Owen J. Roberts shuts down Spring-Ford
By Tom Nash
BUCKTOWN >> No one needed to remind the Owen J. Roberts sideline all that was at stake under the lights of Henry J. Bernat Stadium Friday night. A win, and the Wildcats would have a great shot at making the District One Class 6A playoffs. A loss, well … “We weren’t even thinking about what a loss could mean,” said Owen J. Roberts quarterback Dawson Stuart. “We were just focused on winning.” The Wildcats were determined and focused throughout, dominating from start to finish on the way to a stunning 33-0 win over Spring-Ford. Owen J. Roberts quarterback Dawson Stuart (14) and receiver Hunter Hinrichs celebrate after connecting for a long TD reception against Spring-Ford Friday. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media) With the win, the Wildcats (3-2 Pioneer Athletic Conference Liberty Division; 7-2 overall) move that much closer to earning their first district playoff berth since the 2010 season. With the loss, Spring-Ford (3-2; 5-4 overall) may very well find itself on the outside looking in for the first time since 2014 when districts get started in a couple weeks. “It’s only been done two, maybe three times in school history,” said Owen J. Roberts head coach Rich Kolka of making districts. “So that says a lot about our guys. That was one of our goals — three years ago, no one talked about us. Now, we could be in a district playoff game.” Friday’s game felt much like a November playoff atmosphere with Stuart at the forefront of it. The senior threw for 213 yards along with a pair of touchdowns to wideout Hunter Hinrichs. Hinrichs racked up a game-high 143 yards on six receptions — including a 78-yard strike down the left sideline during the first quarter that set the tone. “We knew we needed to make big plays early on to win against a good team like that,” said Hinrichs, the program’s career leader in receiving yards. “Dawson and I have that connection, that spark together.” Stuart had nothing but praise for his favorite target as the pair has undoubtably been on the same wavelength since their youth football days at Norchester. “Hunter is one of our best athletes,” said Stuart, who owns OJR’s all-time career records in passing touchdowns and yards. “We saw a mismatch on that play — he had (the defensive back beat) in height, quickness and speed. So I was looking at him the whole time, hoping he would make a play and he did. He beat his guy and took it all the way. “He’s doing all the work. I know I just have to get it near him and he’ll go get it.” Stuart kept the Spring-Ford defense honest with his feet, too. Utilizing the option with running back Hunter Scherfel in tow, Stuart racked up 50 yards rushing on 11 carries. Meanwhile Scherfel wore away the clock during the second half on the way to a 105-yard rushing game that featured a 3-yard score during the fourth quarter. OJR’s defense was solid all game. The Wildcats held Spring-Ford to its lowest total yardage output all season — 175 yards — and hardly let quarterback TJ Pergine set his feet in the pocket. Sean Praweckyj put the stamp on the team’s memorable night with an 80-yard interception returned for a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter for the final 33-0 score. “That was as dominating of a performance on both sides of the ball as I have seen coaching high school football,” said Kolka. “There is no question. And that was against a good team. Spring-Ford is always a good team.” Meanwhile, Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubaker deemed it a ‘humiliating’ night to be a part of. The Rams were shutout for the first time since the 2012 season — a 49-0 loss against Phoenixville. They only made one trip into the red zone all night, which resulted in a missed field goal attempt from 27 yards out during the first quarter. “They didn’t do anything special, just played tough football,” said Brubaker. “Hats off to them. They beat us in every facet of the game tonight.” Just when it looked like the Rams were getting going, they had the carpet pulled out from under them. On their first drive of the second half, running back Justin DeFrancesco had a 44-yard touchdown erased by a costly holding penalty. Two plays later, the Rams would punt it away for the first of three times in the half. Defrancesco, usually a focal point to the Spring-Ford offense, was held to just 47 total yards by OJR’s bigs up front. Pergine rarely looked comfortable in the pocket where he completed just 12 of 27 passing attempts for 95 yards and scrambled for 46 yards on the ground. Next week, the PAC holds its regular-season ending divisional crossover games. With Owen J. Roberts, Spring-Ford and Boyertown all boasting the same inner-divisional record and no team emerging based on head-to-head criteria, the standings will turn to the district power rankings. Based on that, Owen J. Roberts will claim the No. 2 seed and face Frontier foe Upper Perkiomen, while No. 3-seeded Spring-Ford will take on Pope John Paul II.
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Spring-Ford gets back on track, downs Boyertown 16-0
By Jeff Stover
ROYERSFORD >> It seemed almost inconsistent with the nature of the day.
Spring-Ford staged its annual Homecoming festivities in conjunction with Saturday’s game against Boyertown. And while the Rams put a happy cap on the raucous day with a 16-0 victory over the Bears, head coach Chad Brubaker was left wanting by the way his players came out.
“I’m disappointed by my perception that we were uninspired,” he said as the party atmosphere at Coach McNelly Stadium and vicinity wound down. “We have to execute better. We’ll check the film.”
It was a very close Pioneer Athletic Conference (Division 1) game through the entire first half, the Rams going to the locker room with a 3-0 lead courtesy of a Taylor Smith field goal. Three other series saw SF (3-1 PAC, 5-3 overall) end with a missed field goal, on downs and with an interception.
To its credit, Boyertown’s defense played a prominent part in keeping pace with Spring-Ford. Blaise Caroselli intercepted a pass three plays after the Rams’ Cole Trauger recovered a fumble at his 37 to stop a Bear march that featured big runs by fullback Marcus Thomas (17 yards) and quarterback Ayden Mathias (14).
“Our kids played their hearts out,” Boyertown head coach T.J. Miller said. “It doesn’t matter if the opponent is a Spring-Ford or a winless team … it’s a testament to what our seniors have built on.”
It was a first half where the kicking game was in the spotlight. Smith had a 39-yard field-goal attempt blocked when the Rams’ first possession stalled at the Boyertown 22, and Declan Coyle’s attempt to pull the Bears even at the half saw his 25-yard try blocked.
Smith’s 37-yard field goal attempt — his second of two in the first half — was good with 2:39 left. It remained the game’s lone scoring until the first two minutes of the second half, when Spring-Ford created more separation on the scoreboard.
Justin Defrancesco (20 carries, game-high 135 yards) sprinted through a left-tackle hole at the Ram 45 and roared down the Boyertown sideline for a touchdown with 10:44 on the clock.
“We got a huge block from (Noah) Silva,” SF quarterback T.J. Pergine said. “It opened a huge hole for Justin, who has speed. It brought life to the team.”
Spring-Ford added a final touchdown with less than two minutes to go, Pergine hooking up with Colby Goldsmith (two catches, 10 yards) on a two-yard toss.
Turnovers ended up a big issue for the Bears. Goldsmith’s interception of Mathis at the Ram 39 set the home team up for an 11-play, 30-yard drive culminating with Smith’s field goal, and Cole Trauger recovered a fumble to halt the Bears at the Ram 37 with less than 1-1/2 minutes until the half.
A lost fumble quashed one drive at the Spring-Ford 16 near the end of the third quarter, and Clarence Thomas intercepted a Jerry Kapp pass to close out the game.
“Turnovers killed us,” Miller noted.
The Rams’ passing game sustained drives all day long. Pergine completed 15 of 27 tries for 158 yards, five to Defrancesco for 53 yards and three more to Dante Bonnani for another 53.
“They (Boyertown) like to play a lot of man defense,” Pergine said. “We took advantage of that, executing pretty well.”
Credit for that went to the Ram line of Silva, Gionvanni Guarna, Matt Lepore, James Begg and Gunnar Romano, who kept their Bear counterparts at bay.
“Our offensive line was pushing off the ball,” Pergine said.
On the defensive side, Spring-Ford limited Boyertown to just 66 yards passing on combined 8-for-21 accuracy. Mathias had the bulk of the passing work, going 7-for-18 for 60 yards while Jerry Kapp accounted for the rest late in the second half.
“Our defense did a good job,” Brubaker said. “I was concerned with their offense — we’re not real big. We hung in there when we game them short fields.”
The Bears’ offense covered 197 yards on the ground, led by Mathias (19 carries, 75 yards). Thomas added another 68 largely hard-fought stripes on 17 tries, and Nick Moccia had 51 on five carries.
“Our backs did the best they could,” Miller said.
The win got the Rams back on track following last weekend’s 28-7 loss to Perkiomen Valley. All alone in the division’s second-place slot after dropping the Bears (2-2, 2-6), they will visit neighboring rival Owen J. Roberts next week in a continuing bid to extend their season well into November.
“We’re in position to win out and make the playoffs,” Brubaker said. “The players have to decide if they have the passion to do that.”
“With the loss to PV, we’re not stopping there,” Silva added. “We’re going to work hard this whole week. Our tank is still full.”
NOTES >> Kylie Lynch was named Spring-Ford’s Homecoming queen during halftime ceremonies. Dylan Rumsey was crowned Homecoming king. … The school added two new members to its Hall of Fame class pregame: Andrew Scanlan (Class of 2012) and Ross Pennypacker (Class of 2000). Ross’ father, Pottsgrove football head coach Rick Pennypacker — himself a 2008 Hall inductee — accepted the award for his son.
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Schimpf does a little of everything as Vikings defense dominates Spring-Ford
By Sam Stewart
GRATERFORD >> L.V. Miles’ epic description of his nephew Boobie in the opening scenes of the 2004 movie ‘Friday Night Lights’ has become fodder for football memes and gifs throughout social media.
If there were any games to transpose his quote over game film it’d be Perkiomen Valley and Spring-Ford’s annual rivalry tilt. The player’s film to accompany it: Brendan Schimpf.
Schimpf did it all for the Vikings in a resounding victory over their neighboring rivals, coming up with a back-breaking pick-six, a rushing touchdown, a devastating sack and a momentous 52-yard reception to help lead Perkiomen Valley to a 28-7 victory Friday night in a key Pioneer Athletic Conference Liberty Division contest.
The win puts Perkiomen Valley in control of its own destiny in the Liberty Division race, the Vikings only needing to win one of their next two remaining conference games to clinch the division after Owen J. Roberts fell to Boyertown on a last-second field goal.
“It feels good,” Schimpf said. “This is always the circled game for the season. You’re always ready to play when this game comes.”
Schimpf didn’t need to fill the Gatorade cooler, walk the dog or paint the back porch, but boy he showed that he could flat out play football. Same too, the rest of the Perkiomen Valley (3-0, 6-1) defense, which limited the Rams to a season low 219 yards of total offense — 68 of those coming on the team’s last possession as a TJ Pergine to Tyler Edwards score eliminated the chances of the series’ 13th shutout since 1976. Head coach Rob Heist wasn’t singling anyone out for their effort — they all deserved credit after registering their second-best defensive effort of the season (team allowed 135 yards in shutout against OJR in Week 5).
“This was the best week of practice that we’ve had in my career here and the best week of practice I think the coaches have ever seen,” said defensive back Remy Sell. “We were firing on all cylinders and we were able to come out here and translate what we did on the practice field and get after it. Our coaches stressed to all of us that they were going to put us in a lot of situations and one-on-ones. We stepped up. Me, Austin (Rowley), Randy (Washington) and (Ryan) Cerula, we all came up and decided that it was time to hunker down and make some plays.”
The same could not be said for a Spring-Ford (2-1, 4-3) squad that saw its three-game winning streak snapped. Seemingly out of sync the majority of the game, the Rams never got over a goalline stop by the Viking defense midway through the first quarter. They committed 12 penalties for 105 yards, punted a season-high nine times (eight of those stemming from three-and-outs) and didn’t find the end zone until the aforementioned Edwards’ touchdown with less than two minutes remaining.
“We struggled a lot with the team speed,” Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubaker said. “Obviously we didn’t put ourselves in good situations at times. We were for whatever reason out of sync. TJ had a lot of pressure real quickly. Their defensive front and their linebackers caused us a lot of problems where we had to have receivers open right away. We didn’t and we were in trouble.”
Schimpf, the WILL linebacker and tailback, was a big part of that. After scoring on a 2-yard plunge stemming from his 52-yard reception on a short crossing route, Schimpf came up with the backbreaking play on the Rams’ next drive, stepping in front of a Pergine screen pass and racing 49 yards untouched for the score and a 21-0 lead. His blind-sided sack on Pergine late in the fourth capped his day.
“I saw him drop back so I automatically dropped back into my passing lane and it was right there,” Schimpf said of his interception. “As soon as I caught it there was just green grass in front of me. It’s something you always look out for. They do very well, have a lot of different pass concepts so you just have to get to your zone and see what happens.”
Cole Peterlin was solid in his first game on the big stage, the junior quarterback throwing for 123 yards on a 10-of-20 effort. He struggled to find his accuracy early but helped lead the Vikings to back-to-back scoring drives in a tide-turning third quarter that helped pad a 7-0 halftime lead.
“The atmosphere was crazy,” Peterlin said. “This is only the first time I’ve played in front of so many people that were so hype for a game. I just had to stay calm and do what I do. We just came out and had a couple of first downs and get stops and we eventually started hitting it.”
Peterlin finished with 95 yards on the ground and two scores — his 39-yard touchdown up the gut on an outside zone capping a scintillating Viking second half. He’s still trying to find the lineman who came up with the key block.
“Not really sure, trying to figure it out,” he said of the block that sprung the run. “As soon as I saw that I just ran straight to the end zone. I had no one in front of me, I just had the corner on the side and I had to beat him to the end zone.”
NOTES >> A packed house has become commonplace for the annual rivalry and that was no different Friday night at a sold out Thomas J. Keenan Stadium. “It doesn’t get any better than PV-Spring-Ford right now in this whole area, maybe in the state,” Heist said. “It doesn’t get as good as this rivalry. It’s an awesome environment and it’s fun to be a part of.” … L.V. Miles’ full quote in the movie as scouts watched Boobie play: “That’s my nephew out there. That boy can play some football. He can play left, he can play right, don’t make no difference. He can block, tackle, score the TD, snap the ball, and kick the extra point. Hell, the boy will fill up the Gatorade cooler, walk the dog and paint your back porch. I’m telling ya, the boy can flat out play football. … Oh, and he can pass!”
Perkiomen Valley, Spring-Ford boast new-look rosters, play for same implications
By Sam Stewart October 5, 2017
The roster turnover has provided plenty of new faces.
The implications between Perkiomen Valley and Spring-Ford’s Friday night matchup, however, remain the same.
An annual showdown that again holds conference championship implications headlines Week 7 of the Pioneer Athletic Conference slate as the Rams travel to The Valley to take on the Vikings, Friday at 7 p.m.
It marks the first time in three years that the game will be held in Graterford after the previous two installments of arguably the conference’s best rivalry were played at Spring-Ford’s Coach McNelly Stadium. Those games lived up to the anticipation, the 2015 title tilt in front of nearly 12,000 fans going in favor of the Rams before the Vikings avenged in 2016 with a two-score victory to solidify their standing as the Liberty Division’s best.
Those two games featured some of the best football in the rivalry. Veteran-laden squads captivating not only the attention of the PAC, but the entire district in games that also carried weight in the district seedings picture. This year, despite roster turnover from both squads that have new names proliferating the statistical leaderboard, expect that trend of high-quality football to stay the course.
“It’s going to be electric,” Perkiomen Valley head coach Rob Heist said. “There’s going to be X-thousands of people here. They’re going to come in hype, our kids are going to be hype. It’s going to be awesome.”
Perkiomen Valley (5-1), the No. 10 team in the PA Prep Live Football Top 20, comes into Friday’s contest winners of three straight, including wins over District 1 Class 4A runner-up Interboro and previously undefeated Owen J. Roberts. Junior quarterback Cole Peterlin continues to improve in his first year under center, throwing for 1,036 yards and six touchdowns (second best in the PAC) while leading all quarterbacks in rushing with 393 yards and two scores. His stable of receivers continue to impress, especially deep threat Isaiah Domine, who’s hauled in 17 receptions for 276 yards and three scores while running back Jon Moccia continues to show his ability to catch out of the backfield, hauling in a team-best 25 catches for 289 yards.
More notably, however, is the play of the Vikings’ defense despite the loss of starting end Alec Jackson. Led by linebacker Noah Shine and nose tackle Kevin Lovett, the PV defense has come on strong in recent weeks. Their plus-5 turnover ratio is tops in the conference while their 11.8 points per game allowed ranks third behind Pottsgrove and Owen J. Roberts. Credit it to a team effort and the supporting cast that have filled in nicely for the loss of the team’s senior leader in Jackson.
“We’ve had some kids repping in there,” Heist said. “Jahir (Holmes) has stepped in along the defensive line for us, which has been nice. He’s a senior so I’m confident that he can handle that mentally and physically.”
The defense will be up for one its most challenging tasks to date against a Rams squad that comes in winners of three straight and boasts a bevy of different formations and looks.
“We’ve had our scout (team) try to replicate — as best as they could — their offense and their schemes so that we could have the best look possible,” Shine said. “They’re a well-coached team so we know we have to be disciplined and do all of our assignments right.”
“We’ve watched a lot of film and studied what they do so we can apply it out here on our field,” Lovett said. “Every game is the same. We need to keep that 1-0 mentality and give it all we got, all the time.”
While Spring-Ford quarterback TJ Pergine (95-168 for 1,271 yards, 14 touchdowns and two interceptions) and running back Justin DeFrancesco (81 carries for 759 yards and nine touchdowns) get a lot of the credit — and deservedly so — for the Rams’ offensive success, the offensive line that only returned two of its starters from a season ago are starting to jell and have looked strong in the team’s previous three wins against Exeter, Norristown and Methacton. Center Matt Lepore and left tackle Noah Silva were tasked to bring the newcomers along the line together. Through trips to Royersford’s Annamarie’s and other offseason bonding exercises a line that took its lumps through the first three weeks has come on strong since Week 3’s loss to Wilson.
“Silva and I would talk in the winter or the spring and take people to Annamarie’s or what not and talk about the plays and try and get some work in,” Lepore said. “Getting the younger guys in and bringing up the seniors that didn’t get to play last year was key. We wanted to establish communication and we’re getting there. We’re still creating that chainlink with everyone but we continue to progress and get better each week.”
Among the newcomers, senior left guard Gio Guarna has blended in seamlessly, his longtime friendship with LePore and Silva aiding in the process.
“We’ve been friends for a while now,” Guarna said. “When it came time for me to step up to the plate, for the sake of these guys, I had to know my stuff and I had to hone my craft to get as good as I could to help the team win.”
So far, it’s worked. Whether the Rams’ line can continue their progression this week remains to be seen. But for all the new faces, one thing remains constant: this rivalry keeps getting better.
“We’re confident,” Silva said. “We’re ready for them. This is a new year and everyone has cleaned off the slate.”
“I don’t care what team we play,” Guarna said. “We just need to go out there and execute.”
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Spring-Ford hitting its stride once again behind Pergine
By Sam Stewart October 2, 2017
ROYERSFORD >> A mass exodus of seniors from last year’s District 1 Class 6A quarterfinalist Spring-Ford team had thrust the spotlight onto quarterback TJ Pergine.
He sure hasn’t shied away from it. More so, he’s thriving in it.
Need evidence? One doesn’t need to look any further than his performance in last week’s victory over Methacton. The senior quarterback’s 386-yard passing performance ended up becoming both a school and individual record and has now propelled him to the top of the Pioneer Athletic Conference passer leaders list with a conference high 1,271 yards on a 95-of-168 effort with a gaudy 14-2 touchdown to interception ratio. It gave the Rams their third straight victory and has them right in the thick of the Liberty Division race yet again.
No surprise, says head coach Chad Brubaker.
“There’s not a lot to say that I haven’t said already,” he said. “He’s our engine and our point guard, whatever analogy you want to make. He’s brought guys along tremendously and we’re still not there yet but every week I see improvement from other kids. He’s as prepared as any quarterback that we’ve had. He has a great desire to be successful. He understands what it takes in terms of film study, he’s more willing to ask questions on scenarios that could arise. He’s got all those things, plus a tremendous desire to win.”
All of those traits were imperative for a Spring-Ford squad that came into the 2017 season with question marks up and down the depth chart offensively. Who would replace the playmakers of athlete Stone Scarcelle and running backs Selwyn Simpson and Matt Gibson? Who would step up along the line that saw every position vacated except for that of Noah Silva at left tackle and Matt LePore at center? Behind a steady Justin DeFrancesco and leadership of Pergine, all those questions are starting to see some answers despite early growing pains, which resulted in the team’s 1-2 start.
“We knew that we were going to have some growing pains due to inexperience,” Brubaker said. “My message to him was that he needs to be the positive guy and I’ll be the guy that gets on guys. He needs to counter that and stay positive with guys because ultimately they are the guys that line up with him.
“We’ve had pretty frustrating times especially in the preseason,” he added. “Honestly, there were some days that privately I wasn’t sure where we’d get to or what we’d accomplish. I think through coaching, by our staff and through just continual repetition, and also him (Pergine) putting the ball where it needs to go, we’ve made a lot of progress. Where we are now in terms of our receivers from where we were in team camp in July and preseason camp is significantly better.”
Pergine’s 386 passing yards broke a school record of 312 yards set by Brandon Leacraft in a game against Boyertown in 2014. The 27 first downs tied a school record for one game. The Rams had done it twice before in 1989 and 2014 — both against Methacton.
The play of receiver Spring-Ford Dante Bonanni has helped the growing pains for the Rams as he is second in the PAC with 422 yards receiving on 23 receptions with three touchdowns. The sophomore recently caught a career-best seven passes for 162 yards and two scores in last week’s win over Methacton.
Spring-Ford takes care of Methacton, 43-7
By Ryan Brennan
ROYERSFORD >> TJ Pergine and the rest of the Spring-Ford Rams didn’t want to hear about next week’s matchup with Perkiomen Valley heading into their Friday matchup with Methacton.
The Rams came out firing on all cylinders, leading to a 43-7 dismantling of the Warriors to move to 2-0 in PAC Liberty play and 4-2 overall on the year.
“We’re taking it one week at a time,” said Pergine, ensuring he and his teammates weren’t looking ahead to their Oct. 6 showdown with the Vikings.
The senior quarterback finished his night 22-for-35 with 396 yards and three touchdowns as well as 36 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
On the Rams’ opening possession, Pergine completed his first three passes to get the offense down to the 3-yard line. From there the quarterback used his legs, scrambling around before finding a hole in the middle of the pocket for the 3-yard TD run.
“That first drive is huge. It’s always the best one; you have to punch it in and score right away and that’s what we did,” said Pergine
On the ensuing Warriors’ possession, Dylan Schultz fired a pass that was intercepted by Justin DeFrancesco to give the Rams great field position. Spring-Ford would use a combination of runs and Pergine darts before DeFrancesco would punch one in for a 14-0 lead.
Later in the quarter with the Warriors backed up at their own 10, a mishandled snap eventually recovered by quarterback Schultz in the end zone would lead to a Rams safety.
With the ball back in his hands, Pergine was able to find his favorite target of the night, wide out Dante Bonanni (8 receptions for 173 yards and two TDs), streaking down the middle of the field for a 43-yard touchdown to give the home team a 23-0 lead after the first quarter.
The second quarter was a much different result for the Rams.
Twice the Rams’ offense was able to get the ball deep into Warriors territory but were only able to come away with two Taylor Smith field goals.
“They had three field goal attempts in the first half. That’s a big difference where they only got six points but could have had 21. That’s a credit to these guys for bending but not breaking,” said Warriors coach Paul Lepre. “They had a couple opportunities to run it in and Zach Skalecki ran a guy down in the corner when he could have walked into the end zone.”
In the second half, the Rams offense got back to its scoring ways.
Pergine scrambled to his left before shoveling a pass to DeFrancesco who did the rest of the work, scurrying 19 yards for a touchdown.
The senior running back finished his night with eight rushes for 98 yards to go along with four receptions for 71 yards.
On their next possession, Pergine once again found a streaking Bonanni this time for a 53-yard score and a 43-0 lead.
The Warriors would answer with a score of their own when sophomore running back Michael Torcini pounded his way into the end zone on a 12-yard run to give the Warriors there only points of the night.
It was a long night for the Warriors offense as they only managed 11 first downs (five on the final drive) and 134 yards of total offense.
Schultz only managed to complete three of his 13 pass attempts and added 20 yards rushing. Torcini finished his night with 13 rushes for 82 yards.
“It’s a challenge for these guys to keep their heads up and keep battling every week,” said Lepre, who seemed optimistic despite the result of the game. “I think tonight we turned a corner. There was some good senior leadership and playing hard out of seniors.”
FUTURE RAMS >> It was youth night at McNelly Stadium as the Rams were led out on the field by players and cheerleaders of all ages in the Spring-Ford youth football program.
MOVING UP >> After his second touchdown pass of the night, Pergine passed Trevor Sasek for third all-time in passing TDs with 40. The senior is now five away from passing Lance Viola for second.
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DeFrancesco’s five touchdowns help lift Spring-Ford past Norristown, 49-6
By Sam Stewart
WEST NORRITON >> Rumor has it Spring-Ford’s Justin DeFrancesco owns real estate in the end zone. For as many times as the senior was in it Saturday, that’s the only possible explanation.
In total, the do-it-all back’s five touchdowns and 100-plus yard game on the ground was more than enough to help lift Spring-Ford to a 49-6 victory over host Norristown in both teams Pioneer Athletic Conference openers.
It marked the second straight game DeFrancesco finished with 100 yards or more on the ground. He finished with a game-high 163 yards on 16 attempts with four scores as he helped revive a Rams squad that struggled to turn it on through the first quarter-plus with two fumbles and a three and out. He figured in the Rams’ first three scores, a 12-yard touchdown reception and a 29-yard touchdown run on a counter in a span of two minutes giving the Rams a 21-0 lead late in the second.
DeFrancesco now ranks second in the PAC with 656 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns.
“We knew we just had to stay in the game and it would all come to us,” DeFrancesco said. “Our O-line really stepped up in the run block and the run scheme. We just stuck to our gameplan.”
“You got to get the ball into the hands of the guys who can make plays,” Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubaker said. “Turnovers are something we have to clean up. We’re in league play now, so every week is important.”
Spring-Ford quarterback TJ Pergine had another productive day throwing for 163 yards and three scores, his most impressive coming on a strike to Dante Bonanni on a go route for a 67-yard touchdown to make it 28-0 before the half. DeFrancesco added five receptions for 56 yards and a score for a Ram offense that had five scoring drives that lasted less than two plays. Part of that plays credit to the Rams’ defense forcing three turnovers, including a blocked punt that led to the team’s second score.
“We know we have a lot of potential on this team and we haven’t even reached that potential yet,” DeFrancesco said. “We have a lot of people on our team that are just starting to be where they need to be. We’re all coming together.”
“We just need to put some drives together,” Brubaker said. “In a game like that, it’s good to score quickly, but I’d like to see us put some drives together.”
The result was never in question, but Norristown’s Izaiah Webb and receivers Boubacar Diawara and John Devine made enough plays to keep it interesting as the running clock was held off until the fourth quarter. Webb finished with 236 yards through the air with Diawara supplying seven receptions for 81 yards. Devine added three receptions for 49 yards and the team’s lone touchdown that capped a nine-play, 51-yard drive to open the second half. Norristown finished with 259 yards of total offense and were in danger of finishing with a negative total in rushing yards before Isaiah Tucker’s 30-yard run at the gun.
“We had them in advantageous down and distance situations and let them out of it,” Brubaker said. “Some of that is a credit to them and plays that they made and some of it is attributable to not doing what we’re supposed to be doing.”
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Pergine, DeFrancesco dominant in Rams’ win over Exeter
By Rob Senior
Before Friday’s game, Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubaker stressed the importance of strong play from his senior quarterback, TJ Pergine, in the Rams’ chances for success this season.
It’s safe to say Brubaker’s pleased with the immediate results.
Pergine came out on fire Friday night, throwing for three first-half touchdowns, while senior running back Justin DeFrancesco ran for 251 yards. When all was said and done, the Rams had a convincing 45-21 win over previously undefeated Exeter.
“He’s been playing at a high level-stats don’t always tell the story for (Pergine),” said Brubaker. “But tonight I felt we did an all-around tremendous job.”
“(Coach Brubaker) is the key to our success,” Pergine said. “Since Week 1 and even during the summer, he’s had us in the weight room, keeps us working hard, and he believes in us. Everything starts with Coach.”
Early on, the Rams wasted no time getting on the board with a 31-yard field goal from Taylor Smith. After a 20-yard TD run by Exeter’s Nick Sarangoulis (who ran for 182 yards on the night), Pergine took to the air, finding sophomore Ryan Engro for an 8-yard score that gave Spring-Ford a lead they would not relinquish.
Senior Tyler Edwards cranked up the highlight reel early in the second quarter with a one-handed grab in the corner of the end zone to extend the lead. After Justin DeFrancesco ran in from a yard out to make it 24-7 Rams, the young — but rapidly improving — Spring-Ford defense forced a quick Exeter three-and-out to give the offense the ball back with two minutes left before the half.
Pergine and company immediately went to work, as the quarterback broke a 46-yard run deep into Exeter territory. On first and goal, Pergine pump-faked a quick out and found a wide-open Colby Goldsmith for a 31-7 halftime lead.
The otherwise entertaining first half was marred by 15 total penalties — 10 on the home team from Exeter, who struggled to sustain drives. Multiple first-half possessions came to an abrupt halt in the red zone, with penalties the main culprit.
Aside from the standout performance on the ground from Sarangoulis, Exeter QB Brandon Unterkoefler added 99 yards on the ground.
After halftime, the Rams quickly put the game out of reach. On a third-and-13 from the Spring-Ford 7, DeFrancesco took a draw untouched 93 yards to the house to make it a 38-7 lead. He wasn’t done, however, adding an 87-yarder later in the quarter.
“I can’t take much credit — the holes I ran through were huge,” said DeFrancesco. “Happy to get the win, and the long runs, but the credit goes to the guys up front.”
In all the Rams compiled 524 yards of total offense before pulling the starters with four minutes left in the 3rd quarter, leading 45-7. Unterkoefler added two late scores for Exeter to tighten the final margin, but the Rams got on the bus back to Royersford with a 2-2 record — and a confident leader in Brubaker.
“We had a sour taste in our mouths from last week (a 28-21 setback against Wilson), and I told the kids to be angry about that, and use it as fuel to improve,” Brubaker said.
“I feel like we did just that tonight.”
Spring-Ford leaves no doubt against Exeter
By Beth Hudson
Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker and his football team walked away from a seven-point loss to Wilson last week feeling like they were close.
Close enough that the loss nagged at them. This week, the Rams left no doubt.
Senior running back Justin DeFrancesco rushed for 251 yards and three touchdowns on just 14 carries, leading Spring-Ford to a 45-21 non-conference victory over Exeter Friday night at Don Thomas Stadium.
Exeter senior Nick Sarangoulis wasn't far behind DeFrancesco's totals. He finished with 18 carries for 186 yards, including 169 in the first half, and a touchdown.
Brandon Unterkoefler ran for 95 yards and two fourth-quarter touchdowns for the Eagles.
But the Rams (2-2) improved to 4-0 in the series after defeating Exeter 38-6 in 2016.
Brubaker said his team appeared to raise its game another notch after a strong showing in a 28-21 loss to Wilson.
"From last week, we absolutely did," Brubaker said. "We had a sour taste in our mouth from last week. We were in that game, and we didn't finish.
"We talked about it this week. We should be sour about that and continue to improve. I feel like we did, but we'll look at the film."
He's bound to see some positives, starting with his offense's ability to churn out yards - the Rams had 352 on the ground - and big plays.
Exeter (2-1) took its only lead, 7-3, on Sarangoulis' 20-yard touchdown run with 5:38 remaining in the first quarter.
Spring-Ford responded by scoring the next 42 points.
The Rams went ahead for good with a 10-play, 69-yard drive. Ryan Engro caught a 9-yard touchdown from TJ Pergine, and Spring-Ford had a 10-7 edge with 1:04 left in the first quarter.
The Rams forced the Eagles to punt on their next three possessions. Spring-Ford, meanwhile, scored on all five of its first-half drives to build a 31-7 halftime advantange.
Pergine threw for 174 yards and three first-half touchdowns.
Brubaker said the statistics tell only part of the story for his senior quarterback.
"How many times did he escape from situations that he shouldn't have and extend plays?" Brubaker said. "He just does a tremendous job all-around."
DeFrancesco put the game out of reach on the third play of the second half, turning a third-and-13 into a 93-yard touchdown dash. He added another long run - this time an 87-yarder - to give his team a 45-7 lead with 4:42 left in the third quarter.
Unterkoefler scored twice, on runs of 30 and 20 yards, in the final 7:21.
Taylor Smith kicked a 31-yard field goal for Spring-Ford.
The teams combined for 18 penalties.
Exeter, which leads the Berks Football League in yards, will open the Section 1 schedule next week at Gov. Mifflin.
Contact Beth Hudson: 610-371-5064 or email@example.com.
Mercury Spring-Ford vs. Exeter Preview
By Sam Stewart
Spring-Ford at Exeter, 7 p.m.
Don’t question the effort in the Rams’ 28-21 loss to Wilson last week. It was there and the level needs to stay high as Spring-Ford faces undefeated Exeter (2-0) Friday night. “I’d like to think that we derived some confidence from our effort versus Wilson,” Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubaker said. “Exeter is another quality opponent with some good returning players so we cannot have a letdown.” Of those returning are dual-threat quarterback Brandon Unterkoefler and running back Nick Sarangoulis. Both have caused headaches for opposing defenses this season, mainly on the ground, as the duo has rushed for 795 yards in two games (Sarangoulis 394 on 40 attempts; Unterkoefler 301 on 37 attempts). “We are concerned with them, obviously,” Brubaker said. “They ran for a ton of yards last week. Their running game is going to be a real challenge for our defensive front. We’re going to need to have everyone involved.”
Quarterback TJ Pergine enters with a PAC-best 542 passing yards. His play in last week’s loss was sensational as he tied a Ram program record with 23 completions in a single game. He’ll need to have a big week again as the Rams try to shore up some defensive miscues that turned three negative plays into three Iggy Reynoso touchdowns. “Tackling is something we need to do better,” Brubaker said. “There were three tackles for loss that turned into touchdowns last Friday. It wasn’t anything that they did. We just started with a bad angle, didn’t use good technique on the ball carrier, and he (Reynoso) was a pretty good high school player. The truth of the matter is, as a team, we are not as strong as we aspire or need to be. We expect and need TJ to have a big week every week. College coaches that see his Wilson film will come away saying, ‘that kid is a player.’”
Prediction >> Spring-Ford 24, Exeter 20
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Reynoso’s four touchdowns lift Wilson past Spring-Ford for second straight season
By Sam Stewart
ROYERSFORD >> Nearly twenty-five years has passed since Wilson’s football program started a season 0-2.
Running back Iggy Reynoso made sure that streak continued … in an emphatic way.
The senior back put Spring-Ford defenders on skates throughout a dominating four-touchdown performance that had the Bulldogs fend off a valiant Spring-Ford effort en route to a 28-21 victory Friday night at Coach McNelly Stadium.
“Our coaches always set up a good gameplan for us every week, and they just told us to go out there and execute,” Reynoso said. “We watched a lot of film during the week and our guys were focused in. We know what we’re going to do and we just had to execute. We did that tonight.”
Reynoso finished with 109 yards receiving and two touchdowns on three receptions and added 63 yards on 10 carries with another two scores on the ground — both team bests.
Impressive stats, sure. The way he accumulated the yards, however, was simply sensational.
Reynoso turned in highlight-reel touchdowns, the first stemming from a 6-yard run where he reversed field after running out of real estate on a pitch and bee-lined toward the pylon, stretching out as he was hit by a SF defender along the goal line to make it 7-0 late in the first. He sprung again in the second quarter, hauling in a swing pass from quarterback Connor Uhrig and breaking free from three would-be tacklers en route to a 64-yard score that gave the Bulldogs a 13-7 lead. Tied at 14 in the third, a 6-yard touchdown run gave the Bulldogs the advantage again before he turned in his final highlight-reel catch in the fourth, hauling in another swing pass before juking one defender, reversing field and down the sideline for a 35-yard score that put the Bulldogs ahead to stay, 28-21.
Don’t ask him to take too much credit, though. The back was quick to deflect the accolades, especially to Sean McAndrew, who was a menace on the defensive side of the ball and to quarterback/punter Connor Uhrig, whose punt in the third quarter pinned the Rams at their own 1-yard line. The Rams fumbled two plays later to set up Reynoso’s third touchdown.
“I can’t let my team down,” Reynoso said. “They do a lot for me so I need to do a lot for them. My offensive line is the best. Guys like Wyatt Schannauer, Nate Keller, Nick Johnson, they opened the lanes for me and helped make those plays happen.
“You never know what that man (McAndrew) is up to. He did great offensively and defensively. He does a lot for us. Connor Uhrig does a lot for us offensively, he’s the leader of the team. It was an all-around team effort.”
The all-around team effort was needed against a Spring-Ford squad that came in looking to put the pieces together following a 1-1 start. The effort was undeniable, but the big plays by Reynoso and two turnovers were enough to negate the quality play from the Rams’ special teams and quarterback TJ Pergine.
“There’s no moral victories,” Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubaker said after the Rams lost to Wilson for the second consecutive season. “We’re not going to pat ourselves on the back for playing hard. That’s our expectation, playing hard and playing with enthusiasm.
“There’s things that we can build off tonight, going forward. There were a lot of guys that grew up tonight, and we can work with that.”
Pergine stood out as one of those players. He was excellent in the loss, throwing for 276 yards and two touchdowns while showing an innate pocket presence that allowed him to evade the ever-present Wilson rush. His play was matched by receiver/defensive back Justin DeFrancesco, whose 31-yard touchdown reception tied it at 21 with 10:42 left in the fourth. DeFrancesco finished with 33 yards receiving on four receptions and chewed up 65 yards on the ground on 14 attempts.
Dante Bonani finished the game with a team-best eight receptions for 92 yards while Mitchell Vagnozzi finished with 32 yards on two receptions, his 27-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter giving Spring-Ford a 14-13 lead entering the half.
NOTES >> Uhrig finished the game with 194 passing yards on an 8-of-20 effort. McAndrew finished with an interception. … Spring-Ford outgained Wilson 340-279. Rick Groce finished with three receptions for 45 yards, his 27-yard reception in the second quarter leading to a 5-yard Pergine touchdown run to tie it at 7.
Reynoso leads Wilson over Spring-Ford
By Mike Drago
ROYERSFORD - At the top of Chad Brubaker's must-do list as he prepared Spring-Ford to play Wilson Friday was this:
That, of course, would be Bulldogs tailback Iggy Reynoso, who by season's end could be Berks' all-time rushing leader.
He's a playmaker and a game-breaker, and Brubaker knew that to upset the Bulldogs they had to stop him.
Reynoso spun Spring-Ford's defense on its head, scoring four TDs as the Bulldogs held on for a 28-21 non-league win at McNelly Stadium.
The Rams threw Reynoso for a loss on Wilson's first play and the Bulldogs went away from him for a while, and later used him as a decoy.
When he did get his hands on the ball, he made the most of it, scoring on runs of 4 and 6 yards and receptions of 64 and 35 yards.
Almost every one of them was an event, especially the last and most important, which gave the Bulldogs (1-1) the lead for good.
He took a short pass, shook off a tackler behind the line of scrimmage, cut back toward the middle and weaved his way through the Spring-Ford defense for the difference-maker with 7:40 remaining.
"We were there," Brubaker said. "We had him, he broke away.
"Those plays were the difference."
Reynoso made a similar play on his first TD reception, taking a short pass, breaking a pair of tackles behind the line, then busting loose down the sideline. He cut back across the field at the 20 and breezed into the end zone.
He accounted for 171 of Wilson's 278 total yards.
"Iggy's Iggy," said Wilson coach Doug Dahms. "He's a force.
"You get him in the open field, he's pretty tough."
Getting the lead back was only half the battle for the Bulldogs; the other half was keeping it, and that was a difficult chore with the ball in TJ Pergine's hands.
The Rams quarterback was a threat all night, making plays with his feet and his arm - often on the same play.
He deftly avoided Wilson's rush for most of the night, escaping sacks and finding open receivers downfield.
He finished 23-of-34 for 277 yards and gave the Rams a puncher's chance.
His game-tying 31-yard hookup with Justin Defrancesco with 10:42 left summed up the entire game.
Pergine ducked under the heavy rush of defensive end Quinn Spraut coming off the edge, rolled into the right flat, then found Defrancesco behind the Wilson secondary for his second TD pass.
"He extends the plays," Dahms said. "Our defensive line was giving him great pressure, but they were getting exhausted chasing him all over the field every play."
Pergine's 29-yard completion to Colby Goldsmith got the Rams out of a second-and-27 hole and punched the ball into Wilson territory with five minutes left.
The Bulldogs, who forced only two punts and surrendered 342 total yards, stiffened at that point, forcing three straight incompletions.
Their bid to run out the clock fizzled in three plays and Pergine was back at it with 3:29 left from his 28.
"TJ plays with his heart on his sleeve," Brubaker said. "He's a gamer."
He completed a pass to Goldsmith for a first down to the 44 with 21/2 minute to go, and Defrancesco ran 14 yards to the Wilson 42 on the next play.
That's as close as the Rams got as the defense rallied with a string of key plays.
Linebacker Cameron Maglotti came up with a sack, end Edward Ortiz hurried Pergine into an incompletion and Andrew Weller tackled Dante Bonanni for a loss after a reception.
On fourth down, lineman Jeff Colacin and then Ortiz took runs at Pergine, forcing him out of the pocket and into one final incompletion.
"We had that big hit on him from the backside the possession before," said Dahms. "I think that probably took its toll."
So too did an earlier interception by Sean McAndrew, Isaiah Gilmore's big hit that forced a fumble and Connor Uhrig's punt that was downed at the 1.
Contact Mike Drago: 610-371-5063 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
D’Arcangelo, Spring-Ford on a mission
By Sam Stewart
ROYERSFORD >> He spent nearly a week this summer in the Dominican Republic building homes for the less fortunate in the lands outside of Santiago.
Now, senior nose guard Ben D’Arcangelo is still seeing construction, this time with a Spring-Ford football program that is looking to mesh together after a two-week stretch has left the Rams with a 1-1 record and a date with District 3 powerhouse Wilson looming Friday night at 7 p.m.
“We definitely have a lot of room to improve on with regards of knowing our stuff, knowing what we need to do,” D’Arcangelo said. “I think, because we have a young team, we don’t understand the importance of film and making sure we know our stuff. We have the physical ability to do all of this. Mentally is where we’re lacking with the mesh of all these new guys coming together. I think we’ve been able to mesh more, we’ve been able to have that drive. We just need to have that upbeat tempo that we had in the past.”
D’Arcangelo speaks from experience: the more work the Rams put in, the greater their rewards will be. It’s tried and true and was evident during his stay near the heart of the Dominican Republic with teammate Alex Shirley, who both went on a mission trip with their youth group at Christ Church of the Valley to build homes for those without them. Arduous would be too light of an adjective to describe the work the duo put in. Three days of hand mixing concrete, laying the foundation, raising walls and finishing work were taxing, yet highly rewarding as they got to interact with the culture that surrounded them,
“The work ethic that we had to have down there was immense,” D’Arcangelo said. “Alex and I were viewed as the guys down there. The leaders were like, ‘Hey these guys are the biggest and strongest guys we have there, we have to put them to work.’ We worked 10-hour days, hauling cement, brick, sand, rock. Our leaders would assign us tasks and we would be unsupervised and we’d go out and do it, help out the community around us.
“We were in some really poor areas and it was really fulfilling to see these families be able to have their own home. It really put things into perspective. The more that you put into something is what you’re going to get out of it. You want to work hard for those families and for God, who we were there for. If you want to work hard for them and for God, you can truly accomplish anything.”
* * *
With Wilson, fresh off a 21-14 loss to Governor Mifflin, coming into Ram Country looking not to fall to 0-2 for the first time since 1993, the Rams’ improvement throughout the last two weeks will be tested. Head coach Chad Brubaker hopes that it starts to shine through in Week 3.
“Our players have not been watching enough film on their own, and we have made that a goal for the week,” he said. “We know that Wilson is going to improve dramatically from Week 1 to Week 2. We’re hoping that we delayed that improvement to this week. We are obviously concerned about No. 28 (running back Iggy Reynoso) and No. 12 (quarterback Connor Uhrig) offensively. We need to pursue to the ball and tackle much better than we have in our first two games. Most importantly, we have to protect the football. We just have to play better in every phase of the game.”
– Uhrig finished last year’s double-overtime 41-40 victory with 271 passing yards and three touchdowns to go along with 83 rushing yards on 17 attempts.
– Wilson lost to Governor Mifflin, 21-14, last week. It was the first win for Mifflin in seven tries.
– Spring-Ford has more fumbles in its first two games (seven) than they had all of last season (12 games).
Prediction >> Wilson 24, Spring-Ford 21
Wilson must regroup against a familiar face
Friday September 8, 2017 12:01 AM
Written by Mike Drago
Spring-Ford football coach Chad Brubaker admits it stung a little to watch game film of last year's loss to Wilson.
The former Bulldogs offensive coordinator, in his first shot against his old team, thought the Rams had it won when they went for two to close out the second overtime.
Stone Scarcelle, a receiver playing Wildcat quarterback, ran through a big gash in the line but was stopped inches shy.
The Bulldogs hung on 41-40.
"It was hard to watch it again," said Brubaker, whose team hosts the Bulldogs tonight at McNelly Stadium. "I thought he was across."
Wilson coach Doug Dahms did, too.
"He had room to walk in," Dahms said, "but Tommy O'Brien came up and stuck him."
The teams appear closely paired again. Each lost their opening game; each is playing a lot of underclassmen; each is fighting to overcome mistakes, both physical and mental.
"They're a lot like us," Dahms said of the Rams (1-1). "They're still looking for their identity, too. There's a lot of new guys playing."
The Bulldogs (0-1) are young - as young as they have been in years. Their defense included four sophomores and a freshman last week, and it showed at times in a 21-14 loss to Gov. Mifflin.
"We saw mistake after mistake after rookie mistake," Dahms said. "Sometimes you can overcome them, but we have some positions that we're not real strong at. Towards the end (of the game), we had a shot, but we didn't have the players that were ready to take it. We need to grow."
The same goes for Spring-Ford, which dropped its opener to Unionville before coming back to beat Chester.
After going 9-3 and reaching the District 1 Class 6A playoffs last year, the Rams were stripped bare, losing 18 starters, including all 11 on defense.
Brubaker, who is starting six sophomores, says this is the youngest team he's had in his eight seasons at Spring-Ford.
"Not even close," he said. "Even the backups were seniors last year. We have no starters back on defense, four back on offense who started or played in regular situations. Not one of our receivers had a varsity catch before the first game."
That hurts because the Rams have a guy who can get them the ball in quarterback TJ Pergine. He threw for 2,324 yards and 27 TDs last year and has been given even more control of the offense as Brubaker has switched to an RPO (run-pass option) format.
The 6-foot senior will be reading and reacting more than ever.
"Their quarterback's gonna cause us fits," Dahms said. "He's very elusive; he extends plays; he does a nice job finding receivers. He's the bread and butter of their offense."
The Bulldogs have some top-flight playmakers of their own in tailback Iggy Reynoso and quarterback Connor Uhrig, but their big moments were contained in the opener.
Brubaker knows Wilson's program well enough to believe that all those the first-game breakdowns will be cleaned up in short order.
"They're gonna play twice as well as they played last week," he said. "Their coaching staff is going to iron out of some of the issues that they had."
Contact Mike Drago: 610-371-5061 or email@example.com.
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Spring-Ford holds off late charge by Chester
Photo by Lou Rabito
By Rick O'Brien
A win is a win, especially the first of the season, but Spring-Ford’s Chad Brubaker was less than thrilled about his team’s 28-20 nonleague triumph over host Chester on Saturday.
The Rams coughed the ball up three times, committed seven penalties, were hurt by poor tackling, and went scoreless in the second half.
“We didn’t play with any heart,” Brubaker said. “We were sluggish in pregame warm-ups, and that carried over into the game. We better figure things out quickly because we have some big games coming up.”
Spring-Ford’s second fumble in the opening 4 minutes, on a muffed punt, allowed the Clippers to take an early lead. Halfback Devan Freeman’s 2-yard dive and quarterback Tahree Fuller-Bryan’s conversion run made it 8-0.
The Rams responded with back-to-back scores, Stephen Brill’s 33-yard burst and James Albert’s 2-yard run, to move in front, 14-8.
Midway through the second quarter, T.J. Pergine found Tyler Edwards, who was surrounded by three defenders along the visiting sideline, for a 35-yard tally.
A blocked punt set up a fourth unanswered scores. Pergine hooked up with Mitchell Vagnozzi on the left flank for an 8-yard TD that put Spring-Ford (1-1) comfortably ahead, 28-8, at the break.
Chester (0-2) opened the second half with a six-play, 43-yard drive and cut the gap in half on Freeman’s 5-yard run. Fuller-Bryan completed throws of 11, 15, and 26 yards in the series.
Late in the third quarter, the Clippers (0-2) trimmed the Rams’ lead to 28-20 on Cahron Wilmore’s 63-yard jaunt.
“We started out a little slow, got things going in the third quarter, but we didn’t finish at the end,” Chester second-year coach LaDontay Bell said.
Spring-Ford, which last season went 9-3 and advanced to the second round of the PIAA District 1 Class 6A playoffs before losing to North Penn, lost all of its defensive starters to graduation. The Rams fell to visiting Unionville, 26-17, in their 2017 opener.
Brubaker said six sophomores see considerable playing time. That group includes Albert, a running back and linebacker, two-way lineman Gunnar Romano, and receiver and kick returner Ryan Engro.
“It’s one thing to have growing pains, but it’s another thing not to play with energy and enthusiasm,” Brubaker said.
Pergine, who last season threw for 2,200 yards and 27 TDs, connected on 13 of 21 passes for 175 yards and two scores against the Clippers. Halfback Justin DeFrancesco carried 16 times for 112 yards.
“We played well at times,” Brubaker said. “But we’re struggling to find an identity. It has to happen soon.”
Tough loss to Spring-Ford leaves Chester coach feeling optimistic
By Rich Flanagan
CHESTER >> LaDontay Bell fondly recalls how his tenure at Chester began in 2016: A gritty, three-point victory over Haverford, then a collapse against Spring-Ford, the Clippers losing that game by 33.
Bell wanted to see some of the belief and maturity he’s come to expect from his squad to begin this new season, even after being routed by Haverford last week. Against Spring-Ford, however, the Clippers seemed to be motivated by last year’s loss. Despite causing four turnovers, the Clippers dropped their home opener to Spring-Ford, 28-20.
In dropping to 0-2, though, Bell saw a lot of things that his team should be optimistic about.
“I try my best to make sure that attitude affects leadership,” Bell said. “I told them as a leader I believe that, so we came back in the second half with belief. We showed it in our actions and in our play.”
Chester got things started by forcing one of four Spring-Ford fumbles on a punt return by Tyler Edwards at the Rams’ 20-yard line. Three plays later, running back Devan Freeman scored the first of his two touchdowns from three yards out.
From there, though, the game swung in favor of the Rams.
Spring-Ford (1-1) strung together 28 straight points, led by quarterback TJ Pergine (165 passing yards, two touchdowns) and running back Justin Defrancesco (110 yards). The Rams took a 20-point lead into halftime, but Freeman and his teammates were not about to bow down. They remembered what their coach has continually preached to them.
“Coach Bell has taught us to never give up,” Freeman said. “We always just go all out but unfortunately the score didn’t come out the way we hoped. We all fought as brothers and I’m very proud of that.”
To begin the second half, the Clippers’ defense forced a fumble by Stephen Brill and the offense was able to turn that into a points, as Freeman scampered in from five yards out. Two drives later, Freeman’s tough running was beginning to be stymied by the Rams’ front seven so Bell went with a change-of-pace back in fellow senior Cahron Wilmore. With 9:48 left in the third quarter, Wilmore took a delayed handoff and sprinted 63 yards for the score to cut the deficit to 28-20. Wilmore accounted for 100 of the Clippers’ 196 rushing yards.
Chester had a chance near the end to perhaps get even but quarterback Tahree Fuller-Bryan’s incomplete pass on fourth down with 2:37 left stymied a drive.
“It’s resiliency,” Bell said. “They fought and it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”
Storti Insurance Gridiron - Week 1
Unionville upends Spring-Ford, 26-17
August 25, 2017
Before the season, Unionville head football coach Pat Clark proudly lauded his program’s history of stout defense. He allowed, however, that inexperience might cause the Indians’ offense to carry the load early this season, while the defense gets up to speed.
After Friday night, Clark was willing to give himself half credit.
Unionville’s senior-laden offense was consistent, but the young defense was the real story as the Indians avenged a season-opening defeat last year, topping Spring-Ford, 26-17.
The Indians’ attack was led by senior Joe Zubillaga, who did a little bit of everything. “Zoob” had 152 rushing yards, 39 receiving yards and seven tackles in leading the defensive effort. The Indians limited Spring-Ford senior QB TJ Pergine to 11-36 passing, constantly harassing the passer and giving him little time to throw.
“We tried to make them one-dimensional by limiting the run game,” said Clark, “and that was to our benefit against a player like Pergine. Our strength is in the secondary, and we were able to limit the (Rams’) offense as a result.”
That secondary got the Indians off to a strong start when JT Hower intercepted a Spring-Ford pass on the first possession of the game, followed by a methodical nine-play drive culminating in Zubillaga’s first of two rushing TDs.
Dominic Brathwaite added a second-quarter field goal to make it 10-0 Unionville, before senior QB Alex Gorgone creates a nifty scramble to buy himself time and loft a 26-yard TD pass to Aidan Boyle for a 17-0 lead.
“We dug ourselves a hole early on,” lamented Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubaker, “and every time we started to climb out of it, they’d make a play or we’d slip and make a mistake.”
Meanwhile, the Unionville defense was holding Spring-Ford to 62 first-half total yards. Stephen Brill’s 25-yard run got the Rams into Unionville territory with two minutes to play before the half, but a fumble on the ensuing play quelled the threat.
Spring-Ford, which was ranked No. 10 in the PA Prep Live preseason Top 20, got some momentum with a blocked punt after halftime, followed by a 3-yard plunge by Justin DeFrancesco to cut the lead to 17-7. After a quick Unionville three-and-out, Pergine’s legs got the Rams going offensively, as he kept the ball on several zone reads and compiled 47 rushing yards in one drive. Junior kicker Taylor Smith banked a 40-yard field goal off the left upright to cut the lead to 17-10 after three.
Just as it appeared the Rams would get their chance to tie, Zubillaga stole the show with a catch along the visiting sideline. Gorgone lofted a pass from around his own 35 into enough traffic that the Unionville coaches in the press box were already pleading for pass interference.
Then they saw the side judge’s signal. Zubillaga had made the catch to give the Indians a first down at SF’s 33. Brathwaite added a 29-yard field goal to widen the lead to 20-10.
Pergine found a wide-open Tyler Edwards for a 44-yard TD to cut it to 20-17 with just under four minutes to play for the Rams.
“Our expectation for the team is that the kids play hard the whole game, and they definitely kept coming,” added Brubaker. “The effort was there all night.”
However, Zubillaga saved his best for last, lining up at quarterback on a 2nd and 3 situation from the Unionville 26 – as he had so often on short yardage plays all night.
This time, however, he wouldn’t be stopped, rumbling 74 yards to make the score 26-17 and put a bow on the season-opening upset.
“We wanted this one bad, after last year when they took it to us,” admitted Zubillaga, referencing Spring-Ford’s 33-3 season-opening win at Unionville in 2016. “It’s a great start to the season, the best we could’ve hoped for… and all our goals are in front of us. We want to take it all the way this season. There are no limits on what we can accomplish.”