Pottsgrove battles with Pottstown in playoffs
Pottsgrove pounds Pottstown for 3rd straight District 1-4A title
When Bill Hawthorne accepted the head coaching role at Pottsgrove this past winter, he stressed that he wasn’t looking to make wholesale changes to a program the retired Rick Pennypacker led for 29 years — he just wanted to build on the existing structure.
Friday night, Hawthorne put the finishing touches on his first addition, his first District 1 Class 4A title and the Falcons’ third in a row, as Pottsgrove controlled another rain-soaked Football Friday in defeating their crosstown rivals Pottstown, 40-6, at Phoenixville Area High School.
Isaiah Taylor ran for 222 yards and three TDs and the Falcons (11-1) controlled the ball for 35 minutes while limiting the Trojans to only 68 total yards of offense.
“Our guys did everything they’ve done all year,” said Hawthorne. “Everybody knew we were going to run the ball, and we were still able to pound the ball inside.”
The championship game was moved to the turf field at Phoenixville’s Washington Field earlier this week in anticipation of a weather forecast that threatened to turn the contest into a repeat of last Friday’s sloppy, muddrenched semifinals. The decision turned out to be quite prescient, as a steady downpour persisted through much of the day, tapering to showers around halftime.
The team exchanged early scores, a personal foul extending Pottsgrove’s first drive after a 3rd-and-14. On the next play, Taylor bounced a handoff outside to the left for a 37yard touchdown to draw first blood for the
The Trojans responded quickly, advancing into the red zone thanks to back-toback personal fouls on the Falcons. That’s when coach Mark Fischer decided to pull out the trick play that even Pottsgrove’s Hawthorne expected.
He just wasn’t expecting, at that moment, for Nehemiah Figueroa to take a toss, hesitate for a beat, and find Dereck Darden wideopen for a 20-yard TD. After a blocked extra point, Pottstown had closed within 7-6. The Trojans seized the momentum, quickly forcing a three-and-out and getting the ball back just shy of midfield, poised to take an early lead on the heavily favored Falcons.
It was at that moment that the tide of the game changed, as for the final three quarters Pottsgrove dominated the game in the trenches. From late in the first quarter until the 3:00 mark of the fourth quarter, Pottstown would embark on a total of eight drives that yielded a total of -5 yards.
Defensive linemen Nate Tornetta, Justin Adams, Ryan Bodolus, and Darrian Seaman dictated the outcome, holding Pottstown to 23 yards of offense before their final drive in the last two minutes of the game — by which time the senior linemen were celebrating on the sidelines with their teammates.
When Pottsgrove had the ball, Manny Allen and Ethan McHugh joined the aforementioned quartet to pave the way to 354 rushing yards on the evening.
By the end, it was a 336yard advantage for the Falcons on the ground — a magnum opus of sorts for units that led the Pioneer Athletic Conference this season in both rushing yards per game and fewest rushing yards allowed per contest.
“It helps a lot to play both ways,” said nose tackle/ guard Nate Tornetta. “Defense feeds into offense, and vice versa — momentum plays a big role, too. You get a turnover on defense, you can carry it right into a touchdown drive.”
“We don’t get a lot of stats,” added Justin Adams, “but we’re also lucky that we keep getting to block for great running backs.”
The latest of those great backs, Taylor, was quick to laud his line for getting him started to his second straight big performance. Since returning at the start of the playoffs from a two-week absence from the lineup, Taylor has averaged exactly 200 yards per contest in the two District playoff games.
“During those two weeks, I felt like I was letting my teammates down,” Taylor admitted. “But I focused on getting healthy, and decided to come back better than ever. Since then, I’ve been on top of my game.
“But I promise you, this is the best offensive line in the PAC. Anybody can run through those lanes.”
The second quarter opened with a 13-play, 98yard Pottsgrove drive—all runs—that could’ve served as a clinic on the Falcons’ power offense. By the time quarterback Jay Sisko finished the drive with an 11yard TD run to make it 13-6, only six minutes remained until halftime—and Pottstown had only held the ball for three of the game’s 18 minutes.
After another quick three-and-out, the Falcons embarked on another long (65 yards) drive that culminated in Taylor’s second TD run, this one from 17 yards out to expand the lead to 19-6.
Pottsgrove’s dominance in time of possession began to show after the break, as the Falcons began to assert their will on the ground. Taylor, Sisko, and Isaiah Glover added third-quarter touchdown runs, while Ryan Bodolus and Justin Adams ended Pottstown drives with sacks.
The fourth quarter featured backups for both teams, but Pottstown’s Ezra Figueroa shined, carrying six times for 41 yards in the dying moments.
The victorious Falcons will move on to play the winner of the District 4 Class 4A championship, to be played Saturday night between Jersey Shore and Selinsgrove, right back at Phoenixville next Friday.
Pottstown ends its bounce-back season at 6-6, a marked improvement over last season’s 2-8 mark. Even so, the record alone doesn’t do justice to the job secondyear coach Mark Fischer and his staff have done in taking the program from the bottom of the Pioneer Athletic Conference’s Frontier Division to playing for a District title in a short year’s time.
“It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish,” said Fischer. “We were able to win a playoff game this year, and take our first steps towards next year in gaining valuable playoff experience.”
But the night belonged to the Falcons, who stood and watched just two weeks ago as Perkiomen Valley celebrated their own threepeat in the PAC championship game. Now Pottsgrove has the chance to expand on this fifth district title in school history. After some struggles in state playoff games the past few years, Hawthorne hopes the Falcons have the formula to go as far as Hershey this time around.
“It’ll be a challenge,” he allowed, “but we’ll spread things around, be a little more diverse.”
But rest assured, the Falcons won’t lose sight of their bread and butter.
“Get behind us,” said lineman Tornetta, “and we’ll lead you anywhere.”
The Pottsgrove football team, with quarterback Jay Sisko (11) raising the trophy, celebrates after winning the District 1-4A championship over Pottstown Friday at Phoenixville.
Top, Pottstown’s Dereck Darden (2) and Jon Oister (42) team up to tackle Pottsgrove’s Jimai Springfield. Above, Pottsgrove’s Isaiah Taylor (3) takes a carry against Pottstown during the District 1-4A championship.
Members of the Pottsgrove football team pose with the trophy after winning the District 1-4A championship on Friday night.
Head coach Bill Hawthorne, facing, and the Pottsgrove football team raise the trophy after winning the District 1-4A championship Friday.
Pottsgrove’s Isaiah Taylor races down the sideline against Pottstown during the District 1-4A championship game.
Pottsgrove quarterback Jay Sisko (11) is off to the races on a touchdown run against Pottstown.