QUAKERTOWN >> While most of his players are unaware of the fact, Quakertown’s Alumni Field has never been kind to Upper Dublin’s football team.
“We’ve had more heartbreaks up here over the years than I can count,” said Cardinals head coach Bret Stover, who has been on the sidelines for most of them.
Friday night had the potential to be another heart stopper for Upper Dublin.
But the Cards made just enough plays to emerge with an 18-7 victory to remain unbeaten in the season’s early going.
Quakertown led, 7-6, as late as the fourth quarter.
But Upper Dublin took advantage of a short field to score the go-ahead touchdown with 8:12 left in the game, then got a second rushing touchdown from quarterback Justin Horn to put the issue to rest with 1:19 left in the game.
“The way they run the ball, we didn’t know if we were going to get the ball back one score down or two,” said Stover of the last-quarter nailbiter. “But we were able to get a stop, just down by one score.”
Speaking of tough losses, the Panthers actually outgained the Cardinals, and held an advantage in time of possession, but couldn’t cap drives with points.
“I was happy we scored,” said Panthers head coach George Banas when reminded his team scored the first points of the season against the Cardinals. “But we left some points on the field.”
Most notably, the Panthers were looking golden midway through the third quarter when the running of Noah Wood helped move the Panthers to the Cardinals 25.
But a running play and three incomplete passes squelched that scoring opportunity.
Again, in the fourth, the Panthers got as far as the Cardinals 35, but failed on a fourth-and-five from there.
“You can’t second-guess yourself down there,” Banas said. “You can pick out a play here or a play there, and in this game one play could have changed the outcome.
“But Upper Dublin made the plays they had to make to win.”
Early on, the Panthers turned up the heat, sending seven and eight defenders to the line of scrimmage in an attempt to thwart the Cardinals offense.
“They were sending a lot of people to the line of scrimmage and that’s not something we had seen them do,” Stover said. “We had to make some adjustments at halftime.”
“We figured we’d try and put pressure on them rather than sit back and watch them chuck the ball around on us,” Banas said. “I’m happy with our defense, we just left too many points on the field.”
Quakertown took a 7-6 lead at the half, after giving away an early touchdown.
On the Cardinals 45-yard line after attaining a first down, Panthers quarterback Austin Clarke was intercepted by Upper Dublin’s Malik Bootman, who returned the ball all the way to the Panthers 2-yard line.
Two plays later, Horn plunged in from the 1-yard line and the Cardinals were on the board with 7:38 left in the initial quarter.
After stopping Quakertown on its next drive, the Cardinals offense achieved a first down at the Panthers 15. But, aided by an illegal block penalty, Quakertown held Upper Dublin on downs, then put together an 8-play, 82-yard drive, keyed by 27-yard receptions by both Nick Cass and Tim Shevlin.
Then, facing third-and-two at the UD 15, the Panthers ran a double handoff, and Nick Lefkoski found the end zone to give the home team a 1-point lead going into intermission.