Defense drives Freedom over Liberty in PAC-10 Senior Bowl
By Barry Sankey
Posted: 06/01/2014 10:45:27 PM EDT
ROYERSFORD — Team Freedom capitalized on six sacks and four pass interceptions by its defense to produce a 35-2 victory over Team Liberty in the third annual Pioneer Athletic Conference Senior Bowl football game at Spring-Ford High School's Coach McNelly Stadium Sunday night.
Pottsgrove's Marquis Barefield intercepted two passes, returning one for a 77-yard touchdown, while Pottstown's Denzel Harvey and Pottsgrove's Riley Michaels also had picks for Team Freedom.
Team Freedom bolted to a 19-0 lead by the end of the first quarter and then made it 25-2 by halftime and 32-2 after three quarters."It was mostly defense today,' said Barefield, who was also a star running back for the Falcons last fall. "It was fun to play with guys from so many different teams. It was a different experience. It's a blast to play for the last time in high school before college. And for most guys, they are putting the pads on for the last time before they go off in life.'
Barefield will be playing his college football at Kutztown University.
He was also one of the Falcons who got to play their final game for Pottsgrove head coach Rick Pennypacker, who served as head coach of Team Freedom.
Pottsgrove defensive lineman Nico Demetro had 1 1/2 sacks for Team Freedom while Pottsgrove's Anthony Pond, Pottsgrove's Sene Polamalu, Spring-Ford's Mason Romano and Perkiomen Valley's Danny Light each had one sack. Boyertown's Tyler Zilen chipped in with half a sack.
Perkiomen Valley's Tony Pachella recovered two fumbles and also batted down a pass attempt.
Polamalu also rushed for two touchdowns and PV's Mark Bonomo ran for another score. Perkiomen Valley quarterback Rasaan Stewart connected with Spring-Ford's Gary Hopkins on an 11-yard touchdown pass.
Phoenixville's Paul Hossler and Pope John Paul II's Nick Howarth shared a sack on Stewart that resulted in a Team Liberty safety with 4:36 left in the second period.
Pottsgrove's John Klinger booted a 23-yard field goal for Team Freedom with 1:24 left in the fourth quarter.
Demetrio played his final football game ever since he will be focusing on wrestling at Millersville University next year."It was all fun,' said Demetrio. "That was the main thing to go out and have fun. I was a little louder than I usually was during the season. It was all fun, win or lose, but it is still always nice to win.'
Stewart completed six of 14 passes for 127 yards and one TD. His backup was Phoenixville's Kyle Karkoska.
Boyertown's Griffin Pasik, who also had an interception, and Spring-Ford's Zach Demedio handled the quarterbacking chores for Team Liberty.
Testimony for the defense in Freedom's Senior Bowl win
By DAVE KURTZ
ROYERSFORD - It was like Olivier taking his bows after one last stage appearance.
The curtain calls were that compelling for Pottsgrove’s Nico Demetrio and Perkiomen Valley’s Tony Pachella, who most likely put on the pads and helmet for the last time in the 3rd Annual PAC-10 Senior Bowl at Spring-Ford’s Coach McNelly Stadium Sunday evening.
Talk about going in style, Demetrio and Pachella finished their football careers with a flourish, anchoring a Team Freedom defensive line that set the tone in a 35-2 pasting of Team Liberty.
Demetrio had 1.5 of the six sacks posted by Freedom while Pachella came up with two fumble recoveries in the midst of six forced turnovers. Pottsgrove’s Marquis Barefield also provided a strong testimony for the defense, snatching a pair of interceptions, including one that he returned 77 yards to the house.
“Our defense was just tremendous,” said Freedom head coach Rick Pennypacker of Pottsgrove. “Our front four – Nico Demetrio (Pottsgrove), Tony Pachella (Perkiomen Valley), Mason Romano (Spring-Ford) and Alec Vagnozzi (Spring-Ford) – dominated the line of scrimmage.”
Demetrio, who will wrestle at Millersville University, came up with four tackles and Pachella added three stops and a pass breakup to his bulging stat line. The other Freedom sacks came from Romano (Spring-Ford, Kutztown recruit), Sene Polamalu (Pottsgrove), Anthony Pond (Pottsgrove) and Tyler Zilen (Boyertown, Millersville commit), who shared one sack with Demetrio.
“We were just going out there, having fun,” said Demetrio. “Things weren’t too complicated – it was all about having fun. Getting the early lead gave us confidence.”
Villanova recruit Rasaan Stewart (Perkiomen Valley), the two-time PAC-10 Player of the Year, fueled the early burst of confidence, converting Freedom’s first three possessions into touchdowns.
It all started with an 11-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a one-yard scoring plunge by Mark Bonomo (Perkiomen Valley) and continued with a 5-play, 50-yard march to the end zone that was set up by the recovery of an unintentional onside (flubbed) kick and culminated with Polamalu’s one-yard TD run.
Team Liberty had yet to take an offensive snap, and was already down 12-0, a hole that grew even deeper when Stewart connected with Gary Hopkins (Spring-Ford) on an 11-yard TD pass with 1:10 still left in the first quarter.
Stewart, recruited to play defensive back at ‘Nova, hit 6-for-7 passes for 139 yards on those first three sets - many of them deep, on-the-money throws. His familiar targets at Perk Valley, Dakota Clanagan and Clay Domine, combined to haul in four passes for 116 yards in the early run of success.
“I came out excited - it was one last time to play with my friends,” said Stewart. “Having Clay and Dakota to throw to made it easier. We have good chemistry.”
The rest of the night belonged to the Freedom defense, which limited Team Liberty to 173 total yards – including just 26 on the ground.
“The biggest turnaround was when we didn’t score after getting the ball down to the five-yard line (early in the second quarter),” said Liberty head coach Paul Lepre (Methacton). “We could have taken the momentum right there, but we didn’t do it. I think our defense set us up to have a chance to win the game, but we just made too many mistakes.”
Liberty’s defense was solid after the early undressing, getting 1.5 sacks from Paul Hossler (Phoenixville), who combined with Pope John Paul II’s Nick Howarth to force Stewart to fumble out of the end zone, accounting for Liberty’s only points of the night – a safety with 4:36 left in the half to cut the gap to 19-2.
But the pendulum of momentum quickly swung back Freedom’s way when Pachella gathered in his second consecutive fumble recovery to set up Polamalu’s five-yard TD run with 20 seconds left in the first half.
Barefield, a Kutztown University running back recruit, registered the only touchdown in the second half with his lengthy Pick Six, while Pottsgrove’s John Klinger closed out the scoring with a 23-yard field goal with 1:24 left.
“This was one last chance to put on the pads with the kids I’ve been playing with and against for years,” said Barefield. “We were out there having a blast.”
The end result wasn’t what he’d wanted, but Boyertown's Griffin Pasik had a blast working on both sides of the football. The East Stroudsburg quarterback recruit was sacked four times, picked off twice and managed just 62 yards on 5-for-12 passing, but his best moment was an acrobatic interception that produced the only turnover of the night for Liberty in the mixed-team format.
“We knew coming in that the other guys had a lot of talent, but we weren’t intimidated by that,” said Pasik. “The score didn’t turn out the way we wanted, but I had some fun in my last high school game.”
Pottstown’s Denzel Harvey, undecided about college and torn between the possibility of playing football or basketball at the next level, also made his final high school outing a pleasurable one. Harvey had an interception in the end zone and 70-yard run on a reverse that showcased his breathtaking skills in the open field.
“My job was to shut down my receiver,” said Harvey, who finished as the game’s leading rusher with 75 yards on three carries. “On offense, I just wanted to show what I can do. It was nice to get the ball in the open field.”
EXTRA POINTS: Pennypacker: “The best thing about this game is that nobody got hurt and everybody seemed to have fun.” … All proceeds from the contest benefit the Pioneer Athletic Conference Football Coaches Association’s scholarship fund … Liberty was led offensively by a pair of Upper Perkiomen products, running back Aidan Schaffer (8 carries, 36 yards) and Travis Kline (3 receptions, 47 yards). Kline was the PAC-10’s leading receiver (46-856, 5 TDs) in 2013 … Pottsgrove’s Riley Michaels, who’ll play lacrosse at Cabrini, also had a pick for Freedom … In the Underclassmen Challenge – a new skills competition that included a Quarterback Challenge, Kicking Contest, Linemen Relay, Speed Relay and Bench Press competition - the top three team finishers were Pottsgrove (31 points), Spring-Ford (23) and Owen J. Roberts (18).
3rd Annual PAC-10 Senior Bowl
At Spring-Ford’s Coach McNelly Stadium
FREEDOM 35, LIBERTY 2
Freedom 19 6 7 3 – 35
Liberty 0 2 0 0 – 2
F-Bonamo 1 run (kick failed)
F-Polamalu 1 run (run failed)
F-Hopkins 11 pass from Stewart (Klinger kick)
L-Safety, Stewart fumbled ball out of end zone
F-Polamaul 5 run (kick failed)
F-Barefield 77 interception return (Klinger kick)
F-Klinger 23 FG
Freedom: Harvey 3-75, Bonomo 7-29, TD; Polamalu 6-18, 2 TDs; Barefield 4-15; Stewart 7-13; Karkoska 4-(-3).
Liberty: Schaffer 8-36; Richmond 6-14; Cassidy 2-3; Toomer 1-(-5); DeMedio 8-(-6); Pasik 8-(-16).
Freedom: Stewart 6-14-0, 139, TD; Karkoska 2-8-1, 11.
Liberty: DeMedio 5-12-2, 86; Pasik 5-12-2, 62; Richmond 0-1-0.
Freedom: Clanagan 2-66; Domine 3-65; Hopkins 2-23, TD; Polamalu 1-(-4).
Liberty: Kline 3-47; Toomer 1-29; Richmond 1-26; Adams 1-14; Bildstein 1-14; Cherneskie 1-10; Cassidy 1-3.
Interceptions: Freedom – Barefield 2, Harvey, Michaels. Liberty – Pasik.
Sacks: Freedom – Demetrio 1.5, Polamalu, Romano, Pond, Light, Zilen 0.5. Liberty-Hossler 1.5, Jaworski, Varner, Howarth 0.5.
- See more at: http://www.pac-10sports.com/article/content/football-testimony-defense-freedoms-senior-bowl-win-0016932#sthash.bOBaakpx.dpuf
Third annual PAC-10 Senior Bowl set for Sunday
By Darryl Grumling
Posted: 05/29/2014 08:43:44 PM EDT
Mason Romano and Robby Varner spent much of last fall as brothers in mayhem, spearheading a Spring-Ford defensive line that caused plenty of disruption in opposing backfields.
Sunday night, though, the Rams teammates — and respective All-Area first team selections — will find themselves on opposite sides of the ball in the third annual PAC-10 Senior Bowl, which gets underway with a 6 p.m. kickoff at Spring-Ford's Coach McNelly Stadium.
Romano will suit up for the Freedom squad, which will be coached by Pottsgrove's Rick Pennypacker.
Varner, meanwhile, will play for the Liberty team, coached by Methacton's Paul Lepre.
The unique draft format of the event makes it possible for teammates to be lining up against each other as they take to the gridiron one last time as high school players.
"One of the greatest things about this game is to see the players interact with each other,' Pennypacker said. "All year long they have been rivals, and now they are teammates. Also, to see players from the same school playing against each other is really fun to watch.'
Romano, a 6-foot, 210-pound defensive end bound for Kutztown, collected an area-best eight sacks and is part of an impressive Freedom outfit that a lot of folks consider the favorite.
The Freedom features no fewer than 12 All-Area first-team picks, including Perkiomen Valley quarterback Rasaan Stewart, the two-time All-Area Player of the Year who is headed to Villanova.
The 6-1, 182-pound Stewart racked up 2,068 passing yards and 26 passing touchdowns to go along with 1,204 rushing yards and 17 TDs on the ground in helping Perkiomen Valley reach the District 1-AAAA semifinals.
Stewart will have a couple of other 1,000-yard rushers in the backfield in Pottsgrove's Marquis Barefield and Perkiomen Valley's Mark Bonomo, as well as prime-time receiving targets in the PV duo of Dakota Clanagan and Clay Domine and Spring-Ford's Gary Hopkins.
"After defending Stewart for all these years, it is nice to have him on our side of the ball,' Pennypacker said. "He is a special player. The talent around him — Barefield, (Pottstown's Denzel) Harvey. Clanagan, Hopkins, Domine — should be fun to watch.'
Phoenixville's Kyle Karkoska will also see time at quarterback for Freedom, with Pottsgrove fullback Sene Polamalu and Boyertown tight end Tyler Zilen showcasing both their blocking and offensive skills and Spring-Ford's Cody Davis rounding out the receiving corps. The O-Line is composed of Pottsgrove's Anthony Pond, Tom Sephakis, Max Wickward and Matt Faulkner; Spring-Ford's Josh Boyer, Chase Stine, Tyler German and Andy Cutler; and Boyertown's Austin Jacobs and David Pettine.
Defensively, Romano will be joined by Spring-Ford teammate Alec Vagnozzi, Perkiomen Valley's Tony Pachella and Pottsgrove's Nico Demetrio on the line; Perkiomen Valley's Danny Light, Spring-Ford's Andy Lovre-Smith, Pottsgrove's Tyrone Parker and Riley Michaels, Methacton's Nick Torcini and Pope John Paul II's Mike Mead at the linebacker spots; and Perkiomen Valley's Kurran Holland, Harvey, Pottsgrove's Jalen Mayes, Owen J. Roberts' Matt Lenge and Spring-Ford's Connor Murphy in the secondary.
Spring-Ford's Dave Gulati and Pottsgrove's Jon Klinger will handle the kicking duties.
The Liberty team offers a high-profile backfield that includes Boyertown workhorse Cody Richmond, Methacton battering ram Mike Cassidy and Upper Perkiomen's Aidan Schaffer, who erupted for a 392-yard, six-touchdown rushing performance in a win over Pope John Paul II.
Boyertown's Griffin Pasik, who directed a record-setting Bears offense, and Spring-Ford's Zac Demedio will share time at quarterback.
Upper Perkiomen's Travis Kline (league-best 46 receptions and 855 receiving yards) and Boyertown's Nick Brough are the Liberty receivers along with tight ends Jeff Adams of Pottsgrove and Jon Traywick of Spring-Ford.
The offensive line consists of Pottstown's Jalontae Lighty, Phoenixville's Paul Hossler, Methacton's Brett DeGemmis, Pope John Paul II's Liam Steiert, Boyertown's Brock Johnson and Pottsgrove's Jeremy Cuadrado.
Varner, a 6-1, 220-pounder who notched 68 tackles (15 for losses) and returned two interceptions for TDs, heads the Liberty defense. He'll be joined by Upper Perkiomen's David Weller, Perkiomen Valley's Tom Jaworski, Pope John Paul II's Steve Kushernick and Charles Lake, Phoenixville's Colin Mea and Methacton's Lucas Hepp on the line.
Perkiomen Valley's Anthony Rotonda, Pope John Paul II's Kirk Cherneskie and Nick Howarth, Methacton's Devin Bradley, Phoenixville's Justin McDougal and Pottstown's Niko Teller man the linebacker spots; and Spring-Ford's Jared Shoemaker, Methacton's Kyle Lowery, Pope John Paul II's Johnnie Bildstein, Pottsgrove's Orrin Toomer and Owen J. Roberts' Christian Marks make up the secondary. Methacton's Dave Bezley is the Liberty kicker.
"I know that when the rosters came out in March, the players from both teams decided we were the underdogs,' Lepre said. "I hope Freedom comes in, being the favorite, and takes us lightly, but I don't think Coach Pennypacker will let that happen.
"I had a great group of seniors last year that made it enjoyable to go out and coach everyday, and I am glad for the opportunity to get to coach some of them for one last time.'
The final of three practices for the Senior Bowl was held Thursday at Spring-Ford.
"It is a challenge for players/coaches to work on a game plan in a short period of time so that on game day it looks like we've been together for several weeks,' Lepre said. "I feel like our players have been focused and working hard so that we will not disappoint on Sunday.'
The Liberty has won both previous editions — 41-17 in 2012 and 28-12 last year.
"This game is not about coaching but more about putting players in a position to showcase their abilities,' Pennypacker said. "I am not worried about who wins this game as much as I want the kids to have fun playing their last high school game.'
Honorary coaches for the game will be former Methacton coach George Marinkov and former longtime Spring-Ford assistant Bob Stipa. ... Also part of the Senior Bowl will be a series of contests between the underclassmen of the PAC-10: including a quarterback challenge, a kicking contest, a lineman relay with tire flips, a speed relay and a bench press competition. These events will occur prior to the game, between quarters and at halftime. The top three teams with the most overall points will receive plaques. ... Proceeds from the game will go towards providing scholarships for PAC-10 football players.
Follow Darryl Grumling on Twitter at @MercSmokinD.
Spring-Ford 2014 Spring Slogan Video - Part III
Spring-Ford 2014 Spring Slogan Video - Part II
Spring-Ford Rams Football Releases 2014 Spring Slogan Video
2014 Youth / Jr. High Football and Cheering Camp Announced
Varner and Romano Excel in PSFCA East / West Game!
2014 Slogan Revealed
When in Rome, do as the Romans do...
At least 10 wins in each of the last 3 seasons...
3 straight PIAA District 1 AAAA playoff appearances...
2 straight classes graduating as the all-time winningest classes...
Spring-Ford's Varner, Romano selected for prestigious East-West All-Star game
By DAVE KURTZ
ROYERSFORD – Two of the anchors from Spring-Ford’s stellar defensive line, Robby Varner and Mason Romano, have been selected to play in the prestigious Pennsylvania Scholastic Football Coaches Association East-West All-Star game in May.
The annual contest, which pits outstanding seniors from the Eastern and Western regions of the state, is slated for Sunday, May 4, with a 2 p.m. kickoff at Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville.
This past fall, Varner and Romano were instrumental in a shutdown defense that held opponents to an average of 12.8 points and 220 total yards (131 rushing, 89 passing) per game.
The Rams went 10-3 this past season, finishing one game behind two-time defending league champion Pottsgrove (9-0). Coming off a 2012 season that produced an appearance in the District 1-AAAA title game, Spring-Ford reached the second round of districts with a 43-21 conquest of Downingtown West before falling to Neshaminy 56-27.
“This is the third straight year we’ve had guys playing in these all-star games (including the Big 33 contest), and that’s a tribute to our program, our coaching staff and to the guys for all the hard work they’ve put it,’ said Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker. “The guys will find out how great an experience it will be, playing against that kind of competition. They will find our real quickly what they can expect from college football, and that it’s not high school football anymore.”
Varner, a defensive tackle who averaged 5.7 tackles, posted three sacks and had 15 tackles for a loss (TL) with two interceptions, two fumble recoveries and a pair of defensive TDs in 2013, recently accepted an offer to join the program at Division I Temple as a preferred walk-on, where he is expected to play middle linebacker.
“I’m excited to play against some of the better kids in the state,” said Varner. “I will find out what I need to work on strength-wise and with my agility and speed. Playing on the defensive line taught me how to use my hands and get off blocks. I learned how to be mean and get to the quarterback.”
Romano, who recently signed a national letter of intent to play Division II football at Kutztown University as a defensive end, got to the quarterback frequently this past fall. In 2013, the 6-foot-1, 220-pound Romano racked up 8 sacks, 17 TFL and averaged 5.3 tackles per game, forcing three fumbles and picking up an interception along the way.
“I’m really excited to play in the East-West game,” said Romano. “It will give me a chance to play with Rob one last time before the (PAC-10) Senior Bowl.”
Varner will be lining up for Team Liberty, coached by Methacton’s Paul Lepre, while Romano will be on the opposite side of the field for Team Freedom, headed up by Pottsgrove coach Rick Pennypacker, in the 3rd Annual PAC-10 Senior Bowl Sunday, June 1 (6 p.m. kickoff) at Spring-Ford’s Coach McNelly Stadium.
- See more at: http://www.pac-10sports.com/article/content/football-spring-fords-varner-romano-selected-prestigious-east-west-all-star-game-001#sthash.HiTtpmaA.dpuf
Zach Dorsey Named to PSFCA Hot 100 for Class of 2015
S-F Holds Press Conference for Players Continuing Their Careers
Spring-Ford players, Mason Romano (Kutztown), Andy Lovre-Smith (Juniata), Joe Sink (Widener), and Robby Varner (Temple) at the Spring-Ford football press conference. Players met with local media to discuss their college intentions. (missing from the photo were Tyleik Freeman (Virginia Union), Gary Hopkins (Thaddeus Stevens), and Jake Leahy (Kutztown)
Pre-Spring Core Max Testing
Congratulations to all of the following for achieving a 50+ pound gain in their core max lifts...Great job!!
Congratulations to Robby Varner for being named to the PSFCA East Squad!
Mason Romano Named to PSFCA East / West Game!
New Staff Members
Jamie Gray and Steve Moyer will be joining the Spring-Ford varsity staff to coach offensive line and QBs, respectively. Both coaches bring a lot of experience and knowledge to the staff, and we are excited to have them. Look for their bios on the coaching page soon.
2014 Helmet Leak
CHANGING TIMES: Social media feeds sports fans realtime results
By Frank Otto, The Mercury
Four or five years ago, if you didn’t go to the big Spring-Ford-Perkiomen Valley rivalry football game on a Friday night, you’d have to wait till Saturday to find out in that morning’s Mercury who won the game.
“When I went to school, somebody would have to go to the Spring-Ford-Perk Valley game and call somebody else,” said Pottsgrove School District Network Engineer/webmaster Jason Grubbs, a Phoenixville Area High School alumnus.
Within even just the last two years, that experience has changed.
“It’s complete interactivity,” Grubbs said.
Social media, especially Twitter, has made it possible for fans at the game, or even those sitting at home, to see not only the play in front of them but also check how PAC-10 threat Pottsgrove is doing in their game.
“As soon as I get home, I throw up Twitter and I start searching for the hashtag,” Grubbs said. “Literally, it’s like, ‘(Michael) Fowler, 25 yard run.’ I almost know what down it is.”
Lexis Shimkonis, a senior basketball player for Owen J. Roberts High School, said it’s exciting to see herself and her team in such tweets but mostly she likes following her competition.
“I often find it more exciting to see real time results from other games, especially close games and playoff games,” she said. “Updates can be tweeted as they happen in a game, almost like you are there.”
Twitter has changed the media habits in sports reporting, too. “In the old days, you had to call another paper and hope the beat guy was working,” said Mercury sports reporter Darryl Grumling. “Now, all you do is log on to the paper’s website or do a Google search and more often than not, you can easily find the info you are looking for.”
Grumling served as The Mercury’s main football writer this past season and has covered the game, among many other sports, for years.
He’s definitely seen a change in the way the game is followed and what his responsibilities are in light of that.
“Five years ago, when I was covering, say, a Wilson football game, I’d write a gamer or sidebar,” he said. “It would go on my paper’s website at 1 a.m. the next day, when everything was ‘dumped’ online and be in the next day’s print edition.
“Now, I will live tweet, send a photo or two and do a Tout video virtually from the time I arrive at the game, tweet scoring updates and highlights during the game – in addition to the old-school statkeeping, doing play-by-play and otherwise ‘covering the game’ – and my story will be online as soon as it is written/edited and tweeted out,” Grumling said.
“It’s a juggling act,” said Mercury Sports Editor Austin Hertzog.
Twitter drives demand for live coverage
The live coverage doesn’t stop at football. Virtually every high school sport gets the full treatment at some point, whether it was Spring-Ford’s girls’ heartbreaking overtime championship loss, from which Hertzog tweeted every attack, to sports reporter Sam Stewart’s coverage of Perkiomen Valley’s field hockey games.
Shimkonis said she follows on Twitter Mercury Sports, PAC-10 Sports, teammates, the coaches, who run the official team accounts, and her school’s student section, The Cat Pack (@OJRCatPack).
The Mercury’s “live” sports coverage began in 2012 with a Blogspot site called “Mercury Sports Live,” created primarily to provide links for editors to Tweet out during games.
Reporters took short videos with smart phones from the sidelines, sent them via email to an editor, who posted them on Mercury Sports Live, then Tweeted out the video from @PottsMercsports, the sports department’s Twitter account.
Moving forward, the innovation of instant video posting such as Vine and, eventually, Tout, made Mercury Sports Live and sites like it quickly obsolete. Reporters at the field could take a video and immediately put it up via Tout.
That’s how someone like Grubbs could see Fowler gaining 25 yards just a minute after it happened.
“I have gotten several thank you tweets from folks who couldn’t be at the game who are grateful for the live-tweeting/video/etc.,” Grumling said.
Many schools or teams have accounts that also tweet out scores, results or the minutiae of a high school sports event.
“We started the account because I saw a couple of other school districts had athletic Twitter accounts,” Grubbs said, who moderates the official Pottsgrove School District account as well as the athletic department account.
He said he started tweeting out schedule updates, rain delays and snow days, but “it just kind of ballooned into other things we could do.”
At the start, his target audience was parents.
“Then it completely changed,” he said.
Once athletes and other students got accounts and began following, Grubbs started retweeting media coverage and students’ accounts.
“Leave it to the kids to become more interactive,” he said.
Many schools, like Owen J. Roberts High School, Spring-Ford Area High School and Pope John Paul II High School, have Twitter accounts attached to specific sports.
Spring-Ford’s football account makes some basic announcements such as workout times, but also expands to notify “bigger things,” like a “contract to open up with State College (High School) next year as our first game,” said Spring-Ford head football coach Chad Brubaker.
“We are able to communicate with a broad audience about things that are happening within our program,” he said.
Spring-Ford also launched an app last year for smart phones that allows subscribers to get notifications about specific teams, like football.
Pottsgrove High School Athletic Director Gary DeRenzo said social media accounts can be a “great tool” and that some of his sports teams use closed Facebook group pages to set up communication between coaches, students and parents.
Students take the lead
Some Twitter accounts linked with schools aren’t even in the hands of administrators or teachers.
A few popular student-run accounts include the Pottsgrove Student Section (@PG_Student_Sect)and the Cat Pack.
“The OJR Cat Pack, new to Twitter this school year, is great to get updates from every sporting event that OJR plays in,” Shimkonis said. “The students who run the Cat Pack Twitter do a great job getting scores and big plays out to their followers so that even if you are not able to attend a game and cheer in the student section, you are able to keep up with the game and know how our teams are doing.”
Leading up to games, the accounts tweet out the times of games and instructions of what to wear (i.e. a white-out, black-out, etc.) as well as retweeting other students’ excitement.
The accounts are even active during games, ringing out in jubilation or consternation at the goings-on.
Shimkonis said she believes her student section is the best in the PAC-10 and how connected they are on Twitter plays into her views.
In the Owen J. Roberts football game against Phoenixville this year, everything came down to a final Hail Mary pass. If the Wildcats caught the ball in the end zone, they won. If not, they lost.
Wide receiver Kirk Hinrichs did catch the ball as time expired; however, the referee ruled Hinrichs landed with a foot out of bounds.
Almost immediately, the tweet of a student in the Owen J. Roberts student section was retweeted by the Cat Pack. It featured a picture of Hinrichs at the point of his landing, proclaiming him in.
“They’re Zapruder-ing this,” Mercury news editor Steve Moore said.
In response, The Mercury reporter covering a game who had the sideline angle on a Tout video of the same catch sent out a tweet to compare.
“I think we’ve done well in gaining the interest of the next generation of readers with social media,” Hertzog said.
Hertzog said such direct interaction with students and student-athletes is “outstanding.”
“I would say being on Twitter has definitely raised my profile among the area local sports following, especially with scholastic athletes,” Grumling said. “More often than not, when I covered a football game this fall, I could hear kids yelling my name (or Twitter handle) from the stands.”
Stewart, the newest Mercury reporter in the sports department, related hearing his name chanted by the Cat Pack as he covered an Owen J. Roberts soccer game only months after he began working and attributed it to his Twitter presence.
The interaction proves useful. One Friday night during football season a year ago, Grumling realized in his post-game stat tallying that he missed who recovered a fumble on one particular play.
With the newspaper print deadline ticking closer, he asked via Twitter for help.
Within minutes, one football player in the game replied with the player’s name to fill the question mark in Grumling’s stat book.
“I like the way that social media makes it person-to-person and tangible, rather than ‘the newspaper’ to person,” Hertzog said.
Shimkonis said she believes Twitter “gives students a chance to network about what they are interested in and it gets athletes more involved around the league.”
Twitter can also be used as a tool by some athletes to keep tabs on their competition.
“It definitely keeps things competitive,” said Kyle Dix, a sprint swimmer for Perkiomen Valley. “The more you know, the better it is going into the meet.”
Dix said he’ll use Twitter to check results of other teams in the area to get geared up for meets.
“Usually a couple of days after a meet, I find the results,” he said. “We can basically scout out and prepare.”
Bringing students together
Perkiomen Valley’s swimming program doesn’t have an official Twitter account, but Dix said he’s interested in maybe getting one going. His club team in Upper Dublin has one.
Describing the swimming community as “close,” Dix said everyone basically knows each other by the time they hit high school and he uses Twitter to interact with everyone.
“As a whole, it brings student-athletes together because they are able to root for or against a team, see how their competition is doing and get updates and articles that are about what they do on a daily basis,” Shimkonis said.
Although such direct access is usually a plus, there are some drawbacks. After a hard-fought loss against rival Spring-Ford early in the football season, Perkiomen Valley’s quarterback/safety Rasaan Stewart’s profile drew barbed tweets about some miscues in his performance in a game he otherwise played well.
Shimkonis said she hasn’t seen much ill will directed toward her team but has seen some generally directed at her school in other sports or at the Cat Pack.
Dix said that since swimmers know each other so well, any problems are usually dealt with offline.
“We’ve been swimming each other since we were, like, 8 years old,” Dix said. “Everyone in the PAC-10, we pretty much know all of them. It’s definitely competitive, but if we want to talk about something, we talk about it before the meet. It’s a respect thing.”
“We’ve had people trash talk or rub it in when we don’t win,” Brubaker said. “That just happened this year with the team we lost to in our last playoff game and it happened last year with how we chose to handle our game with Phoenixville when we had a playoff game versus Pennridge in the days following.”
“We’ve had some issues,” DeRenzo said. “I think every school has issues.”
DeRenzo said he talks to his student-athletes about the responsibility of social media usage. A specific story he tells them is about a coach who went for another job and eventually didn’t get it after the interviewer found a Facebook picture of her in college holding a beer.
“I don’t want to be naïve. Kids are going to take risks and they’re going to do things, and they don’t think they’ll get caught,” DeRenzo said. “Is it an epidemic problem? No. Is it something we have to take a look at? Yeah.”
Brubaker tries to let his players know that tweeting is open to the public and doesn’t completely fade.
“I think the biggest concern, as a coach, is that the players are using it properly,” Brubaker said. “We’ve had some situations where others took issue with what our players were tweeting. We try to emphasize to our players that everyone can see what they are ‘saying’ and it’s important to keep it above the board.”
“I talk to them to make sure they make sure that they understand that that just doesn’t go away,” DeRenzo said. “Electronic data is the same as just paper data in the ability to extract it. If something is negative, it can come back to haunt you.”
Although Brubaker does browse his players’ tweets occasionally and talks to them about social media, especially before big games, he said he has no desire to be a “Twitter cop.”
“If a person doesn’t speak civilly or doesn’t have the integrity to sign his or her name, then it doesn’t hold a lot of substance,” Brubaker said. “Being outside of our program, they have a fraction of the information that we have and have different goals and interests than we have. It’s easy to stand on a perceived hill and throw stones.”
DeRenzo uses the term “CC,” repurposed from “carbon copy” to a digital age term — “coward communicator.”
“With social media, you’re talking from afar and no one is around,” DeRenzo said. “It’s real easy to hit that send button.”
“I think people forget that students used to write notes in school that were less than appropriate,” Brubaker said. “The difference is that many of these social media avenues are open to the public. That hasn’t completely sunk in with some students.”
All the same, Shimkonis said she doesn’t feel spotlighted by having a Twitter account as an athlete.
“I have never been involved in a Twitter fight over sports,” she said.
Social media have opened up the ability of many more than in the past to have a voice heard by the masses. In cases like student section Twitter accounts, that can be good.
Credibility is paramount
“The ability to almost instantly get the info out is nice, but a lot of times it is cancelled out by the lack of thorough reporting, rumor-mongering, et cetera,” Grumling said. “I also have a problem with the lack of accountability aspect, like most folks who chirp on Twitter won’t say the same thing to someone’s face.”
“I’m a big believer in accuracy,” DeRenzo said. “I think that sometimes, in haste, we make some mistakes that are basically avoidable and preventable.”
“I guess it’s a double-edged sword, but it’s definitely changed the landscape of our profession,” Grumling said.
Social media’s increasing presence in high school sports makes certain aspects of coverage better than ever, but the challenges facing the rest of journalism still have to be taken into account.
“Is (the digital coverage) sustainable? It seems that a person’s ability to take on more is ever-increasing,” Hertzog said. “Whenever you think you’ve hit your ceiling, you likely haven’t. But it would be foolish to think that something doesn’t suffer with staffs stretched too thin…the requirements of what it means to be relevant media have been reinvented in the last five years. The structure of an editorial staff and a reporter’s role needs to be reinvented to match.”
In the meantime, reporters, athletes, coaches, parents and everyone in between will have to grow together figuring out the new immediacy of high school coverage and, more importantly, enjoying it.
“Former players are saying, ‘This is great,’” Grubbs said. “’I really wish we had this when we were in school.’”
Follow Frank Otto on Twitter @fottojourno.
‘It’s happening again’
by 21 January 2014
As he sat alongside his teammates on the turf of the newly renovated Student Pavilion, junior track thrower Justin Berg hadn’t the slightest clue what was going on.
An emergency meeting, called during the middle of a study day, was certainly out of the norm. But Berg, like many of the other student-athletes who were in attendance on that rainy December afternoon, was not at all prepared for what was next.
As Athletic Director Kevin Clark began speaking and reality struck, Berg’s body began to tremble. He had seen this before.
Surrounded by dozens of crying and confused student-athletes, Berg tried to keep his emotions together. But as his eyes met senior captain Gabe Pickett, and the two exchanged a hug, Berg lost it.
“It’s happening again,” he thought.
After his previous school, Millersville, cut its track program in 2012, Berg found a new home at Temple. He competed during the 2012–13 season, earning the Owls five points during the Atlantic 10 Conference Championship with his hammer throw. Now, with Clark’s announcement that Temple will cut seven of its sports – including men’s indoor and outdoor track & field – Berg must transfer again if he wishes to continue competing at the collegiate level.
One of the first courses of action Berg took after Clark’s initial announcement of the cuts was to find his coach, Eric Mobley.
“I told him, ‘I can’t stop competing,’” Berg said. “It’s the reason why I left Millersville and it’s the reason why I’m leaving here.”
Mobley said he told Berg to keep his head up, although the sixth-year coach was distraught over the news.
“It’s a shame that he had to go through this twice in a row,” Mobley said. “But Justin is a great student-athlete. I think he handled it pretty well. He’s not dwelling on it, he’s just looking toward the future and trying to do what’s best for him and the program for the remainder of the year.”
Berg said he wants to continue his track career at another university and is in the final stages of transferring to Penn State after the spring semester. Berg continues to practice with Temple, although he plans to redshirt this season to give himself an extra year of eligibility.
“In a different era, I would have experienced an uninterrupted career,” Berg, a math and computer science major, said. “This wouldn’t have been a problem. That’s what is happening today. But three universities … that’s incredible.”
Pickett describes his teammate as a guy that’s usually to himself, which made his hug with Berg on the day of the announcement a “strong moment.” Pickett, already a leader on the team, said Berg has shown guidance to other student-athletes in the aftermath of the cuts being announced.
“He’s been really strong throughout the whole thing,” Pickett said. “He’s been a guy that a lot of people could look to when they need someone to talk to or need some help, because he’s been in this situation. He knows how to deal with it, and he knows the best steps going forward.”
Berg said he has emailed the coaches of the other teams, offering his guidance. Many at Temple, at least initially, felt a great deal of anger after the cuts were announced. Berg said he doesn’t find such feelings helpful.
“Anger isn’t the way to go,” he said. “You can be frustrated. But letting it get to you is going to bring you down.”
The track program at Temple seemed, to many on the team, as headed in the right direction. Travis Mahoney earned three NCAA All-American titles during a five-year career from 2008-12, becoming one of the most decorated student-athletes in the team’s history. This season, the coaching staff grew to the largest it has been in five years. A renovated weight room and recently hired trainers also brought new attention to the team.
“It made me feel like we were going up,” Berg said.
Come July 1, the program will be eliminated a year shy of its 90th anniversary.
Berg was not recruited to Millersville, and he initially was forced to go through a tryout process in order to make the team. Former Marauders coach Scott Weiser said Berg showed some physical attributes and signs that he could be a valuable thrower on his roster during that initial tryout session – enough for the Phoenixville, Pa., native to join his squad.
Throughout his freshman campaign, Berg began to prove himself. He tossed the fourth-best distance in school history at the indoor conference championships, and placed seventh in the outdoor championships later that year.
Weiser, who now works in the construction industry, said he has reached out to Berg following the news of Temple’s athletic cuts, and hopes his former student-athlete continues his career elsewhere. Weiser describes his own experience of athletic cuts as “getting punched in the stomach and kicked in the balls.”
“It really stinks that someone who went through this already has to do it again, but he’s put so much into it and really deserves to have a good experience,” Weiser said. “You fight this much, for this long … I’d hate to see the kid give up.”
“He may look back 20 to 30 years and regret giving up – just because someone can’t keep their finances in order,” Weiser added. “And that’s really the mess of it. Someone can’t keep their finances in order, and so they cut the team.”
Having been through this before, Berg said he believes the cuts are an opportunity for the team to come together and perhaps gain a new perspective on competing in track & field. During every meet this season, Berg wants his team to never forget that this is the program’s final season.
“It really makes you grateful for every opportunity that you get,” Berg said. “You’re more humble. People want to talk about entitlement in sports. You might not even think about it, but you might feel entitled to having your sport.”
“That gratefulness and humbleness that it can be taken away from you really changes your perspective,” Berg added. “You see how important the sport really is to you.”
There are a number of similarities between the situation Berg experienced in Millersville and the one he’s dealing with at Temple. Berg said there was a lack of transparency in both schools – he discovered the news of the cuts at Millersville through email. With the Marauders, Berg said the student-athletes came together and tried, unsuccessfully, to save their programs.
Likewise, many Owls aren’t giving up hope either. Most recently, a group was formed called the “T7 Council” to try and convince the Board of Trustees to reconsider the cuts. Petitions have been created and flyers have been handed out. Some are placing duct tape over the Temple logo on their apparel.
“The kids going out and getting those petitions, that’s fantastic,” Berg said. “It’s bringing people together, and it’s bringing notice to our school to show what’s happening.”
“It’s great to see everyone come together and all of the attention,” Berg added. “But from my first time, it wasn’t going to happen. And it’s not going to happen here … That’s really disappointing.”
Avery Maehrer can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @AveryMaehrer.
Spring-Ford's Romano named Times Herald Defensive Player of the Year
By DENNIS C. WAY
ROYERSFORD — Mason Romano doesn't believe in shortcuts.
Which is why when the Spring-Ford High senior is not playing football or wrestling you'll most likely find him spending a large part of his free time in the weight room.
In fact, athletically, the only time Romano could be accused of cutting corners was when he was in sixth grade, and looking for a way to play organized football.
"All the football around was weight football,' he recalled, "and I couldn't make the weight.'
So Romano went around the end and played for the CMC, a local catholic group that was running a youth football league.
"That league had to do with age, not weight,' he said.
So Romano got to play football. And his first position — defensive end — became, with the exception of one season, his gridiron home for the next six seasons and the position at which he is The Times Herald Defensive Player of the Year.
At that post this year Romano was an offense disruption machine, racking up 69 tackles and eight sacks while adding an interception causing three fumbles and leading the team in hurries (9) and tackles for losses (17). In fact, Romano wound up setting Rams career marks for both tackles for losses (40) and hurries (31).
His size, speed and strength are his obvious weapons. But Romano said the key to his success is as simple as it is basic.
"I've just kept doing everything I'm asked to do,' he said. "When I started playing I didn't miss practice, I didn't miss workouts and whatever I was told to do on the field I would do.'
That philosophy has served Romano well as he has been one of the linchpins for a Rams football team that has been one of the Pioneer Athletic Conference's best in recent years and which reached the PIAA District One Class AAAA finals a season ago.
"(Romano) is very strong, and he's worked hard to make himself the player he is,' said Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubaker. "He's a weight-room rat and he's actually lost weight since his freshman year.
"He's quick off the edge, and he has a motor.'
He also has a long-time emotional attachment to the Rams.
"I went to every game when I was younger,' he said. "I always looked up to the high school kids, and I always knew I was going to play for Spring-Ford.'
Romano got his chance to do that quicker than most, as Brubaker elevated him to the varsity as a freshman.
"I played ninth-grade ball in eighth grade,' Romano said, "but I stayed humble.
"Going up to the varsity in ninth grade was pretty cool. There was a big difference in game speed.'
Although he dressed for the varsity, Romano's varsity time was virtually non-existent, as he toiled for the junior varsity the entire season.
But the following year Romano was a sophomore starter for the varsity. And he was on the wrong end of a few welcome-to-varsity-ball moments.
"Everyone is faster and stronger than you,' Romano said, "and all I could do was try and get better and better.'
A plate of humility was served to Romano when the Rams played Coatesville.
"I got beat on a couple of end-arounds, and I was pretty embarrassed,' he said. "Watching the game film that week wasn't fun, but I took my yelling from the coaches and worked to get better.'
Romano was good enough to earn second-team All-PAC-10 that sophomore season. As a reward, he found himself in a new position to begin last year.
"Out of necessity, we had to move him inside,' Brubaker said.
So the career defensive end was suddenly a defensive tackle.
"It was different,' Romano said, "and it took some getting used to. Instead of rushing the passer and keeping containment, it was more of a clog-the-hole position.
"But our coaches told me that's where I was playing and I did the job to the best of my ability.'
The reward was a first-team, All-Conference slot, but more importantly a wild ride that found Romano and the Rams in the district final against Coatesville.
"That was an awesome feeling,' Romano said. "(Coatesville) had a lot of good athletes, but it was a cool feeling, a lot of fun to be around that atmosphere.'
The Raiders, however, would trample those feelings with a 59-28 win and a district crown.
Romano went directly into wrestling season with even more motivation for his senior football year.
"After wrestling I was right back in the weight room,' Romano said. "I love the weight room. To me, it's knowing you're going to kick the next guy's butt next year. That's my motivation.'
Back at end this year, Romano did his fair share of butt-kicking, saving some of his best work for the Rams' primary PAC competitors this year, Pottsgrove and Perkiomen Valley.
"Mason had tremendous games against both Pottsgrove and Perk Valley,' Brubaker said. "Pottsgrove ran away from him as much as possible and he still had nine tackles, a sack, a batted pass and a forced fumble.
"He had another sack, a batted pass and a forced fumble against Perk Valley.'
"The Pottsgrove game was like the Super Bowl,' Romano said. "All week it was hard focusing on anything but the game.
"Pottsgrove is so hard to play because they're so well-coached, everyone does their jobs so well and they have such good technique. And everything they run, they run it perfectly.'
The Rams played well against Pottsgrove, although they came out on the wrong end of a 14-7 score. By that time they already owned a win over Perkiomen Valley, by that same 14-7 score.
"It was more difficult playing against Perk Valley because of trying to contain (PV quarterback Rasaan) Stewart,' Romano said. "With him you have to line up a little wider, and you have to be cautious not to attack him. You have to make sure he doesn't get outside.
"But I thought we all played well in that game. Everyone did their job.'
By season's end, the injury-plagued Rams ("We had three ACL tears in the some season,' Romano lamented) earned another district playoff berth, but saw their season end with a second-round playoff loss to eventual district-champion Neshaminy.
"We were happy with our season,' Romano said. "We all would have liked to get further, but we didn't play our best against Neshaminy.
"You can't say what if and you can't have regrets about it. That's what happened.'
Now involved in wrestling season, Romano will be taking his college visits soon.
"I'm going to play college football,' he said. "I just don't know where yet.'
As for his career, Romano is proud of his accomplishments and said he'll miss his days on the Spring-Ford gridiron.
And when it comes time to don his college colors, Romano's attitude won't change a lick.
"I'm a player,' he said, "wherever they want me to play, I'll play.'
Spring-Ford blanks Phoenixville in finale
FOOTBALL: Spring-Ford blanks Phoenixville in finale
By Barry Sankey
Posted: 11/28/2013 03:31:35 PM EST
PHOENIXVILLE — Spring-Ford's solid defense set the tone that generated another highly-successful football season for the Rams.
From the beginning of the season right up until the end on Thanksgiving Day against Phoenixville, the Rams' defense laid the foundation for victories. On Thursday morning, the Rams even took two interceptions to the house as part of Spring-Ford's 39-0 Pioneer Athletic Conference victory over the Phantoms at Washington Field.
Senior linebacker Andy Lovre-Smith returned one interception 14 yards for a TD that gave the Rams a 13-0 lead early in the second quarter. Then defensive tackle Robby Varner rumbled 37 yards with another pick that helped give the Rams their 33-0 halftime bulge.
The two thefts were part of an overall convincing performance by Spring-Ford, which closed out the 2013 campaign with an 8-1 record in the PAC-10 (10-3 overall). The 10 victories enabled these Spring-Ford senior players to finish their careers with the best three-year team mark with 33 victories as opposed to just eight setbacks.
"They ended their career with 32 wins over three years, which is our winningest class,' said Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubaker.
The Rams finished 10-2 two years ago, 12-3 last year and this year's 10-3 log accounted for that total. Also included were three trips to the District 1-AAAA playoffs, including last year's march to the district finals.
"They have a lot to be proud of,' said Brubaker. "The big thing about this group is their effort on the field. They gave a great effort all year. "
Spring-Ford senior running back Jarred Jones completed his marvelous career with 152 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 18 carries. He scored on runs of three and 51 yards. Cody Davis scored the first TD on a 41-yard scamper. Senior quarterback Zac DeMedio threw a 12-yard scoring pass to senior tight end Alec Vagnozzi.
"It was a great end,' said senior defensive end Mason Romano, who had a stellar day up front to close out his scholastic career. "Offensively and defensively, we played as a unit. We got huge turnovers. We had another trip to the playoffs. It was awesome. We had a good team. We played well. That is how we played every year. I couldn't ask for better.'
Spring-Ford's defense limited the Phantoms to 70 yards rushing and 83 yards of total offense.
"Defensively, we played really well all year,' said Brubaker. "Our defense set the tone for us this year. They were consistent and solid throughout the year. Throughout the year we won the turnover battle most of the time. Obviously, against Neshaminy (in the second round of districts) we didn't. But we did a pretty good job of getting the ball back to the offense. Today, they didn't give it back. They scored themselves, which is fine.'
Offensively, the Rams put up 251 yards rushing and 279 yards of total offense.
Despite the outcome, Phoenixville still closed out a decent season that included its third straight trip to the District 1-AAA playoffs, a first for the Phantoms. It was accomplished despite a lot of youth on the field and numerous injuries throughout the season.
Senior Justin McDougal was the Phantoms' top rusher with 51 yards on eight carries, including one 22-yard burst. Junior Donnie Jackson and senior Kyle Karkoska, who returned after suffering a broken bone in his leg midway through the year; divided time at the quarterback position.
Senior two-way lineman Colin Mea registered a sack in his finale, and fellow senior two-way lineman Paul Hossler also finished up with an active day. Matt Palubinsky and Tim Alati recovered fumbles for the Phantoms, and Vagnozzi pounced on one for the Rams. Sophomore Ian Brown pilfered a pass for the hosts.
"Early on we let them on the field, and turnovers put us kind of in a hole,' said Phoenixville coach Bill Furlong. "Between injuries and some young kids playing, some of our seniors kept with it. They keep plugging. They kept fighting.'
Cole Luzins boomed one punt 69 yards for Phoenixville and had to kick seven times in the game. Spring-Ford punted once. ... Spring-Ford won the coin toss, but Brubaker had the Rams defer. The Phantoms chose to take the ball, as he hoped they would; and the Rams were able to start the game with a strong wind at their backs instead of trying to move into the wind.
Keller-Williams of Limerick Gridiron
Neshaminy knocks off Spring-Ford in District 1-AAAA playoffs
By Sam Stewart
NESHAMINY — D'Andre Pollard ran for four touchdowns while racking up 37 carries to the tune of 178 yards as Neshaminy took advantage of six Spring-Ford turnovers en route to a 56-27 victory on Friday night in the second round of the District 1-AAAA football playoffs.
The Rams were plagued by turnovers throughout — with quarterback Matt Daywalt throwing four interceptions (two returned for TDs) — as the Redskins exploded for 48 points in the last 28 minutes of the game to give them the convincing victory.
"Who knows, if we didn't turn the ball over — who knows what could have happened,' Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubaker said.
The Redskins offensive line, which had been limited in the second quarter after producing a 14-play, 73 yard drive that consumed over five minutes on the team's opening drive, effectively wore down the Rams' defensive unit throughout the contest, allowing Pollard to break away with runs of 31 yards and 10 yards to give the Redskins a commanding 35-14 lead midway through the third quarter.
"They're big up front,' Brubaker said of the No. 4 seeds. "They opened up some big holes for him. They won the battle of the line of scrimmage just by wearing us down. But our kids played hard the whole time. You can never fault our effort.'
The Rams had built a 14-6 advantage courtesy of a Daywalt pass to Gary Hopkins in the first quarter and a 28-yard run by Jarred Jones on their next possession.
However, with three minutes remaining in the half, the lead — and the game — unraveled.
Having just witnessed Pollard and the Redskins storm down the field to tie the game at 14 with three minutes remaining, the Rams received the short end of the straw as a seemingly routine kickoff from Redskins' Dylan McDonald bounced in front of Spring-Ford's Connor Murphy.
Murphy, who is known as a sure-handed return man, played cat-and-mouse with the bouncing ball as he tried not once, but twice to corral the ball before it squirted away from him as he tried to pounce on it at the 15-yard line. The ball then rolled five yards down the field into the oncoming hands of a Neshaminy player who ultimately grabbed the ball at the 20-yard line before a mob of players swarmed on top of him.
"Sometimes you have those types of nights,' Brubaker said, reflecting on a series of unfortunate bounces throughout the game.
The Redskins made Spring-Ford pay on the next possession with a three-play, 20-yard drive capped off by a 9-yard run by Pollard, giving them a 21-14 lead heading into the break.
"The turnovers obviously hurt,' Brubaker said. "The one before the half on the kickoff really, really hurt. We had the momentum.'
The linchpin had been pulled — the Neshaminy explosion ensued.
After Pollard's two touchdown runs and a Daywalt touchdown pass to Tyliek Freeman brought the game to 35-20, the Redskins' defense got in on the scoring action as two straight drives ended in interceptions for the Rams.
With the score now 42-20 after a Blake Sullivan 20-yard touchdown run through the teeth of the Spring-Ford defense, Devon Brown became the first beneficiary of an errant Daywalt pass as he took the interception return 40 yards down the right sideline to give the Redskins a 49-20 edge.
The next possession yielded the same results as Matt Magdelinskas had the ball plop right into his hands after Daywalt's pass on a slant pattern sailed high. Magdelinskas ran 30-yards untouched to finish off the scoring for the home squad.
"The two interceptions for touchdowns we weren't on the same page,' Brubaker added.
Jones sealed off the scoring with a 33-yard touchdown run with four minutes remaining. Jones finished the game with 116 yards on 16 carries and two touchdowns.
Spring-Ford returns to action on Thanksgiving Day against Phoenixville.
"We're going to regroup and try and win that game,' Brubaker said. "(We'll) prepare for the offseason and work hard, try and get back here.'
Freeman led all receivers with 60 yards on three receptions. Daywalt finished the game 11-of-25 for 152 yards with two touchdowns. Neshaminy's Denny Lord had the game's opening touchdown with a one-yard sneak. Tyler Wombough finished the game 6-of-8 for 75 yards. Brown, who intercepted Daywalt and returned it for a touchdown also had an interception earlier in the game. Jake Leahy had the lone interception for the Rams
Running backs rule district matchups for PAC-10 trio
For the three area teams still remaining in the District 1 football tournament — Pottsgrove, Spring-Ford and Perkiomen Valley — the game plans for Friday night's contests appear to be simple ones.
Stop the run.
Then again, that may be easier said than done.
When the Falcons (11-0) play host to Academy Park in a District 1-AAA semifinal, the Rams (9-2) travel to Neshaminy for a District 1-AAAA quarterfinal and the Vikings (9-2) visit Central Bucks West in a District 1-AAAA quarterfinal, they will all be facing squads with a marquee ground-gainer.
Academy Park (8-2), the fourth seed in the 1-AAA draw, features Jerry Lanier, who has rushed for 1,870 yards and 17 touchdowns this year. He is coming off a 253-yard outburst in last week's 35-22 quarterfinal win over Interboro.
Neshaminy`s D`Andre Pollard (Photo by Gregg Slaboda) (Jackie Schear)
Neshaminy has the District 1 rushing leader in D'Andre Pollard (2,193 yards), a 5-foot-7, 167-yard dynamo who ran for 230 yards and four scores to help the Redskins rout Unionville 41-7 in their district opener.
And C.B. West can trot out its own game-changer in Marvin Todd, who put up 230 yards and a school-record six touchdowns in the Bucks' 50-28 first-round win over Plymouth-Whitmarsh.
Pottsgrove coach Rick Pennypacker, whose squad is making its seventh straight trip to the district semis, is expecting to see a lot of Lanier and quarterback Brian Ingram.
"He's good,' Pennypacker said of the 5-10, 180-pound Lanier, who became Academy Park's all-time leading rusher last week. "He'll probably carry the mail about 70 percent of the time, and we've got to stop him. I'd say they'll run the ball about 80 percent of the time. The quarterback was a wide receiver last year, but he's developed into a good QB. He's not a (Perkiomen Valley quarterback Rasaan) Stewart, but he's athletic and can give you fits. They try to spread you out and create lanes for the running back and quarterback.'
Pottsgrove's offensive line has created plenty of lanes for senior tailback Marquis Barefield of late. The 5-8, 150-pound Barefield has amassed 721 rushing yards and 14 TDs over the past four weeks and ranks second in the area with 1,496 yards (and a 10.5 yards per carry average).
The Falcons' defense, led by senior linebackers Tyrone Parker and Jeff Adams, has allowed more than 200 total yards just three times this season.
And Pennypacker's squad is plenty motivated for their return to the district semifinal stage, where they fell to Henderson 31-28 last year. Henderson, incidentally, faces Glen Mills in tonight's other semifinal.
"The big thing is that our kids want this game,' Pennypacker said. "The (semifinal) game last year left a bad taste in their mouths. They want to get this one and hope they get another shot at Henderson.
"We have our work cut out for us. I think we can match up pretty well speed vs. speed, but if you make a mistake Lanier will run wild on you. On defense, they're a blitzing team and they're very quick. Their athleticism makes up for some of their size. We'll really have our hands full.'
As will the Rams and Vikings in their respective AAAA quarterfinals.
Fourth seed Neshaminy (10-1) opened the season 9-0 and was considered by more than a few to be the class of the district before being walloped 31-3 by Pennsbury in its regular season finale. Last week, the Redskins found themselves tied 7-7 with 13th seed Unionville before Pollard put on a second-half show.
"Pollard allows the play to develop in front of him, and he has an ability to break tackles in the secondary,' Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker said. "He can go the distance at any time.'
Those traits also apply to the Rams' Jarred Jones, who ran for 231 yards in last week's 43-21 victory over No. 5 seed Downingtown West to surpass the 4,000-yard career rushing mark. Jones, a 5-11, 195-pound senior, is averaging a phenomenal 177 rushing yards per game and 10.8 yards per carry and ranks second in the area with 1,593 yards.
Since falling 14-7 to Pottsgrove in Week 5, Spring-Ford has won six straight and is averaging 43.8 points during that span. Quarterback Matt Daywalt went 10-for-13 with one touchdown and 136 yards in his first start last week, while wideout Gary Hopkins has caught a TD pass in five of the past six games.
An active defensive front keyed by Robby Varner and Mason Romano has set the tone for a defensive effort responsible for a plus-17 turnover margin for the year.
"We emphasize protecting the ball and practice stripping the ball, and stress it over and over in practice,' Brubaker said. "That was a big part of our run last year, and we have to win that are of the game Friday to be successful.'
The Vikings, who defeated No. 2 seed Bayard Rustin 26-6 in the first round for their first AAAA playoff win in program history, will need continued strong play from their defense — whose average of 6.4 points allowed per game ranks first in District 1 and fifth in the state.
That said, they'll be hard-pressed to limit the Bucks to that number. C.B. West (9-2) is averaging 32.2 points per game and has put up 95 points over the past two weeks.
The Bucks have gone 9-1 since losing in Week 1.
Todd, a 6-1, 192-pound senior who transferred from Harry S Truman prior to this season, has rushed for 1,275 yards and 20 TDs in nine games.
"It all starts and ends with him, no doubt about it,' Perkiomen Valley coach Scott Reed said. "Everything they do is based off him. You get too focused on him, and they'll get people behind you with play-action.'
Like PV, C.B. West runs a no-huddle offense, with quarterback John Fitz throwing for 1,350 yards and 14 TDs so far.
The Vikings counter with their own high-octane attack led by senior quarterback Rasaan Stewart, who threw for 225 yards and three TDs last week to break the 4,000-yard career barrier. Clay Domine had season-bests of nine receptions, 112 receiving yards and three touchdowns against Rustin, while fellow receiver Dakota Clanagan is expected to be OK after suffering an ankle injury in that game.
"It's going to be about getting defensive stops and scoring when we have the opportunity to score,' Reed said. "I think their offense is very good, so we're going to have to find ways to get them off the field. Rustin was more of a come-at-you team, these guys are more like us — lead option, throw the ball around. But if they can run (Todd), it's going to be as simple as that.'
DISTRICT 1 DOINGS
Pottsgrove resident Henry Miller is the starting safety and also plays running back for Delco Christian, which takes on Bristol for the District 1/12-A championship Saturday at Plymouth-Whitemarsh at 1 p.m. ... In the District 1/12-AA final, Imhotep faces West Catholic Friday at Germantown High. ... In the two other District 1-AAAA quarterfinals Friday, top seed Garnet Valley (11-0) plays host to eighth seed Abington (9-2) and No. 3 seed Pennsbury (10-1) plays host to No. 11 seed North Penn (8-3).
AROUND THE STATE
Malvern Prep outlasted Springside Chestnut Hill 63-50 last Saturday in a wild one. Troy Gallen ran for 327 yards and six touchdowns for Malvern Prep, while Paul Dooley threw for 491 yards and seven touchdowns for SCH. ... In a District 3-AAAA quarterfinal Friday, Hempfield (8-3) — guided by former Boyertown head coach Ron Zeiber — visits second seed Cumberland Valley (9-2).
Follow Darryl Grumling on Twitter at @MercSmokinD.
Another round of upsets?
By Dennis Way
12th-seeded Spring-Ford (9-2) is looking at advanced lessons when its travels to Heartbreak Ridge to take on No. 4 Neshaminy (10-1) in another quarterfinal matchup.
The Rams, fresh off upsetting Downingtown West in the opening round, will get their football IPod shuttle stuck permanently on "Variations on a Handoff' when they line up with the Redskins, who like the power running game — even if it doesn't get immediate results.
"Even if you do stop them, they're still going to run the ball at you until you break,' said Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubaker. "Last week, Unionville held their running game in check in the first half, and they came out and kept running until it worked (to the tune of a 41-7 win).
"They do what they do. They say, ' Here we come, stop us.' And that's not our forte. We're not particularly big, and we haven't been good against teams that run at us.'
Neshaminy's primary weapon is running back D'Andre Pollard (208 carries, 2,190 yds., 28 TDs), although quarterback Tyler Wombough (47-for-88, 670 yds., 8 TDs) and fullback Denny Lord (34 carries, 233 yds.) also get into the act.
"They're primarily a downhill running team,' Brubaker said. "We're going to have to hold up to that continuous pounding for four quarters.'
Making that even more trying is the Rams' season-long trouble with injuries that has cut into their depth.
"What we've lost with our injuries is the two-platoon aspect of our game,' Brubaker said. "But we can't get caught thinking about it, we have to play with what we have.'
And should Spring-Ford add another pelt to its string of upsets, the Rams will take another step toward their goal.
"We want people to consider us an elite program,' Brubaker said. "Neshaminy is one of those elite programs, and what we've heard all week is that Neshaminy should win because of its tradition.
"But we've told our players that we're not playing their tradition, we're playing the 2013 Neshaminy team.'