UPPER MORELAND >> It certainly wasn’t ideal conditions for Friday night’s Suburban One League American Conference game between Upper Moreland and Cheltenham, but it was still better than the conditions the two teams played under a year ago.
Both teams implemented a run-heavy game plan, but it was the Golden Bears who scored in all three phases of the game while holding off a second-half comeback attempt by Cheltenham to notch their first conference win of the season 34-19.
“We played hard and we executed very well,” Upper Moreland Sterlen Barr said. “At practice, we were going real hard because we had to step up our game because we were coming off some losses.”
Upper Moreland got on the board first with a quick strike as Casey Decker took the ball 48 yards up the middle on the Bear’s fourth offensive play of the game.
The Bears weren’t all about quick strikes as later in the half they got their second score as they went on a 14-play drive the covered 75 yards in little better than 7:40 of game time.
“We were just grounding and pounding,” Barr said. “We just kept running hard and we put it all out there.”
On the heels of Upper Moreland’s second scoring drive, it gave the ball back to Cheltenham with 27 seconds remaining in the half. Panthers running back Yasin Abdul-Haqq fumbled the ball and Upper Moreland’s Ryan Mowery scooped the ball up and ran 32 yards for the touchdown.
“It was bad enough we let them score to make it 14-0 but then we turn the ball over and make it 21-0 that was terrible,” Cheltenham coach Joe Gro said.
The two scores proved a huge momentum boost for the Bears heading into the half but they weren’t done. Barr took the second half kickoff 87 yards for a touchdown as he weaved through the Panther coverage unit picking up some nice blocks in the process. Barr finished the night with 19 carries for 91 yards and a touchdown.
“We knew we had to put them away,” Barr said. “We didn’t want to go on offense, we wanted to score on the kick return. I got the ball, (we) made a hole, I saw it and started running.”
“I made a mistake, I said we’re going to cover this kick,” Gro said. “And we didn’t.”
Cheltenham did not quit facing a 27-0 deficit as it responded with two straight scores, the first of which a 14-play drive taking over eight minutes of clock covering 63 yards.
“At halftime, we made the decision we were going to run the ball more effectively,” Gro said. “We caught them on a couple of plays but we’re not there yet.”
Both Cheltenham and Upper Moreland are battling with some injuries as they try to make some headway through the tough American Conference.