Potts­grove bat­tles with Pottstown in play­offs

Potts­grove pounds Pottstown for 3rd straight Dis­trict 1-4A ti­tle

The Mercury (Pottstown, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Rob Se­nior For Dig­i­tal First Me­dia

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

Fal­cons.

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.”

MJ MCCONNEY - FOR DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

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.

THOMAS NASH - DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

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.

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THOMAS NASH - DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Mem­bers of the Potts­grove foot­ball team pose with the tro­phy after win­ning the Dis­trict 1-4A cham­pi­onship on Fri­day night.

MJ MCCONNEY - FOR DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Head coach Bill Hawthorne, fac­ing, and the Potts­grove foot­ball team raise the tro­phy after win­ning the Dis­trict 1-4A cham­pi­onship Fri­day.

MJ MCCONNEY - FOR DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Potts­grove’s Isa­iah Tay­lor races down the side­line against Pottstown dur­ing the Dis­trict 1-4A cham­pi­onship game.

THOMAS NASH - DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Potts­grove quar­ter­back Jay Sisko (11) is off to the races on a touch­down run against Pottstown.

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