Lopsided loss doesn’t spoil Pottstown’s progress
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.”
Pottstown quarterback Josiah Wiggins (12) tries to fend off Pottsgrove’s Rylee Howard.
Pottstown lineman Cole Miller (68) joins the celebration after Dereck Darden (2) scored a touchdown in the first half against Pottsgrove.