Up­per More­land top­ples Vik­ings

The Colonial - - OPINION - By Tom Ker­rane

The Up­per Me­rion High football team be­lieves it is get­ting closer to end­ing the team’s cur­rent los­ing streak.

The Vik­ings also know they are not there yet.

Up­per Me­rion forced vis­it­ing Up­per More­land into four turnovers Fri­day night, but only turned one of the gifts into points. The Vik­ings turned the ball over twice dur­ing the game them­selves, both re­sult­ing in quick touch­downs for the Golden Bears.

Such is life when a team is strug­gling to win a game, any game.

Up­per Me­rion ex­tended its los­ing streak to 25 games Fri­day night as Up­per More­land de­feated the Vik­ings, 35-20.

“They all know the num­ber,” Up­per Me­rion coach Harold Smith said. “We’re not go­ing to act like it doesn’t ex­ist. They want to be the ones who end the streak. That’s what they’re ded­i­cated to.

“They’re work­ing to­gether and they’re play­ing hard and it will turn around.”

The Vik­ings started the sea­son with a de­vel­op­ing quar­ter­back in Car­men Fortino, but Fortino was injured dur­ing the sec­ond half of the Nor­ris­town game last week­end. He did not prac­tice all week and was not in uni­form Fri­day night. The sig­nal­call­ing went to Bobby Landmesser. The se­nior com­pleted eight passes for 108 yards on the night, ran the of­fense well and con­nected with Con­nor McGrath on a 27-yard scor­ing strike on his finDO WKURw RI WKH nLJKW.

The bulk of the of­fense, how­ever, came from run­ning back Has­san Gard­ner, who ran 28 times for 134 yDUGV DnG D VFRUH. ,n WKH fiUVW half, Gard­ner got the touch on ev­ery de­signed run­ning play, rush­ing 12 times. He amassed 82 of the team’s 89 fiUVW-KDOI yDUGV RI RIIHnVH.

“We just have to keep work­ing hard,” Gard­ner said. “We have to dig deep. We had some play­ers down, but we need to dig down and stay to­gether.

“The of­fense was get­ting bet­ter. (The in­juries) pushed us back some. We have to come back next week and be ready.”

Both teams were work­ing with de­pleted ros­ters. Up­per More­land (3-2 over­all, 1-1 Subur­ban One Amer­i­can Con­fer­ence) was miss­ing sev­eral play­ers, as well. The Bears came out and scored Rn WKHLU fiUVW SRVVHVVLRn RI the night, and also on two straight se­ries to open the sec­ond quar­ter.

Af­ter the Up­per More­land de­fense pulled down its sec­ond in­ter­cep­tion dur­ing the Vik­ings’ open­ing drive of the sec­ond half, the Bears again scored in a hurry and had built a 28-7 cush­ion.

“That was real big, scor­ing early, and also to do it in the sec­ond half,” Up­per More­land coach Dave Hey­ing said. “:H VWRSSHG WKHP Rn WKH fiUVW drive and then we scored. I was real happy with that.”

Still, Hey­ing rec­og­nized the mis­takes the Bears made, throw­ing two picks them­selves – in­clud­ing one as the team was go­ing in for a score on the one-yard line – and fum­bling the ball away twice in the fourth quar­ter.

“We still scored 35 points, but we had (four) turnovers DnG wH PLVVHG D fiHOG JRDO,” Hey­ing said. “Imag­ine what it could have been.”

Char­lie Hooker threw for 96 yDUGV, DOO Ln WKH fiUVW KDOI, for Up­per More­land. Robert Knox had two big runs dur­ing the game, in­clud­ing a 41-yard VFDPSHU Rn WKH fiUVW SODy IURP VFULPPDJH, DnG finLVKHG wLWK 118 yards on the ground.

Knox’s run set up a one-yard dive from Vince Cardelli to open the scor­ing. The Vik­ings UHVSRnGHG wLWK D VKRUW-fiHOG GULYH RI VLx SODyV Rn WKHLU fiUVW pos­ses­sion, set up by Je­quan Mitchell’s kick­off re­turn and capped when Gard­ner went in from the 16 to tie the game.

Up­per More­land, which has now won seven straight against the Vik­ings, re­gained the lead early in the sec­ond quar­ter, Jayvohn McCown go­ing 21 yards on the ground. Tyler Whit­more made it a 21-7 game in the fiUVW KDOI. CDUGHOOL KDG LW WR 28-7 early in the third with an­other one-yard score.

Fol­low­ing a re­cov­ered fum­ble, Up­per Me­rion went GRwn WKH fiHOG Rn WKH Uun­ning of Gard­ner and a 39yard con­nec­tion be­tween Landmesser and Evon DixRn, 0LWFKHOO WDNLnJ LW WKH fi­nal yard for 28-14.

Hooker ran a boot­leg for the BHDUV’ finDO VFRUH EHIRUH LDnGmesser and McGrath hooked up with 26 sec­onds to play.

“Right now, we are still WUyLnJ WR finG RuU wDy DnG WUyLnJ WR finG KRw WR wLn,” Smith said, his team 0-5 and 0-2 in the league. “Once we do, I think it’s go­ing to click. They’re re­silient kids.

“We came out, com­peted, just came out on the short end.”

It has hap­pened that way 25 times in a row now. But the Vik­ings are cer­tain they are im­prov­ing, they are mov­ing closer to end­ing the streak.

“We be­lieve in each other more and more each game,” Gard­ner said. “We think we can do it.”

They feel they are close, but they know it will take an­other week.

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