WFMZ The Big Ticket's Spring-Ford vs. Wilson Recap
Spring-Ford stopped inch short of topping Wilson in double OT
By Sam Stewart
WEST LAWN >> Call it cliché when one says football “is a game of inches.”
However, sometimes a cliché does the best to convey the narrative.
Friday night, it was an inch, not inches that separated Spring-Ford from a momentous early season victory, as Spring-Ford quarterback Stone Scarcelle was stuffed fractions away from the goal line on a two-point conversion in double overtime, sealing the game for District 3 powerhouse Wilson and sending the Rams home with a 41-40 defeat.
“This game will pay dividends down the road,” Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubaker said. “We were in a tight game. Obviously it’s kind of cliche, but it’s a shame that in one of these games that one team has to come out on the short end. It would have been nicer to have said that we hung in there and had one more point than they did but sometimes that’s just the way it goes. I couldn’t ask for any more.”
Evident on the last play, neither team had anything left in the tank.
Following Grayson Kline’s one-yard keeper that put Wilson up 41-34 in the second overtime, Spring-Ford wasted no time in getting even. Selwyn Simpson barrelled his way for a 10-yard score, taking a Wilson defender three yards into the end zone with him, to make it 41-40, prompting a Ram timeout.
There was no question – the Rams were going for two.
Scarcelle lined up at quarterback with running back Selwyn Simpson to the right, took the snap and ran the read-option before keeping it himself and bulldozing his way right into the heart of the Wilson defense. Scarcelle’s helmet got in on the initial push, but Wilson defenders were right there to make sure that was all that got in. Trying to reach the ball over the plane, Wilson kept Scarcelle an inch short, prompting jubilation on the sideline as Bulldog players rushed the field. Ram players sunk. They had nothing left in the tank.
“There’s nobody in there crying, there’s nobody in there feeling sorry for themselves,” Brubaker said. “They gave it all they had and they have no reason to apologize. They played their butts off. We kept asking them to play one more play, play one more play and they kept coming up big.”
Wilson came away with the win despite committing 14 penalties for 133 yards. Players like Kline and Alex Twiford were the reason why.
Kline entered the game on Wilson’s last drive and engineered a beauty, a 10-play, 68-yard march that brought the Bulldogs in range of kicker Nick Borelli, who calmly booted a 29-yard field goal at the end of regulation to send the game into overtime. Kline finishing 7-for-11 with 80 yards.
Starting quarterback Connor Uhrig finished 17-for-31 for 270 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for a team-best 88 yards on 16 carries
“To come in cold and march us down the field. It was huge,” Wilson head coach Doug Dahms said. “That’s the beauty of having a two-quarterback system.
“Last game we alternated them every two or three series but Uhrig was running real well and hitting some nice short routs so it’s kind of one of those things you just go with the flow.”
Twiford came up big all throughout, his catch in the second overtime one of the better moments for the 6-2, 225-pound tight end. Facing a third and goal at the 15, Twiford caught a strike from Kline and held on as a Ram defender tried to jar the ball loose. He fought his way to the one-yard line before Kline did the rest on fourth down, his one-yard keeper proving to be the difference in Brubaker’s return to Wilson. Twiford finished with a game-high eight receptions for 92 yards,
“He’s legit,” Dahms said of Twiford. “He made some big catches and made some big plays. He’s getting back; we only had him in a few series last week (against Governor Mifflin). He’s still a little gimpy but he played well enough.”
Spring-Ford’s Matt Gibson and Selwyn Simpson shined for the Rams. Gibson finished with 112 yards rushing on 24 carries, a true workhorse effort. Simpson lit up the scoreboard, rushing for three touchdowns, his 37-yard run up the gut giving the Rams a 24-21 lead in the third. Simpson finished with 85 yards rushing on 15 carries.
“Those guys (Gibson and Simpson) were banged up coming into the game,” Brubaker said. “There’s guys that were banged up the first two weeks. Lee Albert was banged up. Those guys just kept playing. We kept asking them to go back in there and make plays and they kept doing it. There’s not much more that you can ask of them.”
Big D >> The Rams defense, despite allowing 469 yards of total offense, was a huge reason why the game stayed tight. Led by the play of Dan Cassidy, Tanner Romano and Nick Salomone, the Rams ‘D’ kept the Wilson offense out of the end zone in crucial moments, limiting them to a field goal after the SF quarterback threw a interception deep in Ram territory. The defense also started the team’s comeback, registering a safety after a beautiful special teams play pinned Wilson down at the one. The safety made it 21-16 in the third before Simpson’s aforementioned touchdown made it 24-21.
“They came up huge all night,” Brubaker said of his defense. “We had a couple turnovers in our own territory. One time they held them to a field goal, the other they just held them. There are guys just running on empty making plays.
Staying Cool >> Spring-Ford kicker Erick Rodriguez, hit a 30-yard field goal to give the Rams a 27-24 lead midway through the fourth. Borelli was not to be outdone, hitting a 26-yarder to tie it at 24 before tying the game at 27 as time expired with a 29-yard boot.
Wilson outlasts Spring-Ford in scholastic football
By Steve Patton
Doug Dahms has been involved in some remarkable games during his long tenure on the Wilson football staff.
The one the head coach oversaw Friday night at West Lawn will rank among them.
"It's been awhile," said Dahms of the last time he was involved in a game quite like this one.
In a back-and-forth thriller, Wilson outlasted Spring-Ford 41-40 in two overtimes, securing the win by stopping the Rams just short of the goal line on a two-point conversion try.
In a game that lasted more than three hours and included 10 touchdowns and almost 800 yards of offense, Wilson's Nick Borelli kicked a tying 27-yard field goal on the final play of regulation after quarterback Grayson Kline scrambled out of bounds with two seconds left.
The teams scored touchdowns on both of their OT possessions from the 10-yard line, the Bulldogs (2-0) getting their second one on a 1-yard sneak by Kline on fourth down.
The Rams (2-1) scored on their first play of each extra period, the second on Selwyn Simpson's third TD run.
After the second score, former Wilson assistant and Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubaker elected to go for the win, but the Bulldogs stopped quarterback Stone Scarcelle inches from the goal line to set off a wild celebration.
The Bulldogs won despite being penalized 14 times for 132 yards, taking a safety and turning the ball over deep in Rams territory.
"Don't take anything away from Spring-Ford; they played great football," said Dahms. "But we made enough mistakes to last the rest of the season. What'd we have? A hundred yards in penalties? You can't do that."
Both teams had to rally, the Bulldogs doing it first after the Rams went 67 and 66 yards on their first two series to open a 14-point lead.
Wilson quarterback Connor Uhrig put his team ahead by going 10-for-13 for 193 yards in the first half, with touchdown passes of 33 yards to Iggy Reynoso, 29 yards to Brian Wright and 38 yards to Foday Jalloh.
The Rams turned the game around with the safety after pinning Wilson at the 1 on a punt, then got a long return on the free kick and a 37-yard TD by Simpson on the next play.
There were three field goals the rest of the way, the last by Borelli when Kline - who took over when Uhrig was injured late in the fourth quarter - completed 5-of-7 passes to drive the Bulldogs from their 20 to the Spring-Ford 12.
"I think it speaks to both programs' resiliency," said Brubaker. "We always strive to play four quarters. There's guys in that locker room that are hurting, and they kept going out and playing one more play. You can't ask any more of them."
That factored into Brubaker's decision to go for the win.
"We went for two because we didn't have much gas left in the tank," said Brubaker. "I asked the kids and I asked the coaches and they said we've got to go for it now."
Spring-Ford, Perkiomen Valley face stiff tests in Week 3
By Sam Stewart
Hold the icing: There are no cupcakes on Spring-Ford or Perkiomen Valley’s schedule this season.
Both the Rams and the Vikings have taken advantage of the new scheduling format brought upon by the PAC realignment, and on Friday, both face season-defining tests.
Rams head coach Chad Brubaker makes his long-awaited return to West Lawn as the Rams square off against perennial state powerhouse Wilson while Perkiomen Valley looks to go 3-0 as Pennridge, the No. 8 ranked team in Southeastern Pa., comes to Graterford.
For Week 3 matchups, those are pretty sweet.
“Our goal in scheduling non-league games was to try to get as many quality opponents as we could,” Brubaker said. “Come playoff time, we can rely on some of those experiences.”
“I think we’ve had a bunch of challenges this year,” Perkiomen Valley head coach Rob Heist said. “Downingtown West was a very good football team. This (Pennridge) is an excellent team. They have size, strength, speed, quarterback play is terrific, really good inside linebackers. It will be a real good challenge.
“This would be a huge win for our program. Suburban One team, ranked 8th in Southeastern Pa., big school, and coming to our field. For us to play well and compete at that level would be great for PV.”
Brubaker returns to West Lawn for the first time during the regular season since departing to take over the Spring-Ford program in 2010. Brubaker spent 12 years as an assistant coach for the perennial state powerhouse, the last four as the offensive coordinator under head coach Doug Dahms. He was instrumental in the development of former quarterback Chad Henne, who went on to have an outstanding career at Michigan and started for the Miami Dolphins, and for the blistering Bulldog offense that set school records in virtually every offensive category, including yards rushing and passing, total offense, and points scored.
Despite his long history at Wilson West Lawn, Brubaker insists that Friday night doesn’t mark a return home.
He gets the story angle, but too much has changed in six years.
“I told my kids that this is about them,” Brubaker said. “They (Wilson players) don’t know who I am or who coach Brown (former Wilson defensive line coach Victor Brown) is. I get why people would be interested in me at Wilson, but it really doesn’t have anything to do with Friday night.
“Sure, this is my first time back during the regular season, but we’ve scrimmaged there twice. Things have changed a lot. They put turf in the stadium, redid their stands. It’s different anyway. Time moves on and we get older.”
What isn’t different is the Bulldogs’ status among the state’s elite.
The Bulldogs have run roughshod over their Lancaster-Lebanon opponents, compiling a record of 56-0 in the league (97-12 overall) and have won three District 3-AAAA titles since 2008 under the guidance of head coach Dahms, whose beard alone deserves a trophy.
This stands as Spring-Ford’s toughest regular season task yet and will quickly serve as a measuring stick for the growth of a dominant defense that’s allowed just 214 yards per game (Dan Cassidy with two interceptions) and a newly-minted starting quarterback TJ Pergine, who’s second in the PAC in passing yards (411) and third in touchdowns (5).
“Our defense has played well,” Brubaker said. “The best thing is how well they run to the ball. We’ve been tackling pretty well and there’s two real positive things. We’ve been able to create turnovers the first two games and that will be the key Friday night.
“TJ’s done a really good job. He lived up to what he could be the first two weeks. This will be a huge test for him, I think he’s ready to play and he’s going to learn mentally what it takes to play on Friday night.”
Forty-five minutes east, Perkiomen Valley will be tested by the arm and legs of Pennridge quarterback Jagger Hartshorn, who has been nearly unstoppable for the Rams offense, rushing for 379 yards in his first two games with six touchdowns (five against Norristown).
Pennridge is coming off a 31-24 loss to Neshaminy, a District 1-AAAA semifinalist last season.
“He (Jagger)’s a terrific athlete,” Heist said. “He’s a very good runner. They put him in good situations running the football. He can not only hurt you with his arm strength, but if you don’t keep him in the pocket, he’s going to scramble around and he’s going to do damage. We’re going to have to get 11 hats to the ball, gang tackle, be disciplined and play strong defense.
“We had a great week of practice. The kids are excited. They are ready to go. I feel like we have a good plan in place so hopefully we can execute to the best of our ability and I think we’ll be right there.”
ROYERSFORD >> Spring-Ford put its offense into high gear and combined that with another strong defensive outing as the Rams thumped visiting Chester, 55-22 in non-league football action Friday night at Coach McNelly Stadium.
The Rams constructed 35-6 lead after one quarter and stretched that margin to 48-6 over the Clippers by halftime.
Spring-Ford churned out 189 yards rushing and 149 yards passing to amass 338 yards of total offense.
Chester finished with 124 yards rushing and 108 yards passing for 232 yards of total offense.
“Our line did a lot better job than last week on protection,” said Spring-Ford junior quarterback TJ Pergine. “They got off the ball and we got our passing game and our running game going. Overall, we were good on offense. I give all the credit to them. They did a great job of protecting me. And our receivers did a good job of getting open a lot.”
Pergine completed 11 of 15 aerials for 156 yards and three touchdowns and also rushed for two TDs himself. Matt Gibson rushed for 104 yards and one TD. He opened the Rams’ scoring with a five-yard scoring run.
Pergine threw touchdown passes to Quinn McKenna, Lee Albert and Stone Scarcelle.
Chester quarterback Jamir Green passed for 108 yards and one TD, a 78-yard scoring throw to Braheem Bishop.
The Clippers also scored on a 34-yard fumble recovery scooped up by George Johnson and an 81-yard scoring run by Devan Freeman. Freeman totaled 97 yards on the evening.
“We really prepared for them and their defensive style,” said Albert. “At practice we prepared for that. When Quinn went down, I had to go in. A lot of guys stepped on the second team, but we still have work to do.”
Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker was happy with the Rams’ progress as they have been improving week to week.
“We wanted to establish a running game after last week,” said Brubaker. “We thought we would be more balanced if we did that.”
The Rams got sacks from Tanner Romano and Dean Costalas. Dan Cassidy and Tyler Edwards forced interceptions. Pete Agler made some big tackles on special teams to set the tone in the early going.
Chester defensive coordinator James Howard said the Clippers staff liked the fact the team stuck it out all four quarters
“We were impressed that the kids did no quit,” Howard said. “In years past we used to do that.”
He said Chester wants to play teams like Spring-Ford and Haverford in order to keep improving.
For Chester, Tahiaj Cooper intercepted a pass and Rushon Archer had a pair of sacks.
Unionville can’t overcome miscues in opening game loss
Powerful Spring-Ford dominates, 33-3
By Al Tustin, Staff Writer, The Times
“The stars might lie, but the numbers never do.” — Mary Chapin Carpenter.
Unionville’s Mike Cresta (53) fights in the trenches against the Spring Ford offensive line. Jim Gill photo.
EAST MARLBOROUGH — While it’s possible that the stars were aligned for Unionville High School in its 2016 season opener against Spring-Ford, the numbers may have predicted a different story:
First off, the Rams are a 6A school with nearly twice the population of 5A Unionville High. Second, the Indians are a very young team with many new starters, especially on offense. Third, and this was the killer, mistakes, as in too many Unionville miscues to stay with one of the top programs in southeast Pennsylvania.
The result, pre-ordained or not, was a tough 33-3 loss to Spring-Ford, Friday night.
And while some of the younger players managed to shake off opening night jitters and their lack of experience and play better as the game progressed, key turnovers and mistakes at crucial moments broke open a game that been closely contested. Youth and inexperience reared their head at the worst time, head coach Pat Clark said.
Unionville’s Jesse Gill gets to Spring-Ford QB T.J. Pergine. Jim Gill photo.
“But that’s not going to be an excuse much longer around here,” Clark said after the game, “and really, it’s not an excuse now — but our kids know, every kid in our program knows the level we expect to play at and every kid know that we’re going to work together to be a better football team next week.”
While the 0-1 Indians gamely hung in with the Rams — the Indians managed to stop them repeatedly early on and grabbed a 3-0 lead on a Matt Manwaring field goal. Things started to unravel in the second quarter, when Spring-Ford QB T.J. Pergine — a junior making his first varsity start — started to find his rhythm. Pergine hit Stone Scarcelle with a 49-yard pass, which set up a quick 15-yard TD dash by Selwyn Simpson. In a flash, the Indians’ lead was gone.
But Unionville didn’t quit — again the offense got things going, in part keyed by the running of Jack Adams and pushed the ball all the way down to the Rams’ 1 yard line. But then a miscue — in this case — a fumble stopped the Indians cold in their tracks.
Seizing an opportunity to take control of the game, Spring-Ford immediately marched down the field behind Pergrine’s arm — a 34-yard pass to Quinn McKenna and then a 40-yard scoring pass to Scarcelle to make it 14-3 at the half.
Unionville QB Alex Gorgone looks to evade Spring-Ford defenders — the junior QB had an uneven debut as a signal caller. Jim Gill photo.
The third quarter wasn’t much better — and again it was miscues that cost the Indians. QB Alex Gorgone, another junior making his first varsity start, was picked off by Scarcelle, who promptly raced down the field for a score. Two more turnovers in the second half doomed the Indians’ chances of getting back into the contest.
Still, with less mistakes a bit more seasoning, this might have been a much closer contest — Adams and running back cohort Dante Graham showed flashes and the defense played well despite battling a larger and deeper opponent.
Next week’s contest at the tough Academy Park — a highly athletic team that at times can be undone by mistakes — will need Unionville to clean up some of its issues if it is to post its first win of the season.
“We’re going to have to tackle in space and take care of the football,” Clark said. “I think we got a good physical test this week, so I think we’ll be ready physically.”
Defense keys Spring-Ford to 33-3 win over Unionville
By Dan Dunkin
UNIONVILLE >> A Spring-Ford defense that was consistently stingy last year appears committed for a strong encore.
The Ram D, with many returnees from a unit that allowed just 10.6 points per outing in 2015, suffocated Unionville start to finish in the season opener Friday night. They helped blow the game open by forcing three third-quarter turnovers, which led to 13 points and spurred Spring-Ford to a 33-3 victory.
First-time varsity starting quarterback TJ Pergine made some big plays and Stone Scarcelle, a major impact guy on both sides of the ball, did damage to the Indians on offense and defense with a 40-yard touchdown reception and 38-yard interception return for a score.
“Our defense did a great job,” said Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker. “We kind of had first-game jitters with a new starting quarterback. They did a great job of holding them off until we could break a couple of plays.”
Unionville didn’t record a first down until the second quarter. Spring-Ford was finding it tough sledding as well in the early going and the Indians had a 3-0 lead with 8:18 left in the first half.
It was then that Pergine, a junior, got in a varsity groove. He found the fleet Scarcelle for a 49-yard play, setting up Selwyn Simpson’s 15-yard TD run for a 7-3 Spring-Ford lead.
Spring-Ford’s defense then established the game’s turning point, denying the Indians the end zone after they had gotten a big pass play and advanced to the Ram 2-yard line. Linebackers Tanner Romano and Ryan Yanulevich along with a host of others pushed the Indians back. Two consecutive losses turned the ball back over to the Rams.
Pergine, Scarcelle and senior wideout Quinn McKenna took the Rams right back down the field. Pergine hit McKenna for 34 yards down the left sideline, and on the next play found Scarcelle for the 40-yard score 1:20 before halftime. Pergine showed a knack for buying time in the pocket and delivering the ball deep.
“T.J. hung in there,” Brubaker said. “He’s a tough kid. The good thing that came out of it was they gave him some pressure and he hung in there.”
“It was his first start so we had to kind of get him on his feet, get him in the varsity flow,” Scarcelle said of Pergine. “We told him, ‘All the seniors are with you. Be comfortable.’ He stuck in there, did a great job. He’s a gamer.”
Spring-Ford seized the momentum quickly in the third. Scarcelle read the play perfectly and picked off an Alex Gorgone pass in the flat for an easy TD runback. Now it was 21-3.
“All week we’ve been practicing against the routes they’re running,” Scarcelle said. “I just read my keys.”
On Unionville’s next possession, Romano recovered a fumble. That and an interception by Dan Cassidy later in the quarter, on a deep ball near the goal line, led to field goals by Erick Rodriguez.
“Turnovers really helped us out in this game,” Yanulevich said. “A lot of played together last year and the new guys stepped up. We had a great game on defense.”
“We owe it all to the coaches and all the preparation we do,” Romano said.
The Indians lost a bunch of skill-position players from an 8-3 club and might take some time to find their way offensively. Unionville junior running back Jack Adams had some nice second-half runs but the Indians never could crack the Ram D for a sustained stretches.
“We were killing ourselves. We’ve got to cut down on mental errors,” Adams said. “We were right in it for a while. We’ve just got to get better on offense. Our defense is pretty solid right now.”
The Indians’ D did do a good job thwarting the Spring-Ford running game. Spring-Ford had a 59-yard TD run by Selwyn Simpson in the first quarter called back for a hold, and the Rams couldn’t find much room between the tackles most of the night.
“We’re really disappointed we couldn’t run the ball,” Brubaker said. “But give credit to their defense, especially their linebackers. They were coming off the edge and the middle and we weren’t picking that up. We’ve got to look at the film and correct that.”
New Order: Spring-Ford seniors look to write their own script in 2016
By Sam Stewart
The two principles were evident in last year’s Spring-Ford seniors that led the Rams to an undefeated league record and the team’s first PAC-10 Championship since (2011).
Now, this year’s seniors are waiting for their chance to pen another chapter in the Spring-Ford record book.
“There were a lot of leaders on that senior class that really took control when they had to,” Rams offensive/defensive lineman Luke Nadwodny said. “Senior year only comes once, we need to take advantage of it.”
“Each senior class has its own identity and wants to go out a champion, so this year’s seniors want to create their own legacy,” Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubaker said. “Last year’s seniors will always have that. This year’s seniors want to establish their own place in school history.”
Friday night at Unionville, they get their first chance.
The Rams face a Indians squad that has plenty of fresh faces, yet plenty of talent. The Indians graduated 20 seniors from last season — including every skill position starter — on a squad that went 6-0 in the Ches-Mont American Division. The linebacker corps of Trevor Gardiner, Jesse Gill and James Watson headline a defense that will look to slow down a Spring-Ford rushing attack that averaged 202.8 yards rushing per game in 2015.
It’s a group Rams senior running back Matt Gibson is looking forward to running against.
“We’re excited for this game,” Gibson said. “Their (Indians) run defense is pretty good so we’re going to have to mix it up. We just need to go out and execute like we know how to do.”
Speaking of Fresh Faces
This year marks the first year of the new PIAA classifications and the four-game non-league schedule for members of the PAC.
Are the players excited? They sure are.
“We’re real excited for these games,” Spring-Ford’s Casey Callahan said. “We’re excited to see a team that we’ve never played before and kids we’ve never played before in a stadium we’ve never played in before.”
Tomorrow will be a hot one across the district with game-time temperatures projected to be at 84 degrees while only dipping down to 80 degrees at 10 p.m. Obviously, staying hydrated will be key in week one, or the “cramp game.”
“Starting tonight (Wednesday night), the plan is to drink a lot of water, Gatorade, eat a lot of pickles,” Gibson said.
“We just need to take care of our body, Nadwodny added. “Stay away from the junk foods, stay away from the chips.”
Nadwodny took to social media to dedicate his season to former Ram player Brian Clarke, who while riding his bicycle was accidently struck by an automobile and later died in July of 2012. “My senior season will be dedicated to a real one who unfortunately isn’t with us anymore,” Nadwodny said via Twitter. “but you always (will) be looking down over us.”
UPPER PROVIDENCE >> Pottsgrove High School enjoyed a banner day when it came time for special awards during the 29th Annual Pioneer Athletic Conference All-League Banquet Sunday afternoon at the Rivercrest Golf Club.
Pottsgrove defensive end/tight end Chris DeFrancesco won the David L. Freed Award; running back Tyrell Barr took home the Joseph Edwards Scholarship; and offensive tackle Jake Adams captured the Bill Rogers Lineman of the Year award.
Also receiving high honors as a multiple award-winning school were Perkiomen Valley junior quarterback Stephen Sturm, Most Valuable Player; junior wide receiver/defensive back Justin Jaworski,Two-Way Player of the Year; junior running back David Williams, Offensive Player of the Year; and Spring-Ford linebacker Steven Rice, Defensive Player of the Year.
All awards were voted upon by the PAC-10 Football Coaches Association, which also selected first team, second team and honorable mention all-star recipients for both offense and defense.
DeFrancesco is undergoing chemotherapy for a 6-to-8-week period to deal with testicular cancer, which represents a testament in courage and fight to overcome adversity that no scholastic student-athlete should ever have to deal with. Pottsgrove head football coach Rick Pennypacker told the story of DeFrancesco’s career, both from an athletic standpoint as well as his battles with cancer that arrived at age 17 and other physical issues with his leg and ankle. Spring-Ford head football coach Chad Brubaker first explained the criteria for winning the David L. Freed Award, which is named in memory of former Spring-Ford lineman David Freed, who died from head injuries suffered in a 1975 practice incident on a machine that is no longer manufactured.
Despite numerous setbacks along the road, DeFrancesco has maintained a positive attitude and has continued his diligent work ethic as a star member of both the Falcons’ football and wrestling teams.
Pottsgrove Head Coach Rick Pennypacker with Joseph Edwards Scholarship recipient Tyrell Barr at the PAC-10 Football Awards Banquet Sunday. (Barry Taglieber - For Digital First Media)
Pottsgrove Head Coach Rick Pennypacker with Joseph Edwards Scholarship recipient Tyrell Barr at the PAC-10 Football Awards Banquet Sunday. (Barry Taglieber – For Digital First Media)
DeFrancesco received first team all-league honors as a defensive end. Barr was named a first team all-league running back. Adams received first team honors as an offensive lineman.
“I had no idea I was getting it (Freed Award),” said DeFrancesco. “Then they started talking about it. Coach (Pennypacker) started talking, and so I had a great feeling. Everybody started clapping for me and everything. It helps to have the will to fight, and still fight. You can never give up on your dreams. You have to do what you believe in and keep striving.”
DeFrancesco has spent an extraordinary amount of time in the weight room while preparing for rigors in two scholastic sports during his high school career – football and wrestling.
Because of the extensive media coverage the DeFrancesco case has received, and because he is such an admirable student-athlete on top of it all as a special person, DeFrancesco has been constantly receiving best wishes from students, players and other coaches he does not even know.
“They say they are praying for me,” said DeFrancesco, “especially with the coaches and kids I don’t even know. I am really appreciative.”
“He practiced every day and never stopped lifting,” said Pennypacker of DeFrancesco’s sports time despite the illness. “He bulked up. He asked ‘When can I play football?’ All he cared about was playing football.”
Following surgery, DeFrancesco still made it back on the football field two weeks later to compete with the rest of his Falcon teammates in the District 1-AAA playoffs, a testament to his fight then and now as his battle continues.
Barr became a primary focus of the Pottsgrove offense this season as a durable running back. Barr is originally from Phoenixville, where he first played football in the 60-year-old Phoenixville Marian Youth Club (PMYC) youth sports program. Tyrell’s father, Timothy Barr, played sports at Phoenixville and is still employed there at the Good Samaritan Shelter. Tyrell’s uncle, Harry Barr, still holds the Phantoms’ school record for the 100-yard dash, which is in the area of 9.8 seconds.
“I grew up in Phoenixville and played Little Brothers football in PMYC,” said Tyrell Barr. “My dad really helped me. I moved to Pottsgrove when I was in the middle of my seventh grade year. I was playing basketball at Pottstown at the time, and my mom decided to move to Pottsgrove. At first, I started crying, and I didn’t want to move for the third time. But then I didn’t mind it. I have had good guys around me here from eighth grade on up. Having that chemistry out on the field really helps.”
Barr has enjoyed being part of the traditional football success that Pennypacker’s teams have created at Pottsgrove throughout the entire program. But it has been more about learning life’s lessons from the game of football, like the values of hard work, dedication and teamwork and friendships, moreso than the wins and losses and individual statistics from any single game or season.
“I am coming out of an organization with a great tradition at Pottsgrove,” said Barr. “No other place has this kind of winning tradition like we have at Pottsgrove. We carry on the winning or losing. At the end of the season, you always walk away with something.”
His future plans include majoring in applied mathematics at either Princeton University or Temple University in the pursuit of becoming an actuary.
Perkiomen Valley head football coach Scott Reed bid farewell to the PAC-10 football fraternity after stepping down after 12 seasons to devote more time to his own kids and family. Reed guided the Vikings from 2004-15 and compiled an overall record of 82-53 while winning two PAC-10 championships. He also led PV to four District 1-AAAA playoff berths.
This past fall, the Vikings went neck-and-neck with Spring-Ford throughout the season before the Rams won the showdown contest between the two schools in the last week of the campaign as well as the league championship. PV did win one game in the district playoffs. Reed noted that he has been fortunate to have coached some outstanding athletes. He said he has also been blessed to have four assistant coaches who have been so loyal and faithful to him, as well as becoming great friends. The PV assistant coaches include Jason Basile, Matt Young, Tim Connolly and Rob Heist.
Reed will remain active as a basketball official during the winter months.
As coach of the league champions, Brubaker also gave a speech. He said the PAC’s reputation in football is enhanced by how teams perform during the playoffs. Brubaker congratulated PV on its district playoff victory. He also said the Rams are very excited about the league’s expansion next year, when Norristown and Upper Merion will be added to the loop. The 12 member schools will be divided into two divisions of six teams per side, based on larger and smaller school enrollments. Brubaker said the new schedule will allow teams to play some interesting, high quality non-league games.
Brubaker said he, too, has been blessed with top athletes as well as fine assistant coaches. The rest of the Rams’ staff includes Steve Schein, Steve Moyer, Jim Mich Jr., Chad Strickler, Chuck Nesley (first year with SF after a tenure at Owen J. Roberts), Jamie Gray, DJ Fox, Dale Bergman and Mike Engro.
Brubaker said football is a great game that has come under attack because of the number of concussions involved. But he also pointed out that a high number of safety precautions have been taken to prevent severe head injuries, including upgraded helmets. Game rules, he said, also allow for safety measures at a higher rate while dealing with the nature of football. Brubaker said an objective report would show that head injuries can be as serious in some other sports as they are in football.
The PAC All-Academic Team was recognized at the banquet. Those student-athletes are: Quinn Hair, Boyertown; Nicholas Ross, Methacton; Conor Mitchell, Owen J. Roberts; Eddie Landherr, Perkiomen Valley; Cory Bird, Phoenixville; David DeBias, Pope John Paul II; Max Stump, Pottsgrove; Brandon Tinson, Pottstown; Jason Wilson, Spring-Ford; and Mahlon Schaffer, Upper Perkiomen.
Notes >> Dave Reidenouer, executive secretary/treasurer of the football coaches association, gave opening remarks and introduced guests. … Boyertown football head coach George Parkinson gave the invocation, which included a prayer for DeFrancesco’s recovery. … Perkiomen Valley athletic director Larry Glanski serves as PAC-10 athletic director liaison.
Venuto Recognized by Burlsworth Foundation!
Congratulations to Ricky Venuto, who was recognized by the Burlsworth Character Award Foundation for sportsmanship and character in high school football. His name and Spring-Ford football will be listed in the credits for the movie Greater, coming nationwide to theaters January 22, 2016.
Honorable Mention Offense
Stone Scarcelle - Ath
Alex Nagy - OL
Noah Silva - OL
Rudderow honored at Tall Cedars
By Barry Sankey
ROYERSFORD >> The 74th annual Tall Cedars of Lebanon Football Night was held Wednesday evening at the Masonic Lodge home in Royersford.The group, which started having its banquet and programs back in 1941, has muscular dystrophy as its main project goal to benefit. The year 2015 represents the 100th anniversary of the Spring City Forest.
Players honored with their coaches included: Mike Banks, Boyertown; Tim Rudderow, Spring-Ford; Jared Johns-Lupold, Pope John Paul II; Jimmie Zazzi, Pottstown; Tim Nestor, Perkiomen Valley; Jake Adams, Pottsgrove; Mitch Bradford, Owen J. Roberts; and Matt Palubinsky, Phoenixville.
Coaches present included: George Parkinson, Boyertown; Chad Brubaker, Spring-Ford; Rory Graver, Pope John Paul II; Steve Anspach, assistant, Pottstown; Matt Young, assistant, Perkiomen Valley; Rick Pennypacker, Pottsgrove; Brian Lester, assistant, Owen J. Roberts; and Evan Breisblatt, Phoenixville.
Brubaker, head coach of this year’s PAC-10 champion Spring-Ford Rams, talked about Rudderow — a standout defensive tackle for the Rams.
“Our defense was very good this year,” said Brubaker, who recorded his second championship as a head coach with the Rams. “But we had no Division I players. We were like the 1984 Miami Dolphins with a No Name Defense. Tim epitomizes what we try to do at Spring-Ford.”
Rudderow saw some playing time as a sophomore and then became a starter during his junior season. That role continued this past season.
“He is a really hard worker with a motor that goes 100 percent,” said Brubaker. “He is a great example for the other players on the team.”
Rudderow closed out his career with 83 tackles, including 22 tackles for losses. He also recorded seven sacks and 11 hurries.
Rudderow plans to enter the Reserves or pursue a career in criminal justice.
“Football teaches a lot of life lessons, and Tim learned that a lot of times at Spring-Ford,” said Brubaker.
Young, an assistant coach who works with the defense at Perkiomen Valley, brought with him Nestor, a three-year starter with the Vikings. This past season, PV won its first-round District 1-AAAA playoff game.
“We knew we had a pretty decent defense coming back this year,” said Young. “But we also had some glaring holes, some big holes to fill. Tim was a receiver during his sophomore and junior years. But we needed an inside linebacker. He came to us during the summer and said he would like to give it a try. This was really important to me. He learned a lot the hard way. He was an unbelievable leader on defense and he earned all-league honors.”
Pennypacker talked about Adams, who became an instrumental part of the Falcons’ team as an offensive lineman and leader as a captain. He also carried a stellar grade point average as a student in the classroom.
“Jake was my favorite player this year,” said Pennypacker. “He is a tremendous kid who gave us great leadership. He leads by example and did things the right way. I had his brother (Jeff) a couple years who made all-league as a linebacker and tight end. There is also another brother in ninth grade coming up. Jake was a hard worker in the weight room. He always kept the team in line. He is one of the best offensive linemen I ever coached.”
Adams is being recruited by a number of Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) schools.
Parkinson brought along Banks, an offensive and defensive lineman who became an anchor on both lines.
“I coached Mike for four years,” said Parkinson. “When he was in eighth grade, I was the ninth grade coach at Boyertown East. He moved up to play with the ninth grade. Then we were reunited during his junior and senior years in high school. It was a nice thing to watch his development as a player and young man.”
Besides his dedicated work in the weight room, Banks also made definite work on improving his footwork a primary area. He gained a large amount of quickness and speed in his game.
Banks served as a team captain because of his leadership abilities and work ethic.
Breisblatt brought with him versatile standout three-way performer Palubinsky, who was also honored at the Tall Cedars event a year ago. Breisblatt said he has been coaching football for some 20 years and has enjoyed having some top quality players at all collegiate levels during that time span.
He termed Palubinsky “the ultimate player for me and he has been for three years.”
A two-time team captain, Palubinsky was also the recipient of the Mini-Max Award this year. During his career, he recorded more than 200 tackles while playing several different positions. He posted some awesome numbers as a receiver while doing just about everything on the field in terms of offense, defense and special teams.
Palubinsky was also heavily involved in a number of other school activities as well as community service. He also ran the Phuture Phantoms football camp during the summer.
Leister brought with him Bradford, who represented the heart and soul of the Wildcats’ team as a quarterback and defensive back.
“Every time he got the football, he was exciting,” said Lester. “He gave 110 percent. We had a new coaching staff this year, and he was a three-year starter. His leadership came up.”
The Wildcats had a new coaching staff this past season, which brought about new schemes. Players like Bradford stepped up, even after OJR dropped its first two games. The Wildcats ended up 6-6 overall.
“He was Mr. Excitement,” said Lester.
Graver was joined by Johns-Lupold, whom he considered a great student-athlete for two years while playing for the Golden Panthers. Johns-Lupold was named PJP’s Most Valuable Player for two years and also served as team captain and leader. An all-league wideout, Johns-Lupold also became a top punter. During the summer, he overcame an emergency bout with his appendix, during which time he lost a lot of weight and strength. But to his credit, Johns-Lupold became an even bigger, stronger and better player this season.
Pottstown assistant coach Anspach brought Zazzi, who was a central figure in the Trojans’ resurgence to prominence this season under former head coach Don Grinstead. Grinstead, who left immediately after the season to take a job in Florida, gave remarks to Anspach to be read at the banquet. After starting his scholastic career at just 170 pounds, Zazzi’s dedication in the weight room upped his bulk and strength to the point where he became an anchor along the offensive and defensive lines.
“He fulfilled his vision and earned everything he got,” said Grinstead in his letter about Zazzi. “He is a high school coach’s dream. He’s selfless and works hard.”
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Kutztown University head football coach Jim Clements was the guest speaker. Under his guidance, the Golden Bears have finished 6-5 and 7-4 in the PSAC each of the last two years. He has an overall career coaching record of 79-33.
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Bob Mull, chairman of the Tall Cedar Football Night, was also in attendance.