ROYERSFORD >> Finally. The lengthiest losing streak in the PAC is now erased.
And with the way Pope John Paul II played, it was hard to imagine that the Golden Panthers had entered Saturday mired in a 21-game losing streak.
Defense was the name of the game as a strong front seven turned in four sacks and limited visiting Schuylkill Valley to one yard of total offense as the Golden Panthers snapped their losing skid with a 33-0 victory.
It was the first victory for PJP since Week 3 of 2014 — a 14-7 victory over Pottstown on a rain-drenched afternoon — and the first time PJP has shut out an opposing team since 2013 (20-0 victory over Pottstown).
“I’m proud of these guys,” PJP head coach Rory Graver said. “It’s easier to quit. We went through a hard season last year, a hard season at the end of our first year. These guys stuck with us and I’m proud of these guys.”
“It’s great to get that losing streak over and go out and have some fun,” PJP’s Matt DeLaurentis said. “It’s not over yet, we still have plenty of games left and we hope to do the same that we did today.”
DeLaurentis turned in a solid performance through the air and on the ground. The junior quarterback finished 9-of-13 for 153 yards with two touchdowns, while rushing for one more, a 53-yard keeper giving PJP a commanding 20-0 lead late in the second quarter.
“It was a great play by the coaching staff, they gave us a good chance to score,” DeLaurentis said. “O-line, all the receivers and the running backs all set up great blocks, I just had the easy part. All I had to do was go down and score.”
Junior running back Dan Cirino led the way on the ground, rushing 14 times for 64 yards and a touchdown. The Golden Panthers, who came into Saturday averaging 81.3 rushing yards per game, finished the game with a season-high 216 rushing yards — 369 in total.
“Our run game was working great this week,” DeLaurentis said. “The last couple of weeks it had struggled a little bit but our O-line was getting a great push on the ball and that helped us a lot.”
“Our O-line — AJ Dejewski, Liam Lockrey, Nathaniel Borusiewicz, Matt Bustynowicz, James Butler, Denver Francis — they really showed up to play,” Cirino added. “Our coaching staff called the right plays and we were getting outside on them.”
Schuylkill Valley played without starting QB Justin Nawrocki and turned to freshman Michael Knowles to fill the spot. The 5-7 QB had a rough going in his start, completing two of his seven passes for negative 12 yards.
The Panthers only registered four first downs and fell behind 27-0 at the half. The loss was the ninth straight for Schuylkill Valley dating back to last season.
“The quarterback struggled, he’s a freshman,” Schuylkill Valley head coach Jeff Chillot said. “You have to play with what you have. Unfortunately we can’t bring anyone in from other places so we have to play with who we got. He played hard, he played as well as I thought he could have. He didn’t mess up mentally.
“The second half we played better. We let up some big plays in the first half. We had some good defensive plays, even in the first half, but we gave up two long ones that really we shouldn’t have. The second half at least we came out and played better. We jus didn’t lie down and give up 60. We challenged them a little bit at halftime to come out and play and we came out and played at least defensively.”
Ryan Kormos hauled in a team-best three receptions for 51 yards for PJP. His 33-yard touchdown reception was good for PJP’s first strike and a 6-0 lead. AJ Natale later gave PJP a 27-0 lead, hauling in a screen pass before breaking free for a 49-yard touchdown.
Jacob Bildstein had an interception for PJP.
“This feels great,” Cirino said. “Credit to our coaching staff, they put us in the position to win. We just worked really hard, we believed today, too. We believed. It’s awesome. We’re going to celebrate this win and have a good time but we’re not done yet.