De­spite loss to Up­per Dublin, Pan­thers made strides Bar­bera bounces back

Times Chronicle & Public Spirit - - SPORTS - By Ed Mor­lock emor­[email protected]­tu­ry­media.com @emor09 on Twit­ter

UP­PER DUBLIN >> You may have heard the ex­pres­sion that pos­ses­sion is nine­tenths of the law.

At Up­per Dublin High School’s Car­di­nal Sta­dium Fri­day night, pos­ses­sion was the big­gest dif­fer­ence in the District 1 Class5A quar­ter­fi­nal matchup be­tween Sub­ur­ban One League Amer­i­can Con­fer­ence ri­vals Up­per Dublin and Chel­tenham.

The No. 2 seeded Car­di­nals ran 72 plays over the course of the 48-minute game com­pared to the No. 7 seeded Pan­thers’ 33 plays.

That dis­crep­ancy played a huge role in a dom­i­nant 27-0 win to send Up­per Dublin to a semi­fi­nal matchup with No. 11 Unionville next week­end.

The Car­di­nals re­ally con­trolled the ball in the mid­dle two quar­ters. They out­snapped Chel­tenham 22-7 in the sec­ond and 23-1 in the third.

Up­per Dublin had a 10play drive re­sult in a field goal in the sec­ond quar­ter and fol­lowed that with an­other field goal on a 12-play drive that started at their own one-yard line.

It was more of the same af­ter in­ter­mis­sion. The Car­di­nals put to­gether a 16-play drive that took up nearly eight min­utes of ga­me­time, but ended in a failed fourth­down at­tempt.

“On a night like tonight,” Up­per Dublin coach Bret Stover said of the rainy con­di­tions, “ball-con­trol and ball-se­cu­rity — to hold the ball for that many plays with­out turn­ing it over — is awe­some. It was big. When you take eight min­utes out of the third quar­ter — even though we didn’t score, we still ate eight min­utes when we were up 20 points. That’s huge. Our guys up front played awe­some. Our run­ning backs — just enough to move the sticks. It’s a huge part on a night like tonight.”

Mike Slivka grabbed an in­ter­cep­tion on the first play of the en­su­ing Chel­tenham pos­ses­sion, and the Car­di­nals fol­lowed with an­other 10-play drive.

The of­fen­sive line paved the way for 293 rush­ing yards on 57 car­ries. Slivka rushed 18 times for 96 yards, Ma­son No­vak 15 for 83 and Lu­cas Roselli 15 for 71. No­vak and Roselli each scored touch­downs in the first quar­ter.

“When that of­fen­sive line gets go­ing,” Slivka said, “it’s a good sight. That’s all I have to say.”

Slivka’s in­ter­cep­tion is just part of what the Car­di­nals de­fense was able to do to con­trib­ute to the snap­count dis­crep­ancy. They lim­ited Chel­tenham to just four first downs in the en­tire game and 103 to­tal yards. Lu­cas Nina-Boesler re­cov­ered a fum­ble in the first quar­ter to set up the sec­ond touch­down of the game.

Af­ter Up­per Dublin scored its first touch­down — a 16-yard No­vak run late in the first quar­ter — kicker Chris Bar­bera sent the ex­tra point wide of the up­rights.

Like all good kickers, he had a short mem­ory.

Bar­bera’s next time out he made a 34-yard field goal. In the fi­nal 10 sec­onds of the first half, he hit a 31-yarder.

To go along with his place-kick­ing, Bar­bera also had suc­cess punt­ing. He punted three times in the game. The first was downed at the three-yard line, the sec­ond at the 10 and the third could’ve been downed at the 1, but there was mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion among the gun­ners and the ball rolled into the end­zone for a touch­back.

“Chris is a se­nior,” Stover said. “He’s been a three-year kicker for us. I was happy for him to see the way he bounced back. To see him drill those (field goals) into the wind was awe­some for us. It’s 20-0 in­stead of 14-0 — that’s three scores in­stead of two.” games in 2017 came back, reached the play­offs and won a play­off game be­fore run­ning into a peren­nial pow­er­house.

“Ask me in a cou­ple weeks,” Nase said. “When you lose 27-0 — we haven’t scored on of­fen­sive point against Up­per Dublin in two games. I’m not at a point yet where I can say yes, it was this, that or the other. Ob­vi­ously we’ve taken strides. I don’t know if we’re where we want to or need to be yet.”

While the Chel­tenham coach wasn’t in the mood to talk about the pos­i­tives, Up­per Dublin’s head man sees that the Pan­thers are head­ing in the right di­rec­tion.

“Ryan is do­ing a great job over there,” Stover said. “You look at that ros­ter, they’re all young. Most of those kids come back. They’re go­ing to be the team to be reck­oned with in the fu­ture. It’s his sec­ond year. My hat’s off to that staff and Ryan Nase does a great job over there. It’s a lit­tle bit­ter­sweet be­cause you’d like to see two (SOL) Amer­i­can teams mov­ing on, but ob­vi­ously we want to be the one mov­ing on if we play headto-head.”

GENE WALSH — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Up­per Dublin quar­ter­back Mike Slivka rushed for 96 yards in a 27-0 win over Chel­tenham Fri­day night.

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