PJP out­lasts Pottstown, 20-12

The Mercury (Pottstown, PA) - - SPORTS - By Thomas Nash tnash@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @Thomas_Nash10 on Twit­ter

POTTSTOWN » This is not your older brother’s Pope John Paul II foot­ball team.

The Golden Pan­thers, a team that went a com­bined 9-53 in its first six sea­sons of ex­is­tence, are here to stay in 2018.

“A lot of us were a part of that group that fin­ished 0-11 our fresh­man sea­son,” said wide­out CJ Mc­Caf­ferty, now a se­nior, of the 2015 sea­son. “We just pro­gres­sively got bet­ter each year and built up our cul­ture.”

On a night where they ad­mit­tedly didn’t have their best game, Pope John Paul II made enough plays to pull out a 20-12 win over Pottstown at Grigg Memo­rial Field.

With the re­sult, PJP (3-1 Pi­o­neer Ath­letic Con­fer­ence Fron­tier Di­vi­sion) im­proves to 7-1 over­all to tie its pro­gram mark for wins in a sea­son. Just don’t tell it to head coach Rory Graver.

“I try and tell our guys all the time, ‘We can talk about that stuff at the end of the year ban­quet,’” said Graver of the land­mark win. “Right now our fo­cus is one game at a time.”

Ju­nior quar­ter­back Ka­mal Gray — who has been light­ing it up in his first year with PJP — was held to a mod­est 150 yards pass­ing by the Pottstown (1-3 PAC Fron­tier, 4-4 over­all) de­fense. The Tro­jans, who lead the league in pass de­fense, forced two in­ter­cep­tions and came away with a cou-

ple of sacks on the night.

“They were throw­ing a bunch of dif­fer­ent looks at us,” said Gray. “Things we were pre­pared for, we just didn’t ex­e­cute. Luck­ily a lot of guys stepped up and we were able to get this win.”

Mc­Caf­ferty pulled in 10 re­cep­tions for 117 yards and a pair of touch­downs while run­ning back AJ Natale scored the game’s fi­nal touch­down on a nine-yard flush to the left side late in the fourth quar­ter.

Cor­ner­back Steve Skar­bek then sealed the game with a clutch in­ter­cep­tion on Pottstown’s en­su­ing drive to send the PJP of­fense into vic­tory for­ma­tion.

“I’ve got to give a lot of credit to Pottstown,” said Graver. “That is a good foot­ball team. We didn’t play up to our best, but I think that has more to do with them (Pottstown).

“I’m proud of our guys. We found a way to win it and that’s most im­por­tant.”

Pottstown, a team that hasn’t fin­ished above .500 since 2015, is on its own as­cen­sion this sea­son. De­spite stalling against the PAC’s Fron­tier Di­vi­sion so far, the Tro­jans en­tered Fri­day night’s game ranked as the No. 2 seed in the Dis­trict One Class 4A play­offs.

Pottstown quar­ter­back Josiah Wig­gins, who has been the fo­cal point of the Tro­jans’ of­fense all sea­son, left the game dur­ing the sec­ond quar­ter with a lower leg in­jury. That gave way to Dar­ius Small­wood, a sopho­more with­out much var­sity ex­pe­ri­ence.

“Dar­ius did a heck of a job for us at quar­ter­back,” said Pottstown head coach Mark Fis­cher, who didn’t have an im­me­di­ate up­date on Wig­gins. “As the game went on, guys started to set­tle into their roles. Guys stepped up for us all four quar­ters.”

Mo­ments af­ter PJP’s open­ing touch­down late in the sec­ond quar­ter, Pottstown’s Ne­hemiah Figueroa re­turned the en­su­ing kick­off 84 yards for a touch­down to keep the Tro­jans on pace at 7-6.

It wasn’t un­til late in the third quar­ter — Gray find­ing Mc­Caf­ferty for an 18-yard touch­down pass — that the PJP of­fense was able to break through against Pottstown’s de­fense. But the Tro­jans an­swered yet again, this time with a seven-play 57-yard drive re­sult­ing in Jonathan Ois­ter pound­ing it in from nine yards out to make it 14-12 with 10 sec­onds left in the third quar­ter.

“It was a to­tal team ef­fort for us tonight,” said Fis­cher. “We know they (PJP) like to throw the foot­ball a lot. They’ve got a re­ally good quar­ter­back and some good re­ceivers. So we went man. We thought our ath­letes were just as good as theirs, and it put us in good sit­u­a­tions.”

From there, though, Pope John Paul II put to­gether a text­book seven-play 70-yard drive

THOMAS NASH - DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Pope John Paul II’s CJ Mc­Caf­ferty (2) pulls in a touch­down catch in front of a Pottstown de­fender dur­ing the sec­ond half of Fri­day night’s game.

THOMAS NASH - DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Above, Pottstown’s AJ Natale (21) gives a stiff arm to Pottstown de­fender Jonathan Ois­ter dur­ing Fri­day’s game. Be­low, Pottstown quar­ter­back Dar­ius Small­wood (3) fol­lows through on a pass while be­ing pres­sured by Pope John Paul II’s Michael Tibur­cio.

that took up well over half of the fourth quar­ter be­fore Natale plunged his way into the end zone for the game’s fi­nal score.HOME­COM­ING » With Pott- stown cel­e­brat­ing its Home- com­ing Night, Lon­don Aquino was named Home­com­ing Queen while named Ne­hemiah King. Figueroa was UP NEXT » Pope John Paul II will close out the con­fer­ence reg­u­lar sea­son next Satur­day with a home game against Up­per Me­rion. Pottstown will travel to Up­per Perkiomen Fri­day night.

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