Inspired by late brother’s determination, McKenna returns to Rams for home stretch
By Sam Stewart
ROYERSFORD >> This season wasn’t the one Spring-Ford’s Quinn McKenna had envisioned.
A high ankle sprain and strained Achilles tendon suffered in Week 2 kept the Rams’ versatile tight end on and off the sideline throughout Spring-Ford’s run to clinch the No. 8 seed in the District 1 Class 6A playoffs, foiling his aspirations of increasing his stat totals and becoming more of a contributor to the already potent Rams’ offense.
But there he was Thursday afternoon, jogging out to the turf at Coach McNelly Stadium for a pregame walkthrough. His white sock blended in with the tape that rode well up to the mid calf. After a solid performance in last week’s regular season-ending 56-7 victory over Upper Perkiomen, McKenna is willing to give it another go as the Rams host No. 9 Central Bucks East Friday night.
Staying motivated amid trying times runs in the McKenna family.
It’s been nearly five years since McKenna lost his older brother, Conor, to a rare form of cancer, angiosacroma, a cancer of the inner lining of blood vessels that can occur in any area of the body but most commonly occurs in the skin, breast, liver, spleen, and deep tissue. He was 15.
Up until the last two years, his death was a subject no teammate, or even McKenna for that matter, wanted to go near. The wounds were too fresh to start prodding for answers to a question that maybe didn’t have one.
Yet through it all, one thing was always clear. His life left an indelible mark.
“I was in shock for a while,” McKenna said. “I just remembered being in denial for so long about not having him here anymore. It was really hard to go through but I think my family really came together during that time.
“It took me a while to accept his death, especially since I was young. I didn’t really know what was going on most of the time. I wasn’t really expecting it but now I’ve come to terms that everything happens for a reason. I’ve learned a lot from it, and as much as I’d like to have him here today, what he showed me has helped me in my life.”
Conor was a ballplayer. More importantly, he was a fighter, a model of inspiration. Diagnosed at the age of 13, Conor went through a litany of tests, procedures and treatments during a taxing 19-month battle — all to combat a growing cancer that wound up taking away partial use of his right arm due to a surgery on a mass on his upper right arm.
Admittedly, McKenna was “young and naive” about the ongoing battle. A fifth-grader when Conor was diagnosed, the toll of the disease and the setbacks were — and still are — a blur to Quinn.
“Honestly, I don’t remember anything where I heard one day that he had cancer,” McKenna said. “It was just him going through treatments. In between treatments he’d be doing well but then something would show up. I knew he was sick but not to the level of what it was.”
What stuck with McKenna was something he hasn’t forgotten.
“It was hard work,” he said. “He had the one goal of playing baseball and he did anything in his power to be able to do that.
“He really wanted to get back onto the field. In between treatments he’d be hitting baseballs in the backyard. He’d be playing in the Babe Ruth League right back there,” McKenna said as he pointed toward Ram Stadium. “That just showed me how much passion and courage he had for playing baseball and how willing he was to work hard to get back to playing it. When I got hurt in Week 2, I kept all of that in the back of my mind in trying to get ready for the Wilson game.”
McKenna never made it back for the Wilson double-overtime loss, but made his way back to the field in Week 4’s victory over Exeter before playing in full against Norristown and Metacton. After aggravating his injury in the Rams’ 28-14 loss to Perkiomen Valley, McKenna sat out the next two games before playing in the first half of the team’s 56-7 victory over Upper Perkiomen.
Now, as the Rams try to advance into the second round of the district playoffs, McKenna is ready to take the field with a motto he’s held all throughout his high school career:
“I just play my hardest every game. I dedicate every game I play to Conor and all the things he wasn’t able to do.”
RCTV's Week 11 The Gridiron - Sponsored by The Peanut
RED HILL >> Neither sideline took to the locker rooms looking all that satisfied on Friday night.
Fresh off their 56-7 win over Upper Perkiomen inside Indian Stadium, Spring-Ford didn’t appear to be a team that had just about everything going their way throughout.
“I don’t know that this will do anything for our district ranking,” said Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubaker. “The big thing for us is to try and get a home game.”
Prior to Friday night, the Rams (4-1 PAC Liberty; 8-2 overall) held the No. 8 seed in the District 1 Class 6A power rankings. Even the conference crossover win over Upper Perk, a District 1-4A contender, wouldn’t do all that much to help boost Spring-Ford’s ranking.
From the opposing sideline, Upper Perk (4-1 PAC Frontier; 5-5 overall) head coach Tom Hontz echoed similar sentiments. Regardless of Friday’s outcome, Upper Perk had been set for a rematch with fellow Frontier Division member Pottsgrove in next week’s District 1-4A opener.
“This is what happens when these matchups happen,” he said. “We’ve seen it for a bunch of years now. It wasn’t good for Spring-Ford because they didn’t really gain any points, and it wasn’t good for us either because we were just completely out-matched.
“We worked hard to have a nice season against teams our size. To have to play an opponent like Spring-Ford … it’s a tough way to end our regular season against a team that caliber.”
Spring-Ford jumped out to a 42-point lead by the half, well before Upper Perk quarterback Zeke Hallman threw his lone touchdown pass — an 8-yard strike to Ryan Kendra — to move him to the top of Upper Perk’s list of all-time passing touchdowns thrown in a single season. On the night, he also broke the school-record for passing yards in a season.
“Coach said we were gonna come out, throw the kitchen sink at them and attack,” said Hallman. “We knew this would be a really tough test, but hopefully this is something that will help us to get ready for next week.”
Selwyn Simpson paced the Spring-Ford offense throughout. The senior running back racked up 241 yards of total offense — 168 yards rushing — to go along with five total touchdowns.
With the district playoffs short on their sights, Simpson hopes his running Friday provides a small glimpse of the Rams’ postseason run.
“We really want to play playoff-style football,” he said. “We always have a lot of confidence, but a game like this could help push us to that next level. We’ve just got to keep it rolling. Everything was going well, and we’ve got to bring that with us to playoffs.”
Quarterback TJ Pergine completed eight of his nine passing attempts for 192 yards and a touchdown while Stone Scarcelle hauled in two catches for 118 yards, including a 96-yard touchdown catch and run on the Rams’ first play from scrimmage.
Brubaker and the Rams will likely be doing some scoreboard watching through the weekend. With the win, the Rams currently sit at 1,550 power points, which may be just enough to give them a coveted home game next week.
On the other side, Hontz and the Tribe know fully what they’re up against. Pottsgrove, which had its way with Upper Perk during the regular season, holds the No. 2 seed in the District 1-4A rankings.
“We’ve got to give them a much better game than we did during the regular season,” said Hontz. “No excuses there. We’re playing a team the same size as us next week. We’ve got to be ready for it.”
Including Pergine’s 96-yard strike to Scarcelle to open their first offensive drive, the Rams scored on the opening play of four drives. Early in the second quarter, Scarcelle hit Simpson on a swing pass before the senior sprinted up the middle for a 58-yard score. He also busted loose for a 90-yard rushing touchdown later in the quarter. Justin DeFrancesco broke it for a 62-yard touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter.
With his touchdown pass during the third quarter, Hallman passed Bill Gebert (1966) with his 23rd passing touchdown this season. He also pulled ahead of Sean Nevin (2005) for the school-record in passing yards in a season with 1,734.
“A lot of dreams came true this season,” said Hallman, “but it wasn’t me all alone. It’s definitely a tribute to the guys around me. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without them.”
Spring-Ford posts second consecutive shutout, tops OJR 58-0
By Tom Nash
ROYERSFORD >> Midway through the first quarter, quarterback TJ Pergine picked up a bad snap off the ground, settled his feet and stood tall in the pocket, then delivered a perfect strike to Dan Cassidy for a 54-yard touchdown.
The moment stood as a tribute to Spring-Ford’s resurgence, their latest bout a 58-0 win over Owen J. Roberts on Saturday afternoon at Coach McNelly Stadium. What could have spelled disaster turned out to be a thing of beauty, as the Rams have now won two-straight, outscoring the opposition 110-0.
“We definitely haven’t forgotten about the loss to PV (Perkiomen Valley),” said Pergine, referring to the Rams’ 28-16 loss two weeks ago.
“We really rebounded from it, though. We know we can’t really do anything about it now, so we’ve just stayed focused on moving forward every week.”
Pergine moved ahead of Brandon Leacraft and into fourth on Spring-Ford’s all-time list of touchdown passes thrown in a season (23). He finished with five passing touchdowns and 150 yards, completing eight of his 15 attempts.
“He’s getting better mentally each week,” said Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubaker of Pergine, “and that’s what we’re looking for. He stands in there, he’s got a good arm and he can make the throws. That’s the most important thing for us going forward.”
The win sets up Spring-Ford (4-1 Pioneer Athletic Conference, 6-2 overall) for a cross-divisional game against Upper Perkiomen next week. Owen J. Roberts — now losers of two straight — drops to 2-3 in the PAC and 4-5 overall.
It was the Rams’ second shutout in a row and their third of the season.
“One of the things we didn’t do well a couple weeks ago was tackle,” Brubaker said. “We made a real commitment in practice to getting back to the fundamentals of our game and our tackling. That’s been paying dividends for us.”
Owen J. Roberts turned it over four times, coughing it up three times — including on the opening kickoff return — before quarterback Dawson Stuart was picked off by Cassidy during the second quarter. Spring-Ford’s Tanner Romano and Toby Poet each came up with a sack as the Wildcat offense was held to just 161 total yards.
The six fumbles — three for turnovers — really resonated with Owen J. head coach Rich Kolka.
“We’ve got to take better care of the ball,” he said. “If we don’t turn the ball over, we can make them sustain longer drives and then maybe
start to put something together. We weren’t physical enough on either side of the ball.”
Offensively, the Rams racked up 280 rushing yards despite going up against OJR’s defense, which was shutting down the run early on. Spring-Ford scored on nine of its 14 drives, even after turning it over on downs at the OJR 15 to end their opening drive.
“They came out in a bear front,” said Brubaker, “which we didn’t see on the film. It took us a couple of series to adjust.”
Selwyn Simpson racked up 86 total yards with two rushing touchdowns and a receiving score while Matt Gibson had a game-high 73 rushing yards and a touchdown on 14 carries. Justin Defrancesco and Stephen Brill each picked up late rushing touchdowns.
Through the air, Stone Scarcelle finished with three receptions for 48 yards and a pair of scores while Lee Albert had a 22-yard touchdown reception.
Saturday included, Spring-Ford has now beaten Owen J. Roberts the past seven consecutive years dating back to the 2010 season. During that run, the Rams have outscored the Wildcats 284-43 with two shutouts included.
NOTES >> Sarah McKernan was named Spring-Ford’s 2016 Homecoming Queen while Quinn McKenna was named King.
Pergine, Simpson lead Spring-Ford in shut out of OJR
By Andrew Kulp
TJ Pergine threw five touchdown passes and Selwyn Simpson found the end zone three times as Spring-Ford routed a sloppy Owen J. Roberts squad 58-0 in a Pioneer Athletic Conference Liberty Division game Saturday afternoon at Royersford.
Despite windy conditions, Spring Ford (4-1, 7-2) came out throwing the football, as Pergine completed 8-of-15 attempts for 151 yards with one interception. Five of the Rams' first six scoring plays were through the air, as Stone Scarcelle hauled in two, and Dan Cassidy, Lee Albert and Simpson all got in on the act.
Postgame, Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker said the Wildcats' defensive scheme dictated the pass-heavy approach.
"We intended to try to be balanced, but they came out in a bear front and kept eight guys in the box," he said. "It was a pretty good strategy on day like today, a gusty day, but T.J. has been playing well.
"He did a great job overall. He has a nice arm and cut through the wind a couple times."
With a big lead established, Spring-Ford turned to the ground attack. Simpson tacked on touchdown runs of 19 and 47 yards, while Matt Gibson added 73 yards on 14 carries.
Owen J. Roberts (2-3, 4-5) battled rampant ball control issues in the first half. The Wildcats fumbled six times, losing three, while Dawson Stuart was also intercepted by Cassidy.
Armed with big plays and great field position, six of the Rams' nine touchdowns came on scoring drives of two plays or less.
Although Owen J. Roberts struggled, Spring-Ford's defense turned in a strong effort as well, limiting the Wildcats to five first downs and forcing seven punts in the contest.
Brubaker praised the effort on that side of the football, noting some major improvements helped set the team up for the victory.
"The one thing I saw today from our defense was how well we tackled," Brubaker said. "We've really put an emphasis on that the past two weeks. We're generally a pretty good tackling team, but we had some lapses a couple weeks ago, so we went back and focused on that in practice. It certainly looked like it paid dividends today."
Spring-Ford hands Boyertown third straight shutout loss
By Tom Nash
BOYERTOWN >> Just a week ago, Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubaker stood on the sideline, waiting for one of the Rams to make a play.
On Friday night, that wait was finally over.
On the game’s opening snap, quarterback TJ Pergine hit Stone Scarcelle, who then took it 61 yards to the house to kick-start the Rams’ 52-0 rout of Boyertown.
“That’s what we said in the locker room before the game,” said Brubaker, “‘Don’t wait for somebody else to make the play. You make it happen.’ We were able to get off to a pretty good start from there.”
The Ram offense rolled from that point forward.
Pergine finished the night with three passing touchdowns while Scarcelle hauled in two receiving scores and also passed for one.
The result improves Spring-Ford to 3-1 in the Pioneer Athletic Conference’s Liberty Division (6-2 overall), their lone conference loss coming last week against Perkiomen Valley.
Boyertown — victim of three consecutive shutouts — falls to 1-3 in the Liberty Division and 2-6 overall.
Selwyn Simpson took it for 96 yards and two rushing touchdowns on 10 carries and also hauled in a 6-yard receiving touchdown while Justin DeFrancesco had 100 yards rushing with a touchdown and hauled in a 50-yard receiving touchdown from Scarcelle.
“I think all of us took a lot from last week’s loss,” said Scarcelle. “We were all ready to move on from it, though. Tonight was big. We came out, played smash-mouth, and we’re leaving here with the win.”
Defensively, the Rams sacked Boyertown quarterback Jerry Kapp twice while Matt Booth came up with an interception. Boyertown was held to just 122 yards of total offense and went 2-for-10 on third down tries.
Boyertown head coach George Parkinson deemed it a mismatch from the start.
“They’re bigger, they’re stronger,” he said of Spring-Ford, “they won the line of scrimmage battle all night. We couldn’t even get a hitch-pass off.
“Our passing game was shut down, our running game was shut down. We just couldn’t handle them.”
Kapp completed only three of his 11 passing attempts for 25 yards while Hunter Vogels rushed it six times for a team-high 36 yards. The Bears were unable to move the chains until about four minutes left in the first half, when Kapp held it on a keeper on 3rd-and-1.
“I’m not sure that there was anything we could have done differently,” Parkinson added. “That’s just a really good all-around football team.”
Boyertown hasn’t scored since Marcus Thomas’ 2-yard touchdown run with 10 seconds left during the Bears’ win over Methacton on Sept. 23. Since, the Bears have been shutout by Perkiomen Valley (30-0), Owen J. Roberts (29-0) and now Spring-Ford (52-0).
To Parkinson, it’s imperative that the Bears get on the board during next week’s game against Norristown.
“We haven’t had that excitement of scoring a touchdown,” he said. “That’s been deflating for us. We’ve got to get our offense going next week and try to get some momentum from that.”
Home, Sweet Home?
Boyertown has been abysmal on the road this season, compiling an 0-4 record in games outside of Bear Memorial Stadium. In those four losses, the Bears have been outscored 116-20. At home, they now sit 2-2, despite being outscored 146-87.
Spring-Ford is now 9-4 against Boyertown dating back to the 2004 season. The Rams have won six straight against the Bears, dating back to a 20-0 Boyertown win during the 2010 season.
Boyertown senior Natalie Wynne was named the 2016 Homecoming Queen at halftime.
Defense shines as Perk Valley topples Spring-Ford 28-16
The Vikings’ front seven did the dirty work, stymieing a Rams ground game that ran wild in last year’s contest, while David Williams made a tide-turning interception in the third quarter as the Vikings topped Spring-Ford 28-16 on the Rams’ Senior Night Friday night.
The win is only the Vikings’ (3-0 PAC, 7-0 overall) second over their neighboring rival in the past six years and puts them in control of their own destiny with the PAC championship three weeks away.
“We worked hard, did what we need to do and got the job done,” PV defensive tackle Alec Jackson said. “I have no words for this, I couldn’t ask for anything else. No one messed up, we played well. It was a solid job all the way around.”
“I thought our defense played amazing tonight,” Perkiomen Valley first-year head coach Rob Heist said. “They were disciplined, they knew their responsibilities, they knew their adjustments and we got 11 hats to the ball and tackled well tonight.”
The Vikings’ defense — led by the play of Jackson, Vaughn Stolzer, Nick Marren, Jahir Holmes, Noah Shine, Mario Scotese, Kevin DelaCruz, Kevin Lovett, Chris Jimenez and Jon Rotunda to name a few — limited the Rams’ ground game to just 77 yards. Senior running back Matt Gibson, a Viking killer who ran for 187 yards in last year’s PAC Championship win, was limited to 69 yards on 14 carries. The second part of the Ram tandem, Selwyn Simpson, was limited to just 30 yards on eight carries, his seven-yard touchdown with less than a minute in the fourth capping the scoring.
Scotese and Shine registered sacks in the win.
The Vikings forced the Rams into three three-and-outs to start the game and only broke once, a 80-yard pass from TJ Pergine to Dan Cassidy making the score 13-7 one play after Stephen Sturm’s 4-yard touchdown run gave the visitors a two-touchdown lead.
They more than made up for that momentary lapse, however. Williams, a senior safety, delivered a decisive blow on the defense’s next drive, picking off a pass that bounced off a Spring-Ford receiver and returned it 17 yards to give the Vikings a commanding 21-7 lead, one they didn’t relinquish.
“It was huge (Williams’ interception),” Sturm said. “It gave us the momentum back. Dave is a hell of a player. He always comes in with the mindset of being that nasty safety over the middle. Today it really showed. He stepped up and made some huge hits. From there, the interception, right place, right time. He made the play and took it back to the house.”
Pergine finished the game 18-of-37 for 287 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions with Cassidy leading the team with 99 yards receiving on four receptions. Spring-Ford (2-1 PAC, 5-2 overall), which started three drives behind their own 15, turned the ball over on downs deep in Viking territory on two occasions. The first came as the Rams failed to convert a 4th and 15 at the PV 25 midway through the second in a scoreless game, the second stemming on a bad hold on a field goal try on the drive following Williams’ pick-six.
“We just didn’t play a good game,” Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubaker said. “I made mistakes, kids made mistakes, we all made mistakes and we’re all accountable for that. We have to look at the film. We felt like we could come in and run the ball and they did a good job up front, bouncing us out of the holes we were trying to get to and we were forced to come back.”
“We kept getting ourselves in bad situations early, down and distance wise. Our defense played really well in the first half but they were able to get enough first downs to where we would be pinned deep in our own territory. Our defense was on the field for a long time in the first half. We started the game with four three and outs, and obviously you can’t do that.”
Sturm finished the game with 241 yards passing and three total touchdowns (two passing, one running). Justin Jaworski, who was cleared Wednesday after suffering an injury to his MCL in Week 4, finished the game with a game-best six receptions for 101 yards. Remy Sell hauled in four passes for 87 yards, his biggest a 64-yard reception that gave the Vikings a 28-9 lead with nine minutes remaining in the fourth.
“This game was huge for me,” Sturm said. “Last year I was very disappointed in the way I played. All offseason, thinking about it, if there was one game that I could fix, one game I could have prepared for more it was Spring-Ford’s. I wasn’t happy with the way I played at all. All offseason I dedicated my sweat, my hard work in the weight room to this.
“We came up, defense played amazing. The O-line was amazing and we did what we had to do.”
Defense, Sturm rise up in Jaworski's return as Perkiomen Valley handles Spring-Ford
By DAVE KURTZ
ROYERSFORD – In the Pioneer Athletic Conference’s version of Gunfight at the OK Corral – Perkiomen Valley got some added firepower with the return of injured, record-setting wideout Justin Jaworski.
But it was the Vikings’ defense that actually stole the show in a pivotal 28-16 victory over archrival Spring-Ford, enabling PV to grab the PAC Liberty Division lead by the throat.
Sure, Jaworski provided a huge spark, notching six catches for 101 yards and picking off a pass in his surprisingly quick return from a partially torn MCL and growth plate fracture. But the real headliners was a ferocious defense that notched two interceptions and held the Rams to 76 rushing yards.
Marco Scotese and Noah Shine finished with sacks for the Vikings, who set the tone by forcing a trio of three-and-outs from Spring-Ford at the onset. Other strong contributions came from Alec Jackson, Vaughn Stolzer, Nick Marren, Jahir Holmes, Kevin DelaCruz, Kevin Lovett, Chris Jimenez and Jon Rotunda for the Vikings, who grabbed a 7-0 halftime lead when Stephen Sturm tossed an 8-yard screen pass to Brendan Schimpf at the 1:27 mark of the second quarter.
“The kids were flying around out there, making plays,” said Perkiomen Valley first-year head coach Rob Heist. “The kids played amazing defense. They showed amazing discipline and handled their responsibilities, allowing just the one big play (TJ Pergine’s 80-yard TD pass to Dan Cassidy in the third quarter). Our defense set the tone.”
The biggest play from the Vikings’ D came from David Williams, who hauled in an interception off a deflection and rambled 17 yards to the house for a 21-7 lead with 5:16 left in the third quarter.
After Spring-Ford (2-1, 5-2) drew within 21-9 on Billy Frazier’s endzone sack of PV quarterback Stephen Sturm (243 yards, 2 TDs passing) for a safety late in the third quarter, the Vikings (3-0, 7-0) put the nail in the coffin when Sturm hit Remy Sell in stride with a 64-yard touchdown pass down the right sideline for a 28-9 lead with 8:46 remaining.
“Give them credit, we got outplayed,” said Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubaker. “You can’t start out the game with (three) three-and-outs. That's just something you can’t do. We felt like we would have success running the ball but they did a good job up front, bouncing us out our running lanes.”
There was plenty of bounce from the Vikings, with Sturm at the center of activity. The senior quarterback led Perk Valley on the ground (16 carries, 69 yards, TD) and through the air.
“This was a great team win for us,” Sturm said. “The defense and the offensive line played amazing. Last year I was very disappointed the way I played and all offseason I dedicated my sweat and hard work in the weight room to this. We learned from our mistakes last year, and that’s what makes a great team.”
Greatness is a superlative often attached to the electric Jaworski, who was cleared to play Wednesday and didn’t put on his uniform until the Vikings headed back to the locker room following the pregame warmups.
“When I got hurt, I was focused on getting back for Week 7 and Spring-Ford,” said Jaworski, who now has 878 receiving yards in just 4.5 games. “I went to physical therapy 5-6 times a week and the doctors cleared me Wednesday and said I had 100 percent stability.
“Sturm has been doing a great job spreading the ball around and the guys have been stepping up all year, especially on the offensive line. Remy has been playing out of his mind.”
Williams’ pick provided the decided turning point – “that killed us,” Brubaker said – and the Vikings now find themselves in the driver’s seat for the Liberty title and a shot at reclaiming the top spot they held in 2014.
“David Williams’ ‘Pick Six” was definitely the play of the game,” Heist said. “The kids showed great focus coming into this game. Our mentality all year is 1-0, to play it one game at a time. And now we have to go back to that thought process with Norristown up next.”
For the Rams, Pergine threw for 287 yards and Simpson capped the scoring with a 6-yard TD run with 28 seconds left at the end of a roughing-the-passer aided, 47-yard scoring drive (six plays). But it was too little, too late.
“Our defense was on the field too long, especially in the first half, and I knew that would eventually hurt us,” Brubaker said. “We played well defensively but we were off. Sometimes you have to man up and tip your cap to the other team.”
Spring-Ford, Perkiomen Valley set to renew rivalry Friday night
By Sam Stewart
ROYERSFORD >> He ran over, through and around Perkiomen Valley’s defensive line in last year’s win.
Now, senior running back Matt Gibson and the Ram offense are looking for an encore.
Perkiomen Valley, meanwhile, is looking for the exact opposite.
Friday night, as the undefeated Vikings (2-0 PAC, 6-0 overall) visit Spring-Ford (2-0 PAC, 5-1 overall) at Coach McNelly Stadium in the most anticipated game of the season, both teams will finally have their answer.
“The biggest thing for us this year is being gap disciplined, knowing your assignment on every front that we’re putting up there and tackling,” Perkiomen Valley head coach Rob Heist said. “It wasn’t so much schematic last year but him (Gibson) making plays, being slippery, making people miss and turning highlight-reel runs. We need to get to where we need to be, get 11 hats to the ball and tackle.”
“Selwyn (Simpson) and Matt (Gibson) are essentially three year starters and they know what they bring to the table, and we do too,” Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubaker said. “We expect the same from them every game. They’re going to run hard and we just need to create some lanes for them to run in.”
Last year, finding lanes wasn’t a problem for the two-headed monster in the Rams’ backfield. In some instances, they made their own.
Gibson finished with a game-best 187 yards, including two sensational touchdowns, while Simpson added 94 yards on 11 carries and a score as the Rams captured their first PAC-10 championship since 2011 with a 28-14 victory in the last week of the regular season.
This year, the duo has been more than formidable. Gibson ranks fourth in the PAC with 494 yards and six scores on 69 carries. Simpson has 280 yards and 10 touchdowns on 47 carries for a Ram offense that ranks first in the league in scoring (43.5 ppg) and second in rushing (182.7 ypg).
Needless to say, stopping the backs and getting through a much vaunted offensive line is a focal point for the PV defense.
“We can’t have any mental mistakes, especially up front,” said PV’s 6-3, 245-pound senior defensive lineman Vaughn Stolzer. “We have to be crisp.”
“They’re (Spring-Ford) physical,” added junior Alec Jackson. “We’re just going to have to get after it, do what we need to do and hopefully get the job done.”
Getting the job done is what Perkiomen Valley failed to do last season, falling flat in their trip to Royersford as the offense could only muster six points through the first three quarters.
That’s a sticking point for PV, which enters Friday winners of six straight, including a victory over The Haverford School that snapped the Fords’ 21-game win streak. Senior quarterback Stephen Sturm, who threw for 298 yards while completing 32-of-55 in last year’s loss, is unsurprisingly the league’s leading passer. He’s completed nearly 70 percent of his passes (102-for-149) for 1,679 yards and 20 touchdowns, 37 of those completions going to senior wide receiver Justin Jaworski, who was injured in Week 4.
In his place, Brendan Schimpf, David Williams, Sean Owens and Remy Sell have carried the workload. Williams is coming off a solid Week 6, hauling in four passes for 69 yards in the Vikings’ 30-0 victory over Boyertown. Owens ranks fourth in the league in receptions (19 for 331, five touchdowns) with Schimpf adding 224 yards on the ground.
“We asked the kids to step up when Justin got hurt,” Heist said. “Justin is one of the best players in the area and that left a big gap for us. It was put to all the other receivers and running backs ‘listen, you’re going to get more touches. We need you to step up and make plays.’ We’ve been spreading the ball around to as many different people as we can and trying to be unpredictable. So far, so good. This will be the real test. They are the defending champs. Their defense is excellent and every single year they are very well coached. We are looking forward to the challenge.”
That defense is led by a front seven that wreaks havoc. Their goal: to make teams one dimensional. The result: Successful.
Led by Tanner Romano, Nick Salomone, Toby Poet, Billy Frazier, Ryan Yanulevich, Josh Tumelty and Lee Albert, the Rams defense has only allowed more than 250 yards of total offense in one game — Week 3’s loss to Wilson in double overtime. The Rams ‘D’ ranks second in the league in points against (14.3 ppg), rushing yards allowed (237.8 ypg) and third in total yards allowed (237 ypg),
“What we’ve been successful with is making teams one dimensional,” Brubaker said. “We’ve been pretty good playing the run throughout the year and I would expect nothing different. We tend to give up some yards passing but we tighten up in the red zone. That happened last year and it happened against Wilson earlier this year. We just need to continue to play sound football. The guys on defense, we have different guys making plays each week. That’s kind of our defensive strength, that they play within the system they are given.”
“We’re not going to act like they don’t have any players,” Romano said of Perkiomen Valley. “Every team has got them and they definitely do. We game plan around some players and we’re ready to play. We’re excited.”
Keep on Growing
Spring-Ford and Perkiomen Valley are anticipating the same amount — or more — of fans Friday night. Last year brought more than 8,000 through the gates, many having arrived well before 6 p.m.
“I love it when the student sections are there to warm up,” Brubaker said. “Spring-Ford tends to be a later arriving crowd. You turn around at the beginning of the game then you turn around during the first quarter and the stands are full. In a game like this, seats are at a premium, parents and kids are getting there early and I love it. I love that atmosphere and that energy.”
Peak of the Rivalry
Perkiomen Valley and Spring-Ford’s matchups have had some added weight the past two seasons, the winner going on to win the PAC title. This year will be no different with the winner set on the path to the first PAC crossover championship in Week 10.
“I mean it’s an awesome rivalry,” Heist said. “It’s grown into something that’s manifested itself into something bigger than both schools. It’s not just football. It was basketball last year, field hockey, soccer, any competition between our two schools is super competitive and an awesome, awesome rivalry. The atmosphere, even though we came on the wrong side of that, being apart of that was amazing. There was around 9,000 people there, I expect it to be similar this year. We have a veteran group, I expect our kids ready to go.”
Both teams held the same mentality of “winning the week,” and not making Friday’s night’s game any bigger than it had to be.
“Practice has definitely been intense all week,” Salomone said. “We’re going later, working harder but it’s worth it.”
“We just need to treat it like any other game,” Gibson added. “Just go out there and do our best.
“We just need to look at it as just another game,” PV’s Jahir Holmes said. “We don’t want to put this game on a pedestal and get emotional 10 minutes before the game. We need to go out and do what need to do.”
Prediction: Spring-Ford wins another on its home turf, tops PV 28-21
Perkiomen Valley's aim against Spring-Ford is to gain payback for last season's loss and take a huge step toward winning the Pioneer Athletic Conference Liberty Division title.
In the overall sports rivalry between the schools, Perkiomen Valley would also like to gain a measure of revenge for the controversial and heartbreaking loss it suffered on the hardwood in February in the league final.
In the basketball contest, Perkiomen Valley fans stormed Spring-Ford's court with 0.1 seconds left to celebrate an apparent 45-44 victory. The Vikings were assessed a technical foul by the referees, and they ended up bowing, 54-48, in overtime.
The Vikings (6-0 overall, 2-0 conference) and host Rams (5-1, 2-0) will clash on the gridiron at 7 p.m. Friday at Coach McNelly Stadium.
"This has always been a big game for us," said Perkiomen Valley first-year coach Rob Heist, who is in his 13th season with the Vikings and a graduate of the school.
Last season, before the conference added Norristown and Upper Merion and split into two divisions, Spring-Ford captured its first league title since 2011 with a 28-14 win over Perkiomen Valley in Week 10.
A Perkiomen Valley offense that averages 37.7 points is spurred by quarterback Stephen Sturm. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound southpaw has completed 102 of 149 passes for an area-high 1,679 yards and 20 touchdowns.
The Vikings suffered a major blow when they lost multipurpose threat Justin Jaworski to a partially torn medial collateral ligament, suffered Sept. 16. "That's unfortunate, because you want to play them when they're at full strength," Rams coach Chad Brubaker said.
Sturm now mostly spreads the ball among halfback David Williams, fullback Brendan Schimpf, and wideouts Remy Sell and Sean Owens.
The Rams' spread offense is ignited by quarterback T.J. Pergine, running backs Matt Gibson and Selwyn Simpson, handyman Stone Scarcelle, and tight end/wideout Quinn McKenna.
Pergine has hit on 64 of 109 passes for 1,143 yards and 14 touchdowns; Gibson has carried 70 times for 500 yards and five TDs; and Scarcelle, who sees time at quarterback, has 26 receptions for 469 yards and six touchdowns.
Perkiomen Valley's 3-5-3 defense is headed by middle guard Kevin Lovett, tackles Alec Jackson and Kevin DelaCruz, and linebackers Nick Marren and Mario Scotese.
The Rams' 4-3 defense is keyed by end Tanner Romano, linebackers Ryan Yanulevich and Lee Albert, and safeties Dan Cassidy and Adam Sharkey.
No. 6 Perkiomen Valley at No. 11 Spring-Ford, Friday, 7 p.m. Vikings linemen Chris Jimenez, Vaughn Stolzer, and Jahir Holmes need to give Sturm time to throw.
Spring-Ford turns on jets in second half, tops Methacton 45-0
By Dan Dunkin
FAIRVIEW VILLAGE >> Penalties and dropped passes short-circuited Spring-Ford’s usually electric offense at times in the first half Friday. Power outages don’t last long for the Rams, however, when you have defense and explosiveness like they do.
The Rams shut down Methacton’s running game, and it was only a matter of time before the Rams, leading only 17-0 at halftime, got rolling on all cylinders. They fired out of the second half gate and went on cruise control to win 45-0.
Junior quarterback TJ Pergine threw three touchdown passes, completing 12-of-18 for 205 yards. Matt Gibson (122 yards, 14 carries, a touchdown) led a robust running game that amassed 250 yards. Selwyn Simpson galloped for 80 yards on 12 carries and two TDs. Quinn Mckenna caught two TD passes and Dan Cassidy snared another.
Spring-Ford (2-0 PAC, 5-1 overall) got a great effort defensively, limiting the Warriors (0-2, 1-5) to 124 yards of total offense. Methacton quarterback Jason Eckman showed some nice mobility as well as passing capability, but was often under a big pass rush and was sacked three times.
“We weren’t trying to have the offense dictate what we did on defense,” Ram middle linebacker Ryan Yanulevich said. “We stayed focused, worked our game plan and got off the field on third down.
“We had good trust in our D-backs to go man if we needed to, and we had a good pass rush.”
Spring-Ford held Methacton to two first-half first downs and six for the game.
“They’ve been playing great all year,” Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubaker said of his defense. “We can get pressure with our front four, which is always a bonus. They did a great job tonight.”
It wasn’t an altogether crisp night for the Spring-Ford offense in the first half, when there were four dropped passes and numerous penalties that slowed momentum. For the game, Spring-Ford had 85 yards in penalties. Brubaker wasn’t happy with the drops or the four fumbles (none lost), but he was pleased to see McKenna come back strong after missing two weeks with a twisted ankle, and happy with Pergine’s continued development.
It could have been worse for Methacton, and in fact it was far worse last year, when they lost 82-0 to the Rams. The Warriors, undersized, competed hard and put up good resistance in keeping the game within 17-0 at halftime.
“That’s marked improvement,” said Methacton coach Paul Lepre. “Our defense keeps us in games. We’ve got a scrappy bunch of guys on that side of the ball. We emphasize not giving up the big play, and when we do that, we execute, we can go into halftime at 17—0 behind a team that’s superior athletically.”
It took Spring-Ford barely a minute on the opening possession to go 80 yards and cap it with Gibson’s 16-yard score. But it wasn’t easy for the Rams the rest of the half. Ryan O’Toole, a good two-way player for the Warriors, made an interception when the Rams reached the red zone again later in the first quarter.
Methacton’s John Keenan made a nice leaping catch for a 21-yard gain near midfield but the Warriors then were stymied. They got good field position after forcing a Ram punt, but penalties and swarming Spring-Ford ‘D’ stopped them inside the Ram 30.
McKenna gathered a nice pass over the middle for a 34-yard TD 2:26 before halftime. In the third quarter, after another ferocious defensive series by the Rams, topped by Toby Poet’s sack, Spring-Ford set up at its own 47 and, after Simpson’s 20-yard burst, McKenna scored again from 33 yards out.
On the next Spring-Ford series, Pergine shook off a near sack and found Gibson for 14 yards before Simpson powered into the end zone.
Lepre lamented offensive mistakes that made his team’s climb harder, but complimented their heart.
“I’ve got to give my kids credit on that,” he said.
ROYERSFORD >> The Norristown Eagles and Spring-Ford Rams opened their slate of Pioneer Athletic Conference games in frenzied fashion Friday night at McNelly Stadium. The Eagles gambled with an onside kick to begin the game which paid off in a recovery, but that was one of the only positives for the Eagles in a 50-14 loss to the Rams.
“I told our guys, we don’t have anything to lose. Let’s just go out and play football. We are a young bunch and they know I get a little crazy,” said Norristown head coach Jason Powell. “I told them we were going to go onside kick. It worked out in our favor but overall we have to execute.”
Any “all in” luck the young Eagles hoped to have ended there. On the following play, the Rams’ Matt Booth’s interception set up a 52-yard pass from TJ Pergine to Quinn McKenna. Selwyn Simpson finished the drive with a 2-yard run, the first of his three first half touchdowns.
Norristown struggled with erratic play and high snaps for most of the night. Perhaps, the most costly coming on a 4th and 11 from their own 12-yard line. The mishandled snap gave the Rams the ball on the Eagles’ one-yard line and Simpson capitalized with a short run.
Simpson suffered a left ankle injury in the opening week of the season. Despite limited touches and no second half action, he was pleased to be healthy.
“It was one of my best games,” said the senior back. “The holes were there. I was battling an ankle injury early in the season and I’m finally healthier and able to show it more. My O-line always finds me holes. Today was a little easier especially with my ankle feeling better. I could hit them harder and faster.”
Pergine continued to pick apart the Eagles’ secondary after his 52-yard opening bomb. He hit Stone Scarcelle with time expiring in the first quarter for a 28-yard touchdown to put the Rams ahead 15-0. In the second quarter, Pergine connected with Matt Gibson, who scampered 44 yards for the score.
The Rams led 43-6 at the half. With a running clock for the second half, they cruised to the 50-14 win.
“It was really sloppy in the beginning. What we talked about all week was not being sloppy and part of that was my fault. It’s not how we wanted to come out. We didn’t get settled. We kept our composure and got back to the things we do,” said Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker.
“We knew who their players were,” said Powell. “In the first quarter we had a short field and that’s when we came unglued. I’m happy the kids said hey let’s go play the second half and wipe the slate clean.”
During the week, Brubaker stressed the importance of making better in-game decisions and making fewer mental mistakes, especially at quarterback and on the offensive line.
“We struggled in the beginning of the game to pick up some of their blitzes but they settled down (o-lone). The coaches were able to diagnose what was going on and correct mistakes,” said Brubaker.
The offensive line paved the way for Simpson and Gibson in the first half.
“We have two backs and it kind of depends on how the game goes. Sometimes they alternate drives,” added Brubaker. “We don’t necessarily plan it but it’s how things turned out tonight.”
Justin Defrancesco took over backfield duties in the second half, touching the ball on nine of eleven of the Rams’ snaps. His game was highlighted by a 54-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
For Norristown, sophomore running back Kirk Wilson accounted for most of the Eagles positive yardage with his runs of 16 and 19 yards.
“He’s been working his tail off in the offseason. he’s one of the guys we think will be there especially when he grows,” said Powell. “Even though they are young, they have something they want to play for.”