PHOENIXVILLE >> Pope John Paul II used a formula that combined a strong running game with stout defense to produce a 20-14 Pioneer Athletic Conference victory over host Phoenixville at Washington Field Friday night.
The Golden Panthers controlled the first half of play and carried a 12-0 lead into the locker room at the break. The Phantoms performed better in the second half but still came up short on the scoreboard.
Pope John Paul II (2-0 PAC, 3-3 overall) used a 1-2 punch of Brandon Knox and Dan Cirino running behind solid work by the offensive line and a strong outing by quarterback Matt DeLaurentis.
Knox finished with 168 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 21 attempts to lead the PJP offense while Cirino ran for 42 yards on 13 attempts and also caught four passes for 41 yards and a score. Cirino was also one of many key contributors on the PJP defense from his secondary spot.
Knox scored on runs of 2 and 17 yards wile Cirino’s TD reception covered 12 yards.
Phoeniville (0-2, 2-4) got another strong game from running back Matt Garcia, who finished with 159 yards and scored on a 21-yard run for the first Phoenixville TD. Garcia surpassed the 1,000-yard plateau for the season in just six games and achieved the special mark on a 32-yard jaunt on his last run of the night.
“We were underdogs, but we did what we had to do,” said Knox. “Beating Pottstown definitely turned it around for us. Without my line, I am nothing. At PJP, we play well together. Me and Cirino, we switch. We look strong. We share the football. It is great to beat them at their field.”
The Golden Panthers were able to capitalize on a number of key mistakes by the Phantoms.
“We’re playing great defense and controlling the football,” said PJP coach Rory Grover. “Our line is undersized, but they do the little things you are supposed to do. Knox and Cirino run the ball hard.”
Phoenixville made it a one-touchdown game on a 34-yard pass from quarterback Troy Rossman to Bob Strunk with 57 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.
However, dropped passes, one in the end zone, as well as a fumble at the PJP 1-yard line, made it hard for Phoenixville to stay in it. Phoenixville coach Evan Breisblatt said there were other missed opportunities when the Phantoms had open receivers and missed throws. There were other basic fundamental mistakes like penalties and other basic breakdowns on execution.
“We made a lot of mistakes tonight,” said Breisblatt. “We had two opportunities to score and we didn’t. They ran the ball against us very effectively. The first half they were more physical than us. The second half we did a lot better. We kept fighting to the end. Give credit to Pope John Paul. They looked like they wanted it more than we did.”
The Golden Panthers got an interception from Jake Bildstein. Defensive lineman Denver Francis led the pressure up front with a sack, and several players combined on another one.
Phoenixville linebacker Kyle Bennick recovered a fumble. Duron Johnson made three receptions for 43 yards while Nasir Green caught three passes for 28 yards. Johnson also made some stops from his linebacker spot.
PJP wideout Ryan Kormos had three grabs for 30 yards, all in the first half.
Breisblatt felt this was the first game all season where the Phantoms did not play particularly well overall.