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Plymouth Whitemarsh, Upper Dublin battle to stay atop SOL American

In a week where all Pioneer Athletic Conference fans will be flocking to Spring-Ford to see the duel between the host Rams and Perkiomen Valley (a contest that drew literally tens of thousands of folks just one season ago) and surprising Central Bucks East becomes the latest program to take a crack at powerhouse North Penn, many pigskin followers will be focused on Upper Dublin, where the returning District One champs will get, perhaps, their first real test of the season when the Cardinals (5-0, 3-0) play host to Plymouth Whitemarsh (5-1, 3-0) in a contest that will see one of the programs in first place in the Suburban One League’s American Conference by game’s end.

“PW has really replaced Wissahickon as our primary rival,” said Cardinals head coach Bret Stover. “There was a point in time when we hadn’t beaten them in like, 20 years, but I think we’ve split the last 10 meetings.”

This one seems to have boiled down to the Colonials offense versus the Cardinals defense.

Plymouth Whitemarsh’s Blaise Gravinese looks for running room against Upper Moreland defenders during their game on Friday, Sept. 16, 2016.

Plymouth Whitemarsh’s Blaise Gravinese looks for running room against Upper Moreland defenders during their game on Friday, Sept. 16, 2016. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

The Colonials love to control the ball, and the Cardinals cannot afford to allow them to do that, or they’ll pay the price.

“You look at their offense and how quickly they get off the ball,” Stover said. “They can just grind it out — first down, first down, first down…”

At the same time, Colonials head man Dan Chang said his offense has to contend with a Cardinals defense that has been efficient, and is mind-blowingly fast.

“Hey, they’ve given up one or two touchdowns all year, so yeah, that’s a worry of ours,” Chang said.

What the Colonials have to do is maintain their drives, no turnovers and turn the game into a slow-motion battle in the trenches.

That means the Colonials will be leaning heavily on the aforementioned trenchmen and the running tandem of Khan Jamal and Blaise Gravinese.

It would behoove the Cardinals to force as many third-and-longs as possible and make PW’s relatively inexperienced quarterback Joe Stoberl  beat them.

If PW can maintain the ball and control the clock, it can force the Cardinals offense to strike and strike fast in order to keep up.

On the other side of the ball, the Cardinals have quick-strike capabilities, but nothing near what they had during last season’s magical run to a District One championship.

Quarterback Justin Horn has been terrific, and his surrounding cast has been more than adequate.

But this will be the best defense the Cardinals have seen all year, so they’ll know a lot more about themselves after the final whistle.

“We have to show them something they haven’t seen from us,” Chang said. “There are things they give you, and we’re going to have to take those things and make something from them.”

Whatever PW does offensively, it will have to be done without senior playmaker Christian Jones, who is out for the year due to injury.

The speed team vs. the efficient plodders.

To the winner belongs first place.

Elsewhere Friday

Souderton at William Tennent
Time/Place: Friday, 7 p.m., at William Tennent High School.
On Twitter: @mpcabrey.
Records: The Big Red are 3-3 overall and 1-1 in the Suburban One League Continental Conference. The Panthers are 0-6 overall and 0-3 in the SOL Continental.
Last Week: Souderton had a tough one-point loss to Central Bucks East,37-36, while Tennent fell to Central Bucks West,20-7 .
Players to Watch: Souderton moves behind the one-two punch of QB Joey Curotto and RB Koby Khan, while the Panthers have a tough back of their own in Seth Bragen.
Prediction: The Big Red are finally rewarded for their persistence, 34-13.

Central Bucks West at Pennridge
Time/Place: Friday, 7 p.m., at Helman Field, Pennridge.
On Twitter: @khunter10.
Records: The Bucks come into this one 4-2 overall and 1-1 in the Suburban One League Continental Conference. The Rams are 3-3 overall, including a 1-1 mark in the SOL Continental.
Last Week: The Bucks overcame William Tennent, 20-7, while Pennridge rebounded to top Council Rock South, 28-0.
Players to Watch: Central Bucks West features a two-quarterback system that highlights the passing ability of Josh Crecca and the running ability of Ryan Moylan. Pennridge gets two for the price of one in the running and passing of QB Jagger Hartshorn.
Prediction: The Rams roll again, 27-7.

Wissahickon at Hatboro-Horsham
Time/Place: Friday, 7 p.m., at Hatboro-Horsham High School.
On Twitter: @emor09.
Records: The Trojans come into this one 1-5 overall and 0-3  in the Suburban One League American Conference. The Hatters are 3-3 overall, including a 3-0 mark in the SOL American..
Last Week: The Trojans lost to Upper Dublin, 37-6, while the Hatters defeated Quakertown, 27-6
Players to Watch: The Trojans rely heavily on the pitch-catch tandem of QB Mike Schoenleber and Marlyn Johnson, while the Hatters are paced by QB Chase Edwards and running back Anthony Kwiatonowski.
Prediction: The Hatters remain in first place, 34-14.

Perkiomen Valley at Spring-Ford
Time/Place: Friday, 7 p.m., at Spring-Ford’s Coach McNelly Stadium.
Records: The Vikings come into this one 6-0 overall and 5-0 in the Pioneer Athletic Conference while .the Rams are 5-1 overall, including a 5-0 mark in the PAC.
Last Week: The Vikings blanked Boyertown, 30-0, while Spring-Ford pitched a 45-0 shutout over Methacton.
Players to Watch: The Perkiomen Valley tandem of QB Stephen Sturm and WR Justin Jaworski is one of the best in the state, while the Rams’ more balanced attack is led by QB TJ Pergine and RB Matt Gibson and WR Stone Scarcelle.
Prediction: Flip a coin, and then go with the home team. Spring-Ford, 30-28.

Lansdale Catholic at Cardinal O’Hara
Time/Place: Friday, 7 p.m., at Cardinal O’Hara High School.
Records: The Crusaders are 1-4, 1-2 in the Philadelphia Catholic League Blue Division, while the Lions are 5-0 overall and 2-0 in the PCL Blue.
Last Week: The Crusaders came up short against Conwell-Egan, 26-0, while O’Hara enjoyed a bye week..
Players to Watch: Lansdale Catholic is led by QB Mike Basilii (34-72, 318 yds.) and RB Matt Casee (48 carries, 291 yds.) while the Lions are paced by the running of Myles Henderson (44 carries, 327 yds.) and dual-threat QB Tommy O’Hara (32-for-45, 422 yds.), whose primary target is Justin Santilla (19 catches, 305 yds., 7 TDs).
Prediction: The Lions roar, 35-14, as the Crusaders still seek offense.

Saturday’s Games

North Penn at Central Bucks East
Time/Place: Saturday, 1 p.m., at Central Bucks East High School.
On Twitter: @khunter10.
Records: The Knights enter the game 6-0 and 3-0 in the Suburban One League Continental Conference. The Patriots are 5-1 overall, including a 2-1 mark in the SOL Continental.
Last Week: The Knights used a strong second half to top Central Bucks South, 42-13, while East won a wild one against Souderton, 37-36.
Players to Watch: North Penn is led by QB Reece Udinski, who threw for 367 yards a week ago, including over 100 yards each to Ricky Johns and Jake Hubler. East has one of the league’s best pitch-catch duos in QB Matt Szczypiorski (58-104, 793 yds., 7 TDs) and Wes Verbit (30 catches, 517 yds. 7 TDs).
Prediction: The Knights, as they most always do, rise to the challenge, 45-14.

Norristown at Methacton
Time/Place: Saturday, 1 p.m., at Methacton High School.
On Twitter: @DwaySports.
Records: The Eagles are 0-6, 0-2 in the Pioneer Athletic Conference’s Liberty Divison,. The Warriors are 0-6 overall, and 0-2 in the PAC Liberty Division.
Last Week: The Eagles were beaten by Owen J. Roberts, 40-21, while the Warriors were blanked by Spring-Ford, 45-0.
Players to Watch: Norristown gets plenty of rushing yardage from Shannon Carnard, while the Warriors rely heavily on QB Jason Eckman and receiver John Keenan.
Prediction: The Warriors break into the win column, 21-14.

West Catholic at Germantown Academy
Time/Place: Saturday, 1:30 p.m., at Germantown Academy’s Carey Stadium.
On Twitter: @ADRobinson3.
Records: The Burrs come into this one 3-3 overall and 2-1 in the PCL’s Blue Division. The Patriots are 3-1.
Last Week: The Burrs defeated Neumann-Goretti, 46-0, while the Patriots blanked New Hope-Solebury, 40-0.
Players to Watch: West Catholic’s two-pronged offensive attack features QB Da’Vion Kidd-Jackson (62-for 118, 903 yds., 9 TDs) and RB Carlil Wortham (58 carries, 380 yds). GA features QB and Villanova recruit Kyle McCloskey (30-for-54, 536 yds., 7 TDs)
Prediction: The Burrs make it three in a row, 21-13.

Upper Merion at Pope John Paul II
Time/Place: Saturday, 2 p.m., at Pope John Paul II High School.
Records: The Vikings are 1-5, 0-2 in Pioneer Athletic Conference’s Frontier Division. The Winged Lions are 3-3 overall, including a 2-0 mark in the PAC’s Frontier.
Last Week: Upper Merion was beaten by Upper Perkiomen, 26-8, while PJP won its third game in a row, 20-14, over Phoenixville.
Players to Watch: Upper Merion is led by QB John Paul Patten (29-for-66, 378 yds., 2 TDs), while PJP is paced by the running tandem of Brandon Knox and Dan Cirino (a combined 692 yds.) and QB Matt DeLaurentis (72-for 133, 824 yds., 9 TDs).
Prediction: Can you say, four in a row? PJP wins, 28-16.

Top Photo: Upper Dublin quarterback Justin Horn (12) drops back to pass during the Cardinals’ game against Wissahickon on Friday, Sept. 30, 2016. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

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