Despite loss to Upper Dublin, Panthers made strides Barbera bounces back
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.”
Upper Dublin quarterback Mike Slivka rushed for 96 yards in a 27-0 win over Cheltenham Friday night.