ROYERSFORD >> Optimism has always run high at Pope John Paul II. No matter the record.
Now, after the Golden Panthers have won two straight for the first time since 2011, optimism is starting to breed new-found confidence.
And why not?
They’re confident. They’re hopeful. And maybe in 2016, a winner.
“(The consecutive wins) feels great,” PJP senior running back Dan Cirino said. “Our freshman year we knew had something special with our grade. We were all optimistic from the start and we all have grown year after year. Our wins have been a result from that.”
“We’re confident in ourselves and we have the whole school supporting us. It’s been fun.”
PJP’s last two wins haven’t exactly been nail-biters. The team snapped a 21-game losing streak in a 33-0 destruction of Berks League foe Schuylkill Valley, limiting the visiting Panthers to one yard of total offense. The win was highlighted with PJP head coach Rory Graver getting doused by water as he was held down by coaches and players.
That followed with a dominating fourth-quarter effort in a 20-6 victory over visiting Pottstown where PJP held the ball for more than 10 minutes of the fourth quarter and held the Trojans to 59 second-half yards.
That victory, there was no grandeur, no Gatorade bath, just a quick serenade from parents and students as they walked up the pavement to the locker room.
“The win against Schuylkill Valley was definitely the start,” Cirino said. “We needed that game real bad. We were confident that winning that game was going to be the turning point of our season. Now we’re confident that we can beat any team we face.”
Entering the meat of their PAC schedule, staying confident will be key for a PJP team still very much in the mix for a Class 4A playoff berth. The Golden Panthers stand as the last team qualifying, sitting at No. 4 in the six-team classification.
“Every game is going to have a playoff atmosphere,” Cirino said. “We have a great opportunity and we need to work harder to get toward our goal of making the district playoffs. We really believe that we can achieve it.
“We’re a hungry group who had a winner’s mentality from the start. We weren’t OK with losing anymore and we decided that was done and over with. We worked hard in the offseason to get on this point and now, we’re set on winning.”
District 1 Power Rankings
District 1 released its weekly Power Rankings. Both Perkiomen Valley and Spring-Ford are ranked in the top 10 of the 16-team 6A field. PV (5-0) is No. 5 while Spring-Ford is in a tie for No. 10 with Garnet Valley. Seeded first is North Penn followed by Central Bucks South, Ridley and Neshaminy. After PV at No. 5 is Downingtown East, Coatesville, Central Bucks East and Plymouth-Whitemarsh. Wrapping up the top 16 is Penn Wood and Souderton tied at No. 12 and Abington, Bensalem and Central Bucks West in a three-way tie for No. 14. Owen J. Roberts is on the outside looking in, sitting 19th.
In 5A, Phoenixville is No. 17 in a class that will send 16 to the playoffs. Upper Dublin is No. 1, Springfield-Delco No. 2 and Bishop Shanahan (first 5-0 start in school history) No. 3. Wrapping up the top 10 is Academy Park, Marple Newtown, Great Valley, Sun Valley, Glen Mills, West Chester East and West Chester Henderson.
In 4A, Interboro (4-1) is No. 1 with Pottsgrove, Upper Perkiomen, Pope John Paul II and Pottstown ranking No. 2-5. The top four teams in the six-team classification make the playoffs.
Boyertown’s Jerry Kapp had been limited to -34 yards rushing in the Bears’ last three losses. His response in Week 5? A 121-yard, three-touchdown effort for the Boyertown signal caller in a 46-41 victory over Methacton that changed leads like a seesaw.
His performance, coupled with his 177-yard, three-touchdown game in Week 1’s victory over Upper Perkiomen, now places him back in the Top 10 in the PAC in rushing yards. Kapp sits eighth on the leader list, with 264 yards rushing and six touchdowns.
In the Frontier Division, only Pottsgrove has a positive point differential. Pope John Paul II, Upper Perkiomen, Phoenixville, Pottstown and Upper Merion have all been outscored through the first five weeks.
5 from Week 5
• This is Matt Garcia’s year. The Phoenixville back repeated his stellar Week 4 performance in Friday’s loss to Upper Perkiomen, rushing for 238 yards and three scores on 23 carries. The senior back now has 845 rushing yards and seven scores in the Phantoms’ 2-3 start.
• PV’s offense is still lethal without its star receiver. Perkiomen Valley made easy work of OJR in a 43-7 victory Friday night. Without leading receiver Justin Jaworski, the PV offense did more than fine. QB Stephen Sturm threw for five touchdowns while Sean Owens and David Williams came up big, Owens hauling in four receptions for 75 yards and three scores with Williams adding 60 yards receiving (two scores) and 45 yards on the ground (one touchdown).
• Upper Merion and Norristown continue to struggle. The Vikings’ 35-0 loss to Pottsgrove was the second straight time they were shut out (12-0 loss to Owen J. Roberts in Week 4). Upper Merion has been outscored 125-48 in its 1-4 start. Norristown never got anything going in its 50-14 loss to Spring-Ford. The Eagles’ 0-5 start hasn’t been pretty with their average margin of defeat at 28.4 points.
• Daniel Boone may have turned the corner. The Blazers picked up their second straight victory, topping Muhlenberg 26-23 in the final seconds via a Josh Ehst to Ryan Okuniewski 5-yard touchdown pass.
• Perkiomen School, which fell to Tower Hill last week, got back on track with a convincing with over George School. In the last five years, each Perk School loss to Tower Hill has been followed by a win against the George School. History repeated itself.
Player of the Week
Tyler Whary, Upper Perkiomen >> Whary finished with 203 yards and two touchdowns as the Indians fought off a Phoenixivlle second-half comeback, winning 47-35.
Coach of the Week
Tom Hontz, Upper Perkiomen >> Hontz and the Indians improved to 2-3 and avoided a fourth-quarter collapse that has plagued them in the two of their three losses.