Hold the icing: There are no cupcakes on Spring-Ford or Perkiomen Valley’s schedule this season.
Both the Rams and the Vikings have taken advantage of the new scheduling format brought upon by the PAC realignment, and on Friday, both face season-defining tests.
Rams head coach Chad Brubaker makes his long-awaited return to West Lawn as the Rams square off against perennial state powerhouse Wilson while Perkiomen Valley looks to go 3-0 as Pennridge, the No. 8 ranked team in Southeastern Pa., comes to Graterford.
For Week 3 matchups, those are pretty sweet.
“Our goal in scheduling non-league games was to try to get as many quality opponents as we could,” Brubaker said. “Come playoff time, we can rely on some of those experiences.”
“I think we’ve had a bunch of challenges this year,” Perkiomen Valley head coach Rob Heist said. “Downingtown West was a very good football team. This (Pennridge) is an excellent team. They have size, strength, speed, quarterback play is terrific, really good inside linebackers. It will be a real good challenge.
“This would be a huge win for our program. Suburban One team, ranked 8th in Southeastern Pa., big school, and coming to our field. For us to play well and compete at that level would be great for PV.”
Brubaker returns to West Lawn for the first time during the regular season since departing to take over the Spring-Ford program in 2010. Brubaker spent 12 years as an assistant coach for the perennial state powerhouse, the last four as the offensive coordinator under head coach Doug Dahms. He was instrumental in the development of former quarterback Chad Henne, who went on to have an outstanding career at Michigan and started for the Miami Dolphins, and for the blistering Bulldog offense that set school records in virtually every offensive category, including yards rushing and passing, total offense, and points scored.
Despite his long history at Wilson West Lawn, Brubaker insists that Friday night doesn’t mark a return home.
He gets the story angle, but too much has changed in six years.
“I told my kids that this is about them,” Brubaker said. “They (Wilson players) don’t know who I am or who coach Brown (former Wilson defensive line coach Victor Brown) is. I get why people would be interested in me at Wilson, but it really doesn’t have anything to do with Friday night.
“Sure, this is my first time back during the regular season, but we’ve scrimmaged there twice. Things have changed a lot. They put turf in the stadium, redid their stands. It’s different anyway. Time moves on and we get older.”
What isn’t different is the Bulldogs’ status among the state’s elite.
The Bulldogs have run roughshod over their Lancaster-Lebanon opponents, compiling a record of 56-0 in the league (97-12 overall) and have won three District 3-AAAA titles since 2008 under the guidance of head coach Dahms, whose beard alone deserves a trophy.
This stands as Spring-Ford’s toughest regular season task yet and will quickly serve as a measuring stick for the growth of a dominant defense that’s allowed just 214 yards per game (Dan Cassidy with two interceptions) and a newly-minted starting quarterback TJ Pergine, who’s second in the PAC in passing yards (411) and third in touchdowns (5).
“Our defense has played well,” Brubaker said. “The best thing is how well they run to the ball. We’ve been tackling pretty well and there’s two real positive things. We’ve been able to create turnovers the first two games and that will be the key Friday night.
“TJ’s done a really good job. He lived up to what he could be the first two weeks. This will be a huge test for him, I think he’s ready to play and he’s going to learn mentally what it takes to play on Friday night.”
Forty-five minutes east, Perkiomen Valley will be tested by the arm and legs of Pennridge quarterback Jagger Hartshorn, who has been nearly unstoppable for the Rams offense, rushing for 379 yards in his first two games with six touchdowns (five against Norristown).
Pennridge is coming off a 31-24 loss to Neshaminy, a District 1-AAAA semifinalist last season.
“He (Jagger)’s a terrific athlete,” Heist said. “He’s a very good runner. They put him in good situations running the football. He can not only hurt you with his arm strength, but if you don’t keep him in the pocket, he’s going to scramble around and he’s going to do damage. We’re going to have to get 11 hats to the ball, gang tackle, be disciplined and play strong defense.
“We had a great week of practice. The kids are excited. They are ready to go. I feel like we have a good plan in place so hopefully we can execute to the best of our ability and I think we’ll be right there.”
Remember the overtime thriller last year? Well, Boyertown and Pottsgrove are set to meet again in a cross-divisional clash Friday night. Pottsgrove running back Rahsul Faison made reporters scratch their heads while adding up the sum of his runs, his 14 carries for 212 yards a PAC best as the Falcons defeated Methacton last week. Boyertown quarterback Jerry Kapp was limited on the ground to -17 rushing yards after breaking free for 163 yards in Week 1 and will look to bounce back against a stingy Falcon defense that allows just 108 rushing yards per game.
The Perkiomen School and The Hill School kick off their seasons Friday and Saturday, respectively. Read Tom Nash’s previews on our home page.
Always Sunny in the PAC
Sun Valley might want to consider joining the PAC after their non-league slate. Friday marks the third game the Vanguards will play against a member of the PAC. Previous results have been kind for Sun Valley, the Vanguards topping both Pottstown and Pope John Paul II to open the season. Upper Merion visits Friday at 7 p.m.
It’ll be a scorcher Saturday. Norristown and Plymouth-Whitemarsh have had their Saturday start time pushed back from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. due to kickoff temperatures nearing 86 degrees (real feel of 92 degrees). The 4 p.m. start doesn’t offer any relief, with the temperature expected to be 88 degrees (95 real feel) at kickoff.