ROYERSFORD >> They liked winning so much, Pope John Paul II decided to do it twice.
Brandon Knox and Dan Cirino headed a dominant ground game as Pope John Paul II controlled the clock in the fourth quarter to come away with a 20-6 victory over Pottstown Saturday afternoon.
The win was the second straight victory for PJP, which defeated Schuylkill Valley 33-0 last week. Saturday’s victory marked the first time the Golden Panthers have won two straight contests since the team won three straight in the 2011 season.
“I’m proud as heck of these guys,” Pope John Paul II head coach Rory Graver said. “We talked about three words this week. We needed to be confident, we needed to be humble and we needed to be hungry. These guys did a great job this week.”
Knox finished with a game-best 83 yards on 19 carries while Cirino added 60 yards on 15 carries. The duo was integral in PJP’s game-sealing drive, a 21-play, 96-yard drive that chewed up more than 11 minutes of clock before Sean Brennan’s 16-yard touchdown reception gave the team the two-score advantage with 1:32 left.
“That last drive is all us, all us,” Graver said. “Every team we play is going to be bigger than us, every team is going to be faster and stronger than us, but you know, we’re going to keep coming at you.”
“I don’t even know what to say,” Knox said. “All I’m saying is that we’re definitely not done this season. We definitely have a couple more wins left in us.
“Last week we practiced real hard because the paper wasn’t having us winning. We had to come out and show what we can do.”
Cirino finished the game with two touchdown receptions.
Pottstown’s Aaron Diamond finished with the Trojans’ lone score, a 22-yard touchdown reception that made it 7-6 with two minutes left in the first half. Diamond finished with 42 yards receiving with three receptions, but the Trojans inability to finish in the redzone was their ultimate downfall. PJP kept Pottstown off the board in the first quarter, stopping the Trojans on a fourth down at the 15 before stepping up again in the third quarter, stopping Isaiah Mayes one-yard short of a first down at the PJP 4-yard line.
“I have to compliment Pope John Paul, they executed,” Pottstown head coach Gary Rhodenbaugh said. ”They had a good gameplan, they came out and they did a good job of executing. They were physical, too.
“We have to do a better job of finishing drives and not letting ourselves get it bad situations. I tried to say to the kids, it’s not always the third down conversion that’s lacking, it’s more that we put ourselves in first and five and stuff like that. That’s on me, that’s on me. We have to clean that up.”
PJP quarterback Matt Delaurentis finished 9-of-12 for 74 yards with three touchdowns. His first strike to Cirino made it 6-0 before he found Cirino again on the team’s first drive of the second half for a 14-yard score to make it 13-6. The junior signal caller finished with 61 yards rushing, his 29-yard keeper on third and 24 late in the fourth continuing PJP’s late-game march.
PJP finished with 283 yards of total offense. Pottstown finished with 200 yards of total offense, only 65 coming in the second half.
“Our offensive line did a great job and our two backs had tremendous games,” Graver said. “All the credit goes to our offensive line, they are undersized but they are all heart.
“All year our defense has been playing great. We have a new defensive coordinator here, Tony Yerger, and he really gets these kids going. He does a great job.”