't turn 17 until Saturday morning, he started celebrating early by scoring two touchdowns and passing 3,000 rushing yards on his career in a 47-0 romp over Upper Perkiomen Friday night.
"It felt really good to get back to our flow and put the foot down and get down to what we had to do,' Jones said.
Spring-Ford jumped out to a 40-0 lead by halftime through a mixed attack that featured Jones' bruising running and quarterback Brandon Leacraft's arm.
"We go out there, we set our tempo, we're trying to do our Spring-Ford thing, get back to our brand, move the ball on offense,' Jones said.
The senior running back needed just 20 yards on the ground to make it an even 3,000 for his career but picked up 69 on just eight touches Friday night.
He scored on 4-yard and 2-yard runs, the second of which an untouched scamper into the end zone.
"That Jones kid, he runs hard,' said Upper Perkiomen coach Steve Moyer. "And he makes cuts ... sometimes our kids, you would just see them whiff.'
Leacraft connected on 13 of his 19 passes for 176 yards and three touchdowns. He spread the ball around, hitting seven different receivers.
"I just like everybody to touch the ball so we feel like a team, not just one person,' said Leacraft. "I'm not picky. Everybody just needs to touch the ball.'
"Brandon has all the tools,' said Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker. "What he's been lacking is experience and confidence and we've been trying to work on that with him. He did a nice job of picking out, getting a pre-snap read, and then did a good job getting a post-snap read.'
Brandon Barone and Jon Traywick both caught touchdown passes and Gary Hopkins, the leading receiver with 73 yards, also had a scoring snag.
Leacraft took a few downfield shots Hopkins' way.
"It puts a smile on my face,' Leacraft said of seeing Hopkins open on a fly route.
The variety also extended to Spring-Ford's rushing attack, with seven different players rushing the ball.
"We always believe in being balanced and we know that if we feed the ball to Jarred (Jones), he's eventually going to break one,' said Brubaker. "What's nice is to see our kids tonight, they were happy for each other. A lot of different kids were able to score tonight and come up with big plays and our kids were happy for each other.'
"The fact that we have depth, if one of us needs a breather, we can get another tailback and do the same exact thing and get 10 yards, that's great,' Jones said. "We have so many threats, you don't know who's getting the ball, and anyone can take off just as someone else would.'
Jones was back in the lineup after being unavailable for last week's tough loss again Pottsgrove. He was also unavailable in the season opener against Whitpain, another Spring-Ford loss.
"It was just about making sure my team knows I'm there for them,' he said. "I told them I wasn't going to let it happen again.'
Upper Perkiomen started the game on offense attempting to use the Wildcat formation, captained by Aidan Schaffer. Things were moving until Randy Godshall fumbled around the Spring-Ford 37-yard line and the Rams recovered it.
"Then we played catch-up and catch-up is tough to do in the Wildcat,' Moyer said.
Spring-Ford's defense shut down Upper Perkiomen and forced them into a more traditional quarterback set with sophomore Jacob Breyer under center.
Breyer made some decent throws but finished 3-for-8 for 55 yards.
Travis Kline made a great catch near the sideline on a Breyer pass in the second half and almost made another, nearly identical, while double-teamed to bring the Indians to the red zone.
"He's like so many of our kids,' Moyer said of Kline. "He goes both ways and that makes it tough on a night like this.'
Other than that, the Spring-Ford defense essentially had the game on lockdown.
"We've been playing well defensively and we kept that up tonight with the shutout,' Brubaker said.
"We had a tough time matching up,' Moyer said, citing Spring-Ford's size and speed, especially.
Leacraft said it made him feel a bit more relaxed throwing the ball knowing there was a zero on the other team's portion of the scoreboard.
"It's great,' he said. "It doesn't put pressure on me or anything. I feel comfortable in the pocket.'
"We try to generate what we can,' Moyer said. "Early on, we tried to run the football just to see if we could keep the ball away from them. That was not to be well-lived.'
Jones will head into the next game with 3,049 career rushing yards.
He didn't know that until he was told after the game.
"Oh man, that's great. I had no idea,' Jones said, laughing and shaking his head. "The stats, I just let that go, try to play the game.'
Follow Frank Otto on Twitter @fottojourno.
Week 5 - Gridiron - Sponsored by Keller-Williams of Limerick
Jordon Giraldi on The Blitz!
The Big Ticket: Pottsgrove vs. Spring-Ford
Pottsgrove outslugs Spring-Ford
By DAVE KURTZ
ROYERSFORD – The pads were popping, the helmets were rattling and the bodies were flying Friday night at Coach McNelly Stadium.
It was high school football at its brutal best – a physical war of attrition that should have been staged in a Steel Cage instead of on artificial turf.
Pottsgrove emerged from the head-on collision with a 14-7 victory over PAC-10 rival Spring-Ford, rebounding from an early 7-0 deficit behind a defense that overcame four turnovers and limited the Rams to 211 yards of offense.
Leading the charge for the Falcons was senior linebacker Tyrone Parker, a first-year starter on a unit that returned 9 first-teamers from its 2012 PAC-10 championship team. Parker was a human wrecking machine Friday, racking up 13 tackles and 2 sacks. Parker’s jarring hit led to Jeff Adams’ fumble recovery at the Pottsgrove 26 late in the fourth quarter, and the Falcons ran out the clock from there to seize the key showdown.
“We’re a family, we stick together, do everything together,” said Parker. “Adversity jumped on us right at the start, but we bounced back.”
Spring-Ford was facing some adversity of its own without the services of star senior running back Jarred Jones, who missed the showdown for unspecified reasons. “Jarred wasn’t available,” said coach Chad Brubaker, whose squad was already depleted in the skill department by the loss of electric playmaker Tate Carter to a season-ending knee injury two games ago.
Despite all their problems, the Rams drew first blood when Brandon Leacraft hit Danny Matthews with a 38-yard touchdown pass with 4:02 remaining in the first quarter. But that would be the only end zone celebration for Spring-Ford, which self-imploded by committing 18 penalties that resulted in 150 lost yards.
“Our guys played hard and the defense played great,” said Brubaker, whose club slipped to 2-1 in the league and 3-2 overall. “We had some calls that didn’t go our way and we just didn’t make any plays. You’ve got to make plays when you have the opportunity.”
Pottsgrove made just enough plays to raise their league slate to 4-0 and overall record to 5-0.
Trailing 7-6 early in the second half, the Falcons put together a penalty-aided 12-play, 71-yard march that culminated when Riley Michaels hit Michael Fowler with a 6-yard TD pass at the 2:54 mark of the third quarter. Jalen Mayes’ two-point conversion run gave Pottsgrove the 14-7 lead.
“We were running 46-power a lot,” said Michaels, “and then we ran 46 boot pass. The end came down hard, and it was part of our game plan. We stuck to it. Our wide receivers are great and run routes really well.”
The TD pass was the only completion of the night for Michaels, but it was a big one at the end of a drive that featured a gutty fourth-and-1 call that paid off when Sene Polamalu rumbed inside for three yards to move the chains. Three Spring-Ford penalties for 32 yards were also instrumental in the Grove getting to the end zone.
“We knew we had to run the ball well in the second half,” said Pottsgrove coach Rick Pennypacker. “We saw some things that we felt we could take advantage of. On that fourth and short, we had to go for it. If you can’t get a yard, you don’t deserve to win the game.”
Pottsgrove got 89 yards rushing from Marquis Barefield and 74 more from Polamalu, who put the Falcons on the board when he capped a 12-play, 80-yard drive with a two-yard scoring burst with 7:55 remaining in the first half.
The rest of the melee belonged to the Pottsgrove defense.
There was DB Fowler, giving away several inches to Gary Hopkins but refusing to back down – showing his athleticism by breaking up a pair of potential TD passes in the end zone.
“For the most part it was press coverage,” Fowler said. “I’ve been preparing for Hopkins. He’s a great receiver. But even though he had a few inches on me, I still executed my job.”
Execution was the buzz word for the Grove, which got a break when David Gulati misfired on a 32-yard field goal try that would have cut the gap to 14-10 late in the third quarter.
Spring-Ford got within striking distance on its final two possessions, but a Parker sack helped end the first drives at the Pottsgrove 38. The last Rams’ thrust flat-lined 24 yards from paydirt on the lost fumble.
“To start off, we were getting confused on our defensive calls,” said Adams, who chipped in with 5 tackles. “But once we got that down, we started working together and we were able to dominate. They rocked us a couple plays, but we rocked right back.”
The rock that couldn’t be moved was the Pottsgrove defense, which also got 2 sacks from Nico Demetrio and 6 stops apiece from Jalen Mayes and Michaels.
“I’m proud of the kids,” said Pennypacker. “Our defense played great. This was an emotional, hard-fought game from two great football teams. All teams are ready to challenge Pottsgrove but my kids fight back.”
EXTRA POINTS: Mason Romano picked up a sack and Jared Shoemaker notched an interception for the Rams, who limited Pottsgrove to 190 total yards. Jake Leahy led the ground attack with 94 yards on 18 carries while Leacraft added 127 yards through the air to 5 different receivers – with Matthews topping the receiving chart with 4 catches for 71 yards … Barefield came up with a pick for Pottsgrove.
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