Up­per Me­rion up­ends Phoenixville, 24-14

The Phoenix - - SPORTS - By An­drew Mar­cus

KING OF PRUS­SIA >> As the Up­per Me­rion foot­ball team con­tin­ues to build con­fi­dence, the wins con­tinue to fol­low. In the first Pi­o­neer Ath­letic Con­fer­ence show­down of the sea­son, the Vik­ings held off Phoenixville 24-14 on Fri­day night.

The first of­fen­sive se­ries of the evening ended in points for the Phan­toms (2-3, 0-1 in con­fer­ence), how­ever the Vik­ings (3-2, 1-0 in con­fer­ence) abil­ity to stay calm and an­swer al­lowed them take con­trol of the foot­ball game.

Phoenixville’s Lance Har­ris not only blocked the Vik­ings’ punt at­tempt, but cor­ralled it and took it 35 yards for the open­ing score, just min­utes into the con­test. But it was not the en­er­giz­ing play it typ­i­cally can be for a road team.

“You hope you can build off that (spe­cial teams touch­down),” Phan­toms coach Don Grin­stead said. “And they came right back and threw a long one down our side­line. We will learn and get bet­ter from this.”

The sec­ond of­fen­sive drive of the night went a lit­tle more to script for coach Vic­tor Brown’s bunch. A few crisp routes from Vik­ings re­ceivers al­lowed ju­nior Dale Clay­ton to find his groove. Then, a 57-yard strike to Aaron An­der­son al­lowed the Vik­ings to take a 7-6 lead they would never re­lin­quish.

“To me, that might have been the big­gest play of the game,” Brown said. “Our growth and our de­vel­op­ment is game by game. We learn from past mis­takes and this time last year we would have folded. But when some­one makes a play and you an­swer with a score that can be just as de­flat­ing.”

Clay­ton con­nected on seven of his first eight passes and fin­ished with 130 yards through the air. He also took mat­ters into his own hands down near the goal line and capped off two drives with rush­ing touch­downs of one and three yards.

“We wanted to do some things early to get Dale some con­fi­dence,” Brown said. “Dale is de­vel­op­ing ev­ery week, ev­ery day. He had a one-year hia­tus from foot­ball and he is con­tin­u­ing to grow. We are ex­cited about his fu­ture.”

With the Phan­toms de­fense forced to pre­pare the pass­ing threat, the run­ning game got go­ing in the sec­ond half and se­nior Zaire Sav­age, who played quar­ter­back in the ab­sence of Clay­ton last sea­son, car­ried the ball and ran the clock down on the Phan­toms hope of ral­ly­ing. Sav­age fin­ished with 23 car­ries and 95 yards in the win.

De­spite a large dis­par­ity in to­tal yards of of­fense and the Phan­toms in­abil­ity to move the chains on of­fense, they were only down a score en­ter­ing the fi­nal quar­ter of play. Clay­ton’s one mis­take on the evening, an in­ter­cep­tion into the hands of Brady Asle­ton, al­lowed the Phan­toms to take ad­van­tage of a short field.

“We got a lit­tle worn down be­cause our de­fense was on the field so much,” Grin­stead said. “Usu­ally our of­fense does a great job with time of pos­ses­sion and wear­ing the other team down. Vic has done a good job over here. They beat us to­day and we have to get bet­ter from this.”

Af­ter the Asel­ton pick, start­ing the drive on their own 33 yard line, Phan­toms quar­ter­back found Matt John­son wide open on a fourth down play call, streak­ing across the field be­hind the de­fense. His catch set up a five yard from bruis­ing back Travis Pan­nella.

“We made some ad­just­ments at the half,” Grin­stead said. “We did not ex­e­cute those ad­just­ments and as­sign­ments. We strug­gled all night on of­fense, de­fense, and even though we had a spe­cial teams touch­down, we strug­gled there too.”

The combo of Pan­nella and Alex Wash­ing­ton rushed 23 times for a mere 56 yards and coach Grin­stead’s group were un­able to crack the Vik­ings stout de­fense. They lined up pre­pare for the two tight end set and the in­side run and dared them to work out­side the hash marks. And with the Phan­toms un­able to widen the field, the Vik­ings were able to turn to­ward their home stands at the end and raise their hel­mets in vic­tory.

“Last year we were try­ing to find our iden­tity and our foot­ing,” Brown said. “It’s clear Dale is the guy for us. And our de­fense is play­ing great all year. I am pleased or team rose to the oc­ca­sion. Phoenixville was a good test for us.”

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