Graham ready to start vacation the right way
The United Kingdom is infinitely less exotic than Bora Bora, where Eagles veteran Brandon Graham and his wife honeymooned.
After the Eagles take on the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday at Wembley Stadium, the Grahams will be able to rate the UK as an inseason getaway destination.
“Yeah, I’m staying there for the week,” Graham said. “I’m going to be there for the bye. I’m just going to enjoy everything, go to different little cities while I’m out there. The wife has our itinerary already. I’m looking forward to it. I haven’t looked at it. I’m just worried about this game. I’ll worry about all the other stuff later.”
Graham is so focused on the Jaguars game (9:30 a.m. Philly time, Channel 6 and WIP 94.1-FM), he’s ignored the rest of the trip. The game is critical for the Eagles (3-4), who need a win to stay within shouting distance of the Washington Redskins (4-2), the only team in the NFC East with a winning record.
What’s troubling to Graham and the Eagles is losing two games over the last four weeks despite building second-half leads of 14 or more points, including a 21-17 setback this past Sunday to the Carolina Panthers. For now, the vibe in the locker room is that the slide is correctable.
“I don’t think nobody is panicking right now,” Graham said. “That’s usually when things change, when people panic. We know what we did. We know what we gave up. We let two games slip, Tennessee and this past game. We went up, we got a lead and we blew it at the end. Coaches want us to finish and play a collective game like we did against the Giants in all phases – special teams, offense, defense – and just keep building off it. And the biggest thing is not allowing the outside world to kind of break us up.”
Eagles head coach Doug Pederson created plenty of fuel to stoke his charges into an us-against-the-media frenzy by coming across as goofy with explanations about how the last loss has taken the pressure off his players.
Pederson didn’t sound like a Super Bowl winning coach with his strange answers to questions throughout the week. And this is the weekend his Jaguars counterpart, Doug Marrone, can gain a measure of revenge for being portrayed in an unflattering light in Pederson’s biography, released during the offseason.
Author Dougie portrayed Marrone as a cat who was coaching not to lose in the AFC title game against the New England Patriots last January.
The concern for Graham and the Eagles is the Jaguars are making their sixth straight appearance in London, supplying them with considerably more experience in terms of what it takes to compete five time zones away from home. Last year the Jaguars, who weren’t supposed to be great, embarrassed the Baltimore Ravens, who were unbeaten, 44-7 at Wembley. Blake Bortles threw four touchdown passes and Leonard Fournette, now sidelined with a hamstring injury, rushed for a score.
Bortles has been so turnover-prone this year he was replaced by Cody Kessler last week. Bortles will start again this week. And he’ll have newly acquired running back Carlos Hyde in his arsenal.
“I see a competitor,” Graham said of Bortles. “He hasn’t had his running back, Fournette, and I think they play well together. Being able to run the ball in the early part of the season was good for him. But now that they’ve lost Fournette, it’s a lot different. With Bortles, I just think he’s just trying to find himself. It’s similar to how Dak (Prescott) was when he lost Ezekiel Elliott. They both play well together. So, I think once he lost him he was trying to find his way.
“We’ve got to make sure they don’t get that running game started.”
To accomplish that. Graham would be happy playing more snaps in the wake of the season-ending loss of Derek Barnett. Rookie Josh Sweat will work into the rotation at defensive end. Though Graham thinks Sweat is a capable replacement, the game is a Spartacus moment for the Eagles, who need a victory badly.
A win sure would make the rest of Graham’s trip fun. For now, the favorite stamp on his passport is Bora Bora, even if he did have to make dinner reservations the night before because of the geography. In terms of water and pure beauty, it doesn’t get much better.
“It was pretty cool,” Graham said. “If I had to do it again we would go with a whole bunch of couples. It was one of those things where you kind of do the same things over and over but it’s fun when you’ve got other people around too.”
For Graham, what would make ‘UK’ a stamp to remember on the passport is a ‘WIN.’
The Perkiomen Valley girls volleyball team opened up the District One Class 4A playoffs on Tuesday with a 3-0 sweep of Central Bucks South.
The No. 11-seeded Vikings won by set scores of 25-15, 25-14 and 25-13 over No. 22 South.
Lia Torrillo had three aces and 12 kills for Perk Valley while Sarah Straub racked up three aces, 10 kills and a pair of blocks. Grace Herbein added two aces, four kills, 19 assists and nine digs while Liz Caruso had two aces and 17 digs.
The Golden Panthers opened play in the District 1-3A playoffs by sweeping the Phantoms. Second-seeded PJP won the pairing of Pioneer Athletic Conference programs by set scores of 27-25, 25-16 and 25-20.
The seventh-seeded Phantoms’ statistical leaders were Keara Hennessey (one ace, 16 assists, 11 digs), Kayla Grammerstorf (three aces, seven kills, 10 digs) and Romina Broglia (one ace, five kills, 12 digs).
Jake Perillo scored the game-winner as the No. 5 seed Phantoms dropped No. 4 Lower Moreland in a District 1 Class 3A first round game.
Doug Smith assisted Perillo’s winner. Perillo scored Phoenixville’s goal in regulation as well. Gavin Perillo had five saves in goal.
Phoenixville advances to meet No. 1 Holy Ghost Prep — a 5-1 winner over Bishop Shanahan Wednesday — on Monday, Oct. 29.
The individual portion of the PIAA Class AAA Golf Championship wrapped up on Tuesday afternoon at Heritage Hills Golf Resort in York, PA.
Franklin Regional senior Palmer Jackson used a stellar second day to claim the title at 4-under 140.
He opened up the tournament with a 2-over 73 on Monday before backing it up with a 4-under 67 on Tuesday in a round that featured six birdies and a pair of bogeys.
Behind Jackson, Central Catholic’s Jimmy Meyers finished in second at 2-over 144 ahead of Holy Ghost Prep’s Liam Hart and Patrick Sheehan, who both finished up at 4-over 146 in a tie for third place. Fox Chapel’s Gregor Meyer rounded out the top five with a 5-over 147.
Norristown senior Caleb Ryan finished tied for sixth with Unionville’s Connor Bennink at 7-over 149.
Ryan opened up the tournament with a 6-over 77 before following it up with a 1-over 72 Tuesday in a round that was highlighted by two birdies and an eagle.
Younger brother Josh Ryan, a sophomore with Norristown, finished tied for 19th overall at 16-over 158.
He fired a 78 on the opening day and wrapped up with an 80 to close out the tournament.
Elsewhere from the Pioneer Athletic Conference, Spring-Ford senior Axel Kalbach finished at 26-over 168.
After starting out 17-over on the opening round, he settled on Day Two on the way to a 9-over 80.