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 outgaining 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 countertrap 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.”