UPPER MERION >> With two full weeks to prepare for their Thanksgiving Day tussle with Norristown, the Vikings of Upper Merion made sure they took advantage of every second.
“Every day we’d go through stretching and conditioning,” said quarterback Liam Stutzman, “and break up into offense and defense.
“And everything we worked on, we’d keep on doing it until we got it right.”
The idea was, work now so that the Vikings could play on Turkey Day.
And play they did.
Using onside kicks, reverse passes to the quarterback and other trickery, the Vikings danced past Norristown, 33-21, to finish their season with a win over their most bitter of rivals.
“We had a good time, looking at film the past couple weeks and we saw a few things we could have fun with,” said Vikings head coach Harold Smith.
And the Vikings’ fun began from the opening kickoff, when Jared Skidds pounced on an onside kick.
“We saw some things we felt we could capitalize on,” Smith said. “We saw Norristown had an opening in the middle on their return and we went after it, and we got the perfect kick for it.”
Then the Vikings went about capitalizing on the Eagles defense.
After gaining a first down at the Eagles 37, Upper Merion faced fourth-and-four at the 31.
Stutzman went back and found Isaiah Graham-Mobley down the left sideline. His pass was deflected by Norristown’s Shannon Canard, but Graham-Mobley kept his focus and acrobatically came down with the ball for a touchdown.
“I just kept my eyes on the ball, found it in the air and snagged it,” Graham-Mobley said. “We went at it, I guess, like they used to back in the day.”
Five snaps later, the Vikings doubled their lead when Graham-Mobley snapped up a Norristown fumble at his own 25-yard line and zipped 75 yards untouched to the end zone.
It was more of the same on the next Upper Merion offensive series, as the Vikings got a 21-yard run from Kori Smith to start it, and a reverse handoff to Graham-Mobley, who then threw to Stutzman for a 32-yard score to end it.
One play into the second quarter and the Vikings were up, 20-0.
“When you get the other team in third-and-six and third-and-seven, you have to make plays,” said Norristown head coach Jason Powel, “and we didn’t do that.
“(Upper Merion) got the bounces today.”
Norristown got back in the game two series later when it polished off a 61-yard drive with a flat pass from quarterback Diavante Lloyd to Corey Davenport, who scooted 45 yards for the Eagles first score.
But an interception by Jake McGrath on the next Norristown possession began a seven-play, 40-yard drive that Stutzman finished with a 1-yard touchdown plunge.
The Vikings went into halftime with a 26-7 lead, and the fun was just getting started.
Stutzman tossed his second touchdown pass of the day on the opening drive of the second half, a 36-yarder to Smith, and at 33-7, the Vikings were in cruise control.
To the Eagles credit, they bounced back to score on each of their next two series, with Lloyd carrying nine yards to make it 33-14, and after covering a short kickoff, Norristown went 46 yards on five plays, the final one a 14-yard touchdown pass from Lloyd to Rashon Wiggins.
But the Eagles would not score again.
Norristown would venture into Vikings territory twice in the fourth quarter, but a sack by Marcus Elliott effectively ended one, and a McGrath interception ended the other.
It was the Vikings day, and it was fun.
“Give Norristown credit,” Smith said. “They came back hard in the second half and scored those two touchdowns, and we had to work hard to win it.”
“I’m not really used to winning,” Stutzman said, “and I was taught to win with class. I’m just going to relax now and have a good time.”
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