Lop­sided loss doesn’t spoil Pottstown’s progress

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

PHOENIXVILLE » When Pottstown head foot­ball coach Mark Fis­cher looks back on the 2018 sea­son, the way it fin­ished will be among the last things on his mind.

“We did way too many good things this sea­son for us to just dwell on this,” he said mo­ments after a 40-6 loss to crosstown ri­val Potts­grove in the Dis­trict 1-4A cham­pi­onship game.

Com­ing off a two-win cam­paign the year prior, Pottstown put to­gether a six-win sea­son this fall — their most since 2015 — and hosted a dis­trict play­off game, both prac­ti­cally un­heard of ac­com­plish­ments con­sid­er­ing where the pro­gram was just a few sea­sons ago.

The Tro­jans (6-6 over­all) made strides all through­out the 2018 reg­u­lar sea­son, jump­ing out to a 3-1 start to the year be­fore even­tu­ally stalling in the Pi­o­neer Ath­letic Con­fer­ence’s Fron­tier Di­vi­sion then pick­ing up a cou­ple late wins to make their post­sea­son push.

“We fin­ished the sea­son strong,” said Fis­cher. “We preach, ‘It’s not where you start, it’s where you fin­ish.’

“We had a strong win in our PAC cross­over game (19-14 over Nor­ris­town) to get our­selves into the play­offs. We played strong to win our

first dis­trict play­off game in tough con­di­tions last week (28-13 over Spring­field­Montco). We re­ally pushed hard and earned our­selves ev­ery right to be here.”

The right to play in Fri­day night’s game wasn’t missed on most.

It cer­tainly wasn’t on Ne­hemiah Figueroa.

Pottstown’s se­nior wide re­ceiver/de­fen­sive back was among those who stayed out on the field and bat­tled un­til the fin­ish.

“I wanted to be out there all four quar­ters,” said Figueroa. “Sadly, this is my last game of high school foot­ball. I knew this would prob­a­bly be my last time out there with my team­mates. Be­ing out there, it’s fun, it’s com­pet­i­tive. I knew I wanted to be out there un­til the fi­nal whis­tle.”

Un­for­tu­nately, that wasn’t uni­ver­sally the case. When things be­came the hard­est and when Potts­grove did what Potts­grove does best, a few Pottstown play­ers lost sight of that late in the loss. The Tro­jans’ pri­mary sig­nal-caller on of­fense pulled him­self from the loss late in the fourth quar­ter while oth­ers’ frus­tra­tions boiled over on the side­line in the late stages.

Over time, ev­ery Tro­jan player will hope­fully find the right per­spec­tive about the pro­gram’s progress.

Along with his younger brother, Ezra, Ne­hemiah Figueroa made a point to stick around and con­grat­u­late mem­bers of the Potts­grove team for their third straight dis­trict ti­tle.

Seems as though a neigh­bor­hood ri­valry can also serve as a brother­hood.

“I’ve known so many of them for so long. Most of us grew up play­ing foot­ball to­gether,” said Figueroa of sev­eral Potts­grove play­ers. “It’s cool that I get to be out there play­ing against my broth­ers — broth­ers that have helped shape me into who I am to­day.”

Figueroa re­ceived high praise from both head coaches after the game, putting the wraps on a sea­son where he fin­ished as the league leader in de­fen­sive in­ter­cep­tions (eight) and led his team in re­ceiv­ing (331 yards on 35 re­cep­tions).

“I coached Ne­hemiah, I had Ne­hemiah in class and he’s a won­der­ful young man,” said Potts­grove head coach Bill Hawthorne. “This is a tough, hard-hit­ting ri­valry, but him be­ing out here like that shows how much these kids re­spect one an­other. At the end of the day, they’re gonna shake hands and be friends in the com­mu­nity.

“That’s what’s spe­cial about this ri­valry.”

“Ne­hemiah has had a very good sea­son for us,” said Fis­cher. “He’s been all over the field and he makes a lot of plays wher­ever he is out there. I know he gets a lot of in­ter­cep­tions, but he’ll also come down hill and filled for us on the line of scrim­mage. He’d do what­ever it takes for this team.

“He’s a guy that a lot of these younger guys can look up to and learn from.”

Along with Destyn Sny­der, who Fis­cher deemed “a heart and soul guy,” the Tro­jans will grad­u­ate only a hand­ful of play­ers from this year’s team. That list in­cludes, Cam­ren Wil­liams, Adrian Sil­billy, Quincy Baker, Do­minique Du­rant, Michael Tibur­cio and Gio­vany Ar­royo.

That said, Fis­cher hopes the ex­pe­ri­ence of play­ing mean­ing­ful foot­ball in Novem­ber will help mo­ti­vate the Tro­jans mov­ing for­ward.

“We’ve got a lot of kids com­ing back next sea­son,” he said. “Most of our play­ers are ju­niors this year. So I hope we can stick to­gether at this point and come back even stronger.

“I hope that we can use tonight as a learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Hope­fully next year we come out a lit­tle bit more an­gry and take them in this game.”

THOMAS NASH - DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Pottstown quar­ter­back Josiah Wig­gins (12) tries to fend off Potts­grove’s Rylee Howard.

THOMAS NASH - DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Pottstown line­man Cole Miller (68) joins the cel­e­bra­tion after Dereck Dar­den (2) scored a touch­down in the first half against Potts­grove.

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