UPPER MERION >> It took 36 minutes and 44 seconds before either team was able to score when Upper Merion hosted Owen J. Roberts Friday night at Upper Merion Area High School.
The Wildcats got on the board first and then cemented the game 3:02 later with a second touchdown and topped the Vikings, 12-0, in a non-league matchup between two Pioneer Athletic Conference squads.
After three scoreless quarters, OJR used a hard-count to pick up a first down on a fourth-and-two to start the final period. Two plays later, running back Hunter Scherfel raced 14 yards for a touchdown. The extra point was blocked and the Wildcats led 6-0 with 11:16 remaining in the game.
On the ensuing possession, Upper Merion went three-and-out. Punting from its own 20 yard line, the snap was low and the punter had to fall on the ball at the eight yard line.
Three plays later, quarterback Dawson Stuart kept the ball on a sneak from two yards out for the Wildcats insurance touchdown.
Owen J. Roberts went for two and failed, leaving the lead at 12-0 with 8:19 to play.
The Vikings had two more possessions in the game. The first ended with a punt on fourth-and-23 and the other was a turnover on downs.
Scherfel carried the ball 22 times for 113 yards and the game-winning touchdown.
“The o-line stepped up and blocked,” Scherfel said, crediting the big guys up front.
In the second half, he ran 13 times for 85 yards.
“Momentum built up,” Scherfel said. “Then I ended up doing really well.”
“(Scherfel) did a real nice job running the ball tonight,” OJR coach Rich Kolka said. “They were in a different front than we practiced all week. So it took us a little while to realize what they were doing from our guys’ standpoint to be able to block it. We made an adjustment at halftime – which was a really good one – to be able to run the ball more effectively.”
“I’m proud of the defense and the way they played,” Upper Merion coach Hal Smith said, “but that doesn’t help us win. We have to finish the deal. The defense has to find a way to win. The offense has to find a way to win. Special teams have to do better. All those things killed us.”
No offense, Upper Merion
The Vikings offense totaled six yards in the loss.
“We’re going to look at film to look at it,” Smith said of the Vikings offensive issues. “I think we have no consistency right now. We had one big play, then a negative play and three short gains. We’re not doing the things we’re supposed to be doing. We’re run a play. Then we’ll run that same play two, three plays later and kids aren’t stepping or doing their fundamentals. So just like a couple weeks ago we weren’t tackling well – we went back to the drawing board, kids worked on it and now we’re tackling well. So we have to go back and adjust. The kids played hard, they didn’t quit. We can’t not score points.”
Quarterback JP Batton was 4-for-12 for 31 yards.
The rushing attack featured 28 carries for -25 yards.
This is a big turnaround for the OJR defense that allowed 42 and 35 points in its last two games.
“Defensively I thought we were near the football,” Kolka said. “We were aggressive. I thought we played against the pass pretty well. I thought we did a lot of things right on defense. That was pretty cool to see.
“We didn’t really do anything schematically different,” Kolka added, comparing Friday night to the previous two games. “It was just kind of like a gut check at practice. We focused on tackling. Our defensive coordinator – his name’s Jeremy Mellon – he did a really good job at setting up our gameplan as far as emphasizing tackling throughout the week.”
Upper Merion’s best chance at scoring came late in the first half.
Defensive lineman Jalen Lowdermilk grabbed an interception on a screen pass and raced to the OJR 20 yard line with 3:55 remaining before intermission.
The Vikings offense gained one yard on three runs and a 37-yard field goal was kicked straight into the line and blocked.