Spe­cial teams, de­fense carry Perk Val­ley in muddy win over Pen­nridge.

The Phoenix - - FRONT PAGE - By Rob Se­nior

GRATERFORD » The com­bi­na­tion of weather con­di­tions and a big, phys­i­cal Pen­nridge de­fense qui­eted the usu­ally pro­lific Perkiomen Val­ley pass­ing at­tack on Satur­day.

So when the Vik­ings needed to find a way to win a low-scor­ing game, they turned to their de­fense and spe­cial teams to pick up the slack.

Ma­lik Smith and Randy Wash­ing­ton each re­turned kick­offs for touch­downs, and Austin Row­ley had a pair of in­ter­cep­tions as Perkiomen Val­ley bat­tled past Pen­nridge on a sloppy Satur­day morn­ing, 18-12.

The re­turns helped mit­i­gate the dam­age on a day where Pen­nridge dom­i­nated pos­ses­sion and out­gained PV, 306-89 in to­tal of­fense. The Vik­ings’ de­fense was the def­i­ni­tion of “bend but don’t break”, as Pen­nridge re­peat­edly drove deep into PV ter­ri­tory only to be turned away for the first three quar­ters.

“[Pen­nridge] was mov­ing the ball, we bent a bit,” said PV coach Rob Heist. “But our de­fense de­serves credit for mak­ing plays when they had to. When it mat­tered, they rose to the oc­ca­sion.”

It’s not as if Perkiomen Val­ley was in need of any ex­tra mo­ti­va­tion af­ter start­ing the 2018 cam­paign with an 0-2 record against a chal­leng­ing slate fea­tur­ing the two Downingtown schools. The Vik­ings were ea­ger to avoid dig­ging them­selves an 0-3 hole from which they’d have spent the rest of the sea­son dig­ging out.

But see­ing the Pen­nridge Rams across the field only added fuel to the fire. The Rams handed PV its only two losses of the 2017 sea­son—the sec­ond a 25-0 de­feat in the 6A Dis­trict quar­ter­fi­nals.

“I’m not wor­ried about last year, I’m fo­cused on this team,” said Heist. “I’m proud of the way the kids han­dled the post­pone­ment, came out to­day to bat­tle against a big, phys­i­cal team.”

The game, orig­i­nally sched­uled for Fri­day night, was sus­pended un­til 11 a.m. Satur­day due to the rain and light­ning.

“Is it dif­fi­cult? Sure,” said Pen­nridge coach Cody Muller. “You get ready to go on a Fri­day night, and then you have to turn around and do it the next day, it’s a chal­lenge. But by no means is that any ex­cuse — it’s the same way for [Perkiomen Val­ley].

“For us, we need to cor­rect our mis­takes and cut down on penal­ties.”

Aside from the kick­off re­turns, the story of the game was con­tained in PV win­ning the turnover bat­tle 4-0, and Pen­nridge’s 14 penal­ties for 118 yards.

Pen­nridge opened the con­test with a long, grind­ing drive into PV’s red zone, but a Brett Kuiken sack ended the threat. Af­ter a three-and-out, a muffed punt gave PV a fresh start at their own 42. From there, the legs of QB Cole Peter­lin plus some ill-timed Pen­nridge penal­ties took the Vik­ings within strik­ing dis­tance.

Af­ter a QB sack set up a 3rd-and-23 situation, Peter­lin scam­pered down the right side and went over from 25 yards out to open the scor­ing. Af­ter a failed con­ver­sion, PV held a 6-0 lead.

Austin Row­ley’s first in­ter­cep­tion thwarted Pen­nridge’s en­su­ing op­por­tu­nity at the PV 18-yard line. With the aerial game com­pro­mised by the difficulty of run­ning pass routes on the slow track, PV turned to a multi-faceted run­ning game fea­tur­ing not only Peter­lin but Randy Wash­ing­ton and Jon Moc­cia, who com­piled 25 to­tal yards on a drive that took PV into the red zone.

Pen­nridge ul­ti­mately held on 4th and short at the 10-yard line, tak­ing over deep in their own ter­ri­tory and go­ing to work­horse run­ning back Joe Muntz (25 rushes, 111 yards, TD) and speedy Taj Ut­sey (14 car­ries, 60 yards, TD).

“That was one thing I thought we did well,” said Muller. “Af­ter our loss to Ne­shaminy (last week) we tried to do some dif­fer­ent things. I thought Joe ran well, Taj and Zak (Kan­tor) as well.”

With time run­ning short, how­ever, Hay­den Bailly broke through to stop Pen­nridge’s QB Zak Kan­tor, and a fourth-down Hail Mary went unan­swered as the teams headed to the locker room.

It was im­me­di­ately af­ter half­time that Randy Wash­ing­ton changed the game. He took a bounc­ing kick­off back through the mid­dle for 77 yards, go­ing un­touched and largely un­pur­sued for the fi­nal 50–60 yards, dou­bling Perk Val­ley’s lead.

“Our kick re­turn unit was amaz­ing,” said Wash­ing­ton. “Ev­ery­body had their as­sign­ments, which gave me a huge hole—I saw it and I burst through it.”

Kan­tor would ig­nite another Pen­nridge drive, but had it stamped out when Wash­ing­ton picked him off in­side the 10-yard line on an ill-ad­vised throw, re­turn­ing the ball out to the Vik­ings’ 25-yard line.

“The pres­sure from our de­fen­sive line cre­ated that one,” said Wash­ing­ton.

An ex­change of punts yielded another sus­tained, 12-play Pen­nridge drive that moved the ball in­side the Vik­ings’ 10. On fourth down, how­ever, Row­ley led a boat­load of Vik­ings to the ball, stop­ping Ut­sey just short and al­low­ing PV to take over once more.

Pen­nridge dom­i­nated time of pos­ses­sion af­ter half­time, and that paid off as another long drive ended in Taj Ut­sey’s one-yard TD run to put Pen­nridge on the board. A failed two-point con­ver­sion kept the Perk Val­ley lead at six, 12-6.

On the en­su­ing kick­off, how­ever, PV se­nior Ma­lik Smith cap­i­tal­ized on another mid­dle re­turn and broke away from the pack, cut­ting down the right side­line for a 74-yard TD, the Vik­ings’ sec­ond score of the day on a re­turn.

“It was the same re­turn call as (Wash­ing­ton’s) touch­down,” Smith said. “We got a cou­ple of our guys on dif­fer­ent blocks, mixed it up a lit­tle bit.”

Row­ley’s sec­ond in­ter­cep­tion ended a late Pen­nridge rally, and while Muntz was able to power across the goal line from nine yards out with 32 sec­onds left to cut the PV lead to 18-12, the Vik­ings were able to run out the clock af­ter an ill-fated on­side kick at­tempt.

“It was a mess out here,” Smith sum­ma­rized. “Guys were slid­ing all over the place on both teams.

“But it was fun. How can you play in the mud and not have fun?”

The Vik­ings (1-2) try to start a win­ning streak next week when In­ter­boro vis­its, while 1-2 Pen­nridge squares off with North Penn, a top10 team in the statewide 6A rank­ings.

BARRY TAGLIEBER - FOR DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Perk Val­ley’s Austin Row­ley, Ma­lik Smith (9) and Zach Lomonaco, right, break up a pass for Pen­nridge’s Ryan Gar­ner at the end of the first half Satur­day.

BARRY TAGLIEBER - FOR DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Perkiomen Val­ley’s Randy Wash­ing­ton is off to the races for a kick re­turn touch­down against Pen­nridge Satur­day.

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