Open­ing round of dis­tricts sees ma­jor PAC ex­o­dus

The Phoenix - - SPORTS - By Rob Se­nior

First, the good news: Pottstown and Potts­grove each hosted and won firstround games in Dis­trict One Class 4A, en­sur­ing that at least one dis­trict ti­tle will find a home in the Pi­o­neer Ath­letic Con­fer­ence in 2018.

The two schools will meet at Rick Pen­ny­packer Field on Fri­day night in a re­match of a Week 5 matchup that saw the Fal­cons pre­vail, 45-6, to de­ter­mine which school moves into the PIAA por­tion of the 4A cham­pi­onships.

Now, the bad news: the 5A and 6A sea­sons are over for the lo­cal schools af­ter a Fri­day night that was messy in more ways than one.

Phoenixville went into the 5A play­offs as a No. 15 seed and a heavy un­der­dog to No. 2 Up­per Dublin. The Car­di­nals, who won a dis­trict ti­tle just three short years ago, flexed their mus­cles in a 41-12 vic­tory.

While the out­come wasn’t what they wanted, the Phan­toms, who ended the sea­son at 4-7, laid the foun­da­tion for a pro­gram re­build this past sea­son. The ex­pres­sion “just happy to be there” sounds con­de­scend­ing, but mak­ing it to the play­offs was con­sid­ered a long­shot for Phoenixville at the start of the cam­paign, so in the end the Phan­toms ex­ceeded most ex­pec­ta­tions.

On the other hand, 5A Up­per Me­rion and 6A schools Perkiomen Val­ley and Spring-Ford hosted matchups that were con­sid­ered any­thing from toss-ups to the PAC schools be­ing slight fa­vorites. Up­per Me­rion wel­comed In­ter­boro, while Perkiomen Val­ley hosted Quak­er­town and Spring-Ford went against Down­ing­town East. By night’s end, all three schools were on the wrong end of the out­comes. Across Classes 5A and 6A, only four of 16 host teams fell to de­feat this week­end, and three of them call the PAC home (Spring­field-Delco of the Cen­tral League, which strug­gled sim­i­larly with a 2-6 over­all record in Classes 5A and 6A, was the other.)

So what went wrong? For Up­per Me­rion, a 22-13 lead in the late sec­ond quar­ter quickly de­te­ri­o­rated in a sea of spe­cial teams mis­takes and turnovers, as No. 9 In­ter­boro took con­trol shortly af­ter half­time and salted away a 33-22 vic­tory. One of the area’s most im­proved teams, the mis­takes and turnovers were a un­char­ac­ter­is­tic means for the typ­i­cally dis­ci­plined Vik­ings to meet their demise.

“Those are things that are tough to re­cover from, es­pe­cially when they re­sult in points for the other team,” said Up­per Me­rion coach Vic­tor Brown.

For the 6A teams, the games got away in dif­fer­ent fash­ions.

Perkiomen Val­ley’s po­tent of­fense could do lit­tle but stand and watch as Quak­er­town con­trolled the ball for 34 of the game’s 48 min­utes, pound­ing away for 268 yards rush­ing in a 26-14 vic­tory over the three-time PAC champs.

“I thought this was our best game of the year in terms of ex­e­cu­tion,” Quak­er­town coach Ge­orge Banas said af­ter the win. “We said time of pos­ses­sion would win this game.”

“It’s tough not get­ting the ball,” agreed PV’s Rob Heist. “They had some long drives… and we weren’t able to do what we wanted to do on of­fense.”

For Quak­er­town, who moves on to face Gar­net Val­ley in the quarterfinals, the con­di­tions at Perk Val­ley were un­fa­mil­iar but ul­ti­mately to their lik­ing. The muddy ter­rain rep­re­sented the Pan­thers’ first ex­pe­ri­ence with a grass field, but RB Chris­tian Patrick racked up 196 yards and two scores on his 31 car­ries.

You cer­tainly couldn’t blame the play­ing sur­face in Roy­ers­ford.

In fact, both squads had trou­ble hold­ing on to the foot­ball in the early go­ing, as the teams com­bined for five turnovers in the first 13 min­utes of ac­tion. But af­ter a 47-yard Stan Bryant in­ter­cep­tion re­turn gave Down­ing­town East a 7-0 lead on Spring-Ford, most ob­servers fig­ured the Cougars would go to their ground game and chew up clock.

They were half-right. Af­ter an­other Spring-Ford fum­ble on the en­su­ing kick­off, Down­ing­town in­creased the tempo, churning out three suc­ces­sive run­ning plays in about 40 sec­onds to in­crease the ad­van­tage to 13-0. Min­utes later, the Rams had a poor ex­change on a punt, and Down­ing­town quickly tra­versed an­other short field and went into the break with a 19-0 ad­van­tage.

In all, the Cougars pounded their way to 349 yards rush­ing on an eye­pop­ping 75 car­ries. It wasn’t an ideal night for Spring-Ford QB Ryan En­gro to at­tempt 46 passes, but the early deficit left coach Chad Brubaker lit­tle re­course. En­gro would reach 302 yards pass­ing on the evening—202 of them to ju­nior WR Dante Bo­nanni—and a pair of pass­ing TDs to go with one in­ter­cep­tion.

But the story of the 3912 Cougars vic­tory was told up front.

“These games are won in the weight room,” said Down­ing­town East’s Zach Hamil­ton, who ran for 194 yards and three scores on the evening. “We’ve been putting in the work since Jan­uary 2.”

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