Pergine, DeFrancesco dominant in Rams’ win over Exeter
By Rob Senior
EXETER >> 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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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.”
ROYERSFORD >> 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.”
Mercury Unionville Preview
Who’s Who >> Time to find out what these Rams are made of after seeing their entire defense depart due to graduation. Spring-Ford (9-3) is Spring-Ford – they’ll always have a wealth of players. The fun this week is to see who will step up in those sharp checkered helmets. Unionville (7-4) will look to bring a bigger test than they did in last year’s 33-3 loss. J.T. Hower will be a player to watch for the Indians. His play on the perimeter will be a test to a youthful and experienced Rams defense.
ROYERSFORD >> Rumor has it that Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubaker can be seen with a miner’s helmet, flashlight on during practice.
In reality, no, this is false, but Brubaker has been mining for something, someone during the 2017 offseason, a diamond in the rough per say.
That’s what happens when your team loses all 11 starters on a defense that led the Pioneer Athletic Conference in total yards per game (236.8), points allowed per game (12.5) and rushing yards per game (94.4).
Will he find one? More than likely judging on the well-known success of a Rams squad that comes into 2017 ranked No. 10 in the Pa Prep Live Preseason Rankings. When will he find one? Well that’s up in the air.
“Our instincts need to be right with who should be playing where,” Brubaker said. “We have to create as much competition as possible. There’s guys who we know will be in the mix.”
“We’ve always been a senior oriented team. No doubt we’re going to need help from a lot of underclassmen. A lot of sophomores are going to have to at least contribute on special teams.”
The amount of seniors that have graduated becomes lengthy. In total, 18 starters departed from a Rams squad that went 9-3 last season while advancing to the District 1 Class 6A playoffs. Gone are leading rushers Matt Gibson (757 yards, 124 carries) and Selwyn Simpson (756 yards on 111 carries). Same goes for leading receiver Stone Scarcelle (now at Marshall), Nick Salomone, Ryan Yanulevich, Lee Albert, Casey Callahan, Toby Poet, Tanner Romano, Matt Booth and Billy Frazier among others.
“We need a lot of people to step up really fast,” returning athlete Justin DeFrancesco said. “There’s going to be a lot of diamond in the roughs, some hidden talent, that will be stepping up this summer. It’s going to help us a lot when we’re replacing 11 starters on defense.”
DeFrancesco highlights the four returning starters on offense that also includes senior left tackle Noah Silva, senior center Matt LePore and senior quarterback TJ Pergine. DeFrancesco figures to get a lot of touches after waiting behind Gibson and Simpson while Pergine will look to take another step forward after throwing for a school-record 2,324 yards and 27 touchdowns last season.
“TJ has matured off the field and filmwork became a huge value to him,” Brubaker said. “We’re going to need more than that. He’s going to play with a chip on his shoulder and we welcome that and we think he’s going to have a great senior year. He’s going to be responsible for not only himself, but for a lot more. He’s got to help guys if they’re in the wrong position and read defenses but I know he’s up for it.”
Spring-Ford has partnered with GoRout, on-field wearable playmaking technology that houses real-time playmaking software that helps teams practice perfect. According to the product’s website, GoRout leads to a 60 percent average increase in practice reps and 90 percent increase in scout team efficiency. The purpose of the product is to push the limits of the status quo to help coaches rethink how they teach, engage and communicate with their players at practice.
We Meet Again
Spring-Ford hosts Wilson West-Lawn in Week 3 after an epic two-overtime thriller that landed on Pa Prep Live’s Top 10 Games from 2016.
Class of 2017 Qualifies 5 Nominees for Wall of Fame
2017 Wall of Fame Nominees
Matt Gibson – 1,750+ career rushing yards, 100 career points scored, 2,000+ all-purpose yards
Selwyn Simpson - 1,750+ career rushing yards, 100 career points scored, 2,000+ all-purpose yards
Stone Scarcelle – 1,000+ career receiving yards, 100 career points scored
Tanner Romano – 10+ career sacks
Nick Salomone – 1st Team All-League and 7,500 yards of offense while starting
Award Winners Named at 2017 TD Club Banquet
TD Club Award – Stone Scarcelle
Offensive MVP – Matt Gibson & Selwyn Simpson
Defensive MVP – Dan Cassidy
Vincent DiPaul Coaches Award – Ryan Yanulevich
Freed Award – Nick Salomone
Outstanding Offensive Lineman – Casey Callahan
Outstanding Defensive Lineman – Tanner Romano
Brian Clarke Special Teams Award – Erick Rodriguez
Burlsworth Character Award – Josh Tumelty