Ea­gles got their swag­ger back vs. Gi­ants

The Mercury (Pottstown, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Tucker Ba­gley For Dig­i­tal First Me­dia

Af­ter a pair of tough losses, the Philadel­phia Ea­gles re­bounded with a dom­i­nant per­for­mance.

KING OF PRUS­SIA » The more things change, the more they stay the same.

While the coach and per­son­nel may have changed, the ex­pec­ta­tions of the Potts­grove foot­ball team don’t.

The un­de­feated Fal­cons put an­other flag in the sand Fri­day night with a 17-7 win at Up­per Me­rion to claim their third-straight Pi­o­neer Ath­letic Con­fer­ence Fron­tier Di­vi­sion ti­tle.

“We did the things nec­es­sary to win,” head coach Bill Hawthorne said. “Up­per Me­rion is a good team, but we still have a lot of room for im­prove­ment.”

Potts­grove (4-0 PAC, 8-0 over­all) sealed up the di­vi­sion a week early by top­ping Pope John Paul II and UM and has qual­i­fied for the PAC cham­pi­onship game against the win­ner of next Fri­day’s Spring-Ford-Perkiomen Val­ley matchup.

In a matchup be­tween the two lead­ers of the Fron­tier Di­vi­sion, de­fense ruled the game early as the teams com­bined for just three first downs in the first quar­ter, but Potts­grove came out swing­ing in the sec­ond when quar­ter­back Jay Sisko took the first snap of the quar­ter 34 yards for a touch­down and a 7-0 lead.

That touch­down run rep­re­sented the only scor­ing of the game for the first three quar­ters, de­spite some big plays by Up­per Me­rion (3-1, 5-3). How­ever, de­spite out-gain­ing the Fal­cons in the first half, the Vik­ings just couldn’t stay out of their own way, com­mit­ting 8 of­fen­sive penal­ties.

“Penal­ties have been our big­gest is­sue all year,” Up­per Me­rion sec­ond-year coach Vic­tor Brown said. “A lot of our guys are still learn­ing and they are think­ing too much on each play. We need to just re­lax and play foot­ball the way we know how.”

Up­per Me­rion had a lot of suc­cess with screen passes early in the game, pick­ing up gains of 13 and 38 yards, but the Vik­ings strug­gled to hold on to the ball, throw­ing 3 in­ter­cep­tions and also los­ing one fum­ble.

“Our de­fense has been forc­ing turnovers all year,” Hawthorne ex­plained. “We’re a big-play de­fense. We will cer­tainly give up some big plays and yards, but we’re also go­ing to be ag­gres­sive and take the ball away too.”

The big­gest play of the game came early in the fourth quar­ter when Up­per Me­rion was down 10-0 and hold­ing the ball at their own 19-yard-line. Quar­ter­back Dale Clay­ton rolled out to his right and found Marc Clay­ton down the side­line for an 81-yard touch­down that brought the home team within just three.

“That play re­ally sparked things for us,” Brown said. “We were strug­gling of­fen­sively and to get that score, then a three-and-out on the next drive. We had all the mo­men­tum at one point, but we just couldn’t take ad­van­tage of it.”

In­deed, an in­ten­tional ground­ing penalty stopped the Vik­ings next drive in its tracks and on the en­su­ing Potts­grove pos­ses­sion, an en­croach­ment penalty on third-and-4 ex­tended the Fal­cons drive. On the very next play, Isa­iah Tay­lor scam­pered 39 yards around the left end for a touch­down to seal the vic­tory.

“It was just a counter-trap play,” Hawthorne ex­plained. “It was nice to see once we sprung [Tay­lor] loose. We were close to hit­ting on it a few times, but we fi­nally got a big gain thanks to a big block by Nate Tor­netta.”

Tay­lor fin­ished the game with 94 rush­ing yards on 26 car­ries and Sisko added 88 rush­ing yards of his own. The Up­per Me­rion of­fense was led by Marc Clay­ton, who caught 4 passes for 103 yards and the Vik­ings lone touch­down. Ahmed Stone had 8 catches for 69 yards and also nabbed an in­ter­cep­tion on the de­fen­sive side of the ball. Jay­den Tucker had two in­ter­cep­tions for Potts­grove.

De­spite the loss, 2018 still rep­re­sented a year of growth for the Up­per Me­rion Vik­ings. Since join­ing the PAC in 2016, they only man­aged to pick up three con­fer­ence wins be­fore rac­ing out to a 3-0 start this year.

“There are no moral vic­to­ries, but we still mea­sure growth,” Brown said. “I’m very proud of how far our play­ers have come in these past two years and they know we’re still build­ing. You can see our guys are buy­ing in to our pro­gram and we know this is the start of some­thing good.”

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