Cards de­fen­sive unit makes state­ment with win over Chel­tenham

Times Chronicle & Public Spirit - - SPORTS - By An­drew Robin­son arobin­son@21st-cen­tu­ry­ @ADRobin­son3 on Twit­ter

WYN­COTE >> Up­per Dublin’s sea­son will de­pend on its de­fense.

A week af­ter, in the words of coach Bret Stover, be­ing “hum­bled” in a loss at Penn Char­ter, the Car­di­nals de­fense knew it had a tall task at hand Fri­day against Chel­tenham. The Pan­thers opened a lot of peo­ple’s eyes by best­ing Quak­er­town on the road last week, so with an un­de­feated SOL Amer­i­can record on the line, both teams were pumped up.

It wasn’t the pret­ti­est game, but the UD de­fense was up to the task and the Car­di­nals scrapped out a 20-7 win over the Pan­thers on Fri­day night.

“We just had a bad taste in our mouths from last week,” UD line­backer Lo­gan Heim, who had seven tack­les, said. “We wanted to avenge our­selves and we did. We got at it tonight.”

Up­per Dublin dropped an in­ter­cep­tion on the first play of the game, but it was of lit­tle con­se­quence as Selvin Haynes picked off the sec­ond pass of the game. Haynes, a se­nior cor­ner, also re­cov­ered a fum­ble later in the game and along with fel­low cor­ner Michah Boot­man, an­chored a strong ef­fort by the sec­ondary.

The early turnover would be­come a theme for Chel­tenham all night. Cer­tainly, a wet and muddy field didn’t do ei­ther team many fa­vors, but Pan­thers coach Ryan Nase knew his team’s strug­gles started with its turnovers.

“We just kept turn­ing the ball over and it’s the same rea­son we were able to beat Quak­er­town,” Nase said. “Last week we were able to cre­ate turnovers and tonight we gave the ball away. Two times early, and we get the ball back in the third quar­ter and turn it over again.”

Nase, in his sec­ond sea­son at Chel­tenham, has guided the Pan­thers to a ter­rific start to the sea­son be­hind a de­ter­mined de­fense and an of­fense loaded with ath­letes and threats. He noted his chal­lenge now is to make sure his guys don’t let Fri­day’s set­back de­fine their sea­son the same way he didn’t let last week’s win do the same.

The scary part for the SOL Amer­i­can is most of the Pan­thers’ top per­form­ers are ju­niors or younger. Those guys, es­pe­cially tail­back Jamir Barnes, have al­ready got­ten the at­ten­tion of de­fen­sive coaches across the con­fer­ence.

On Fri­day, the Car­di­nals knew if they let Barnes get go­ing, he was go­ing to make things very dif­fi­cult on them.

“We had to fo­cus on con­tain­ing the run­ning back and mak­ing sure he didn’t cut back, be­cause he had a lot of suc­cess with that against Quak­er­town,” UD line­backer John Kohlbren­ner, who had a sack and in­ter­cep­tion, said. “That’s what we did and it’s how we be­came suc­cess­ful tonight.”

Penn Char­ter re­ally beat Up­per Dublin up on the ground, so Stover wanted to see how his de­fense, par­tic­u­larly the lineback­ers and guys up front, re­sponded. UD also wel­comed back gi­gan­tic de­fen­sive tackle Quin­ton Derr (6-foot-4, 265 pounds), a se­nior co­cap­tain, back to the fold af­ter a knee in­jury.

Heim and Kohlbren­ner both cred­ited the de­fen­sive line for cre­at­ing pres­sure all night and for keep­ing the Chel­tenham backs from bounc­ing too many runs to the out­side.

“Our de­fen­sive staff and play­ers took it to heart last week, we got it put on last week by a good Penn Char­ter team,” Stover said. “It was kind of like, ‘what are we go­ing to do?’ We should have picked off the first one, picked off the sec­ond and from there, our de­fense played lights out. It’s why I punted on fourth and one late in the game, I just trusted the way we were play­ing.”

Barnes rushed for just 36 yards, but did catch four balls for 63 yards as Up­per Dublin kept him from break­ing a big one. Heim came up a cou­ple of times to stop the tail­back for short gains and as a unit, the Car­di­nals de­fend­ers didn’t let Barnes break through too many of their ini­tial tack­les.

“Our kids ran a scout pro­gram this week, they did a nice job try­ing to be him, but you just can’t be him, you can’t em­u­late that, he is just that good,” Stover said of Barnes. “We knew we were in trou­ble if he got loose.”

Up­per Dublin got all the of­fense it would need in the sec­ond quar­ter. Car­di­nals ju­nior quar­ter­back Mike Slivka didn’t have a huge night sta­tis­ti­cally, but he made some huge plays at the right time for his team. He hit Dy­lan Zlot­nikoff for a 15yard gain on third down to start the sec­ond quar­ter, keep­ing a drive go­ing un­til he ended it with a seven-yard TD pass to Ja­son Scott in the back cor­ner of the end­zone on third and goal.

The next Car­di­nals drive, Slivka again found Scott, this time for 45 yards down to the Chel­tenham nine-yard line, set­ting up Lu­cas Roselli for a three-yard touch­down run. Scott also had a 26-yard grab in the sec­ond half, an im­pres­sive snare over a pair of Chel­tenham de­fend­ers.

Slikva also came up clutch in the third quar­ter. On a boom­ing kick­off by Chel­tenham’s Justin Grady, the re­turner slipped at the three-yard line so Slivka gave his guys some breath­ing room when he hit Brody Balasa for 39 yards.

“Even the one play they made on the scor­ing drive, we had two guys in the quar­ter­back’s face and two guys in the re­ceiver’s face and their two kids made a bet­ter play than our four kids,” Nase said. “That quar­ter­back, we saw it on film, he’s like a high school Car­son Wentz, he’s hard to get down, he can es­cape out of ev­ery­thing and if you let him get out, he can make a play.”

The chal­lenge for Chel­tenham is to bounce back next week against Ply­mouth Whitemarsh, es­pe­cially with a spot in the 5A Dis­trict I play­offs very much up for grabs.

“I don’t know if we lost fo­cus, we just turned the ball over, weren’t good enough and got beat tonight,” Nase said. “It comes down to what are we go­ing to do to make sure that our best is never not good enough again.”

Kohlbren­ner’s ac­ro­batic in­ter­cep­tion helped set up the Car­di­nals’ first score.

“The quar­ter­back rolled out and I saw the screen com­ing and him throw the ball,” Kohlbren­ner said. “I kind of tipped it and as I was go­ing down, I caught it again.”

Chel­tenham’s lone score came early in the third quar­ter. A high snap on a Car­di­nals punt led to the punter try­ing to run the ball out of the end­zone, los­ing a fum­ble and Chel­tenham’s Sam Sykes div­ing on it for the touch­down re­cov­ery.

Af­ter that, the Car­di­nals de­fense knew it was on them.

“We love play­ing de­fense, we take pride in ev­ery­thing and get af­ter it,” Heim said. “We just had to keep do­ing our thing. We told each other don’t let up and keep push­ing.”


Chel­tenham’s Sam Sykes fields the ball af­ter a blocked punt against Up­per Dublin Fri­day night.

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