UPPER DUBLIN >> It was crunch time.
Upper Dublin High’s football team was in the PIAA District One Class AAAA semifinals, and the Cardinals were on the cusp of going to the district final for the first time in the program’s history.
The Cardinals held a seven-point lead over Pennsbury, but there was 2:15 left on the fourth-quarter clock and the contest was still very much on the line.
Their offense faced a fourth-and-four from the Falcons 17, and another score would all but seal the win.
Upper Dublin called timeout, then after a coaches’ discussion, Todd Spirt moved front and center.
Spirt, who joined the Cardinals just this year when his family moved back into the Upper Dublin school district from Voorhees, N.J., was a stranger at the start of the year, but his new teammates willingly and happily took him in and made him feel a part of the family.
And all he had to do was make a 34-yard field goal.
In the kicker’s mind, there were no doubts.
And moments later, the Cardinals had a 10-point lead and their ticket to the district final had been punched.
Spirt drilled the 34-yarder, and Upper Dublin was headed for a meeting against North Penn in the district final (Saturday, noon, Souderton High School).
“I felt good about it the whole time,” Spirt said. “We’ve been pretty good all year in short-yardage situations, but it was fourth and four.
“If we made it a two-possession game, it was over. I was kicking into the net and jumping around. I knew Pennsbury had a pretty good defense and could stop us. And I was ready to go.”
“I was thinking about going for it,” Upper Dublin head coach Bret Stover said, “but Ryan (son and Upper Dublin quarterback) came to me and said that we had to kick it.
“And I was confident Todd would make it.”
Two seasons ago, while kicking for Eastern High School in Voorhees, Spirt had been a busy young man, kicking extra points and field goals for a very successful team.
That changed last season when Eastern was young and scuffling.
“My sophomore year we had a senior-heavy team and we were pretty good,” Spirt said. “But last year we had a new coach come in and we were kind of rebuilding.”
Spirt, whose father is an Upper Dublin graduate, decided he’d like to return home, and Spirt had no reservations.
“He still knew a lot of people in the area,” the younger Spirt said. “I didn’t have a problem with it.”
So Spirt joined a team that had reached the district semis a year ago, and had designs on going to the district final and beyond.
“It’s kind of crazy,” the kicker said. “Just about every kid on this team has been playing together since Pee-Wee football, so they could have just ignored me. But they’ve taken me in, and I feel like a part of the team.
“They had me watching game films from when they were little kids playing football together. It was fun.”
Spirt and the Cardinals have a tall order in front of them in North Penn, a program that is no stranger to postseason success.
But Spirt sees this game as a chance for the Cardinals to earn some respect.
“When people in District One think about sports, they don’t usually think about Upper Dublin,” he said. “We’re kind of in a position to put Upper Dublin on the map.
“No one’s gotten ahead of themselves, though. We feel if we do what we always do, we can have a successful result.”
But don’t ask the kicker to break down the plusses and minuses of North Penn.
“I’m in the film room,” he said, “but I’m only watching if I can stay awake.
“I just want to kick.”
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