ROYERSFORD >> Shut the ground game down, shut the Rams down.
That’s what Perkiomen Valley’s defense knew it had to do. That’s what it did.
Now, the path to the Pioneer Athletic Conference title game becomes wide-open.
The Vikings’ front seven did the dirty work, stymieing a Rams ground game that ran wild in last year’s contest, while David Williams made a tide-turning interception in the third quarter as the Vikings topped Spring-Ford 28-16 on the Rams’ Senior Night Friday night.
The win is only the Vikings’ (3-0 PAC, 7-0 overall) second over their neighboring rival in the past six years and puts them in control of their own destiny with the PAC championship three weeks away.
“We worked hard, did what we need to do and got the job done,” PV defensive tackle Alec Jackson said. “I have no words for this, I couldn’t ask for anything else. No one messed up, we played well. It was a solid job all the way around.”
“I thought our defense played amazing tonight,” Perkiomen Valley first-year head coach Rob Heist said. “They were disciplined, they knew their responsibilities, they knew their adjustments and we got 11 hats to the ball and tackled well tonight.”
The Vikings’ defense — led by the play of Jackson, Vaughn Stolzer, Nick Marren, Jahir Holmes, Noah Shine, Mario Scotese, Kevin DelaCruz, Kevin Lovett, Chris Jimenez and Jon Rotunda to name a few — limited the Rams’ ground game to just 77 yards. Senior running back Matt Gibson, a Viking killer who ran for 187 yards in last year’s PAC Championship win, was limited to 69 yards on 14 carries. The second part of the Ram tandem, Selwyn Simpson, was limited to just 30 yards on eight carries, his seven-yard touchdown with less than a minute in the fourth capping the scoring.
Scotese and Shine registered sacks in the win.
The Vikings forced the Rams into three three-and-outs to start the game and only broke once, a 80-yard pass from TJ Pergine to Dan Cassidy making the score 13-7 one play after Stephen Sturm’s 4-yard touchdown run gave the visitors a two-touchdown lead.
They more than made up for that momentary lapse, however. Williams, a senior safety, delivered a decisive blow on the defense’s next drive, picking off a pass that bounced off a Spring-Ford receiver and returned it 17 yards to give the Vikings a commanding 21-7 lead, one they didn’t relinquish.
“It was huge (Williams’ interception),” Sturm said. “It gave us the momentum back. Dave is a hell of a player. He always comes in with the mindset of being that nasty safety over the middle. Today it really showed. He stepped up and made some huge hits. From there, the interception, right place, right time. He made the play and took it back to the house.”
Pergine finished the game 18-of-37 for 287 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions with Cassidy leading the team with 99 yards receiving on four receptions. Spring-Ford (2-1 PAC, 5-2 overall), which started three drives behind their own 15, turned the ball over on downs deep in Viking territory on two occasions. The first came as the Rams failed to convert a 4th and 15 at the PV 25 midway through the second in a scoreless game, the second stemming on a bad hold on a field goal try on the drive following Williams’ pick-six.
“We just didn’t play a good game,” Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubaker said. “I made mistakes, kids made mistakes, we all made mistakes and we’re all accountable for that. We have to look at the film. We felt like we could come in and run the ball and they did a good job up front, bouncing us out of the holes we were trying to get to and we were forced to come back.”
“We kept getting ourselves in bad situations early, down and distance wise. Our defense played really well in the first half but they were able to get enough first downs to where we would be pinned deep in our own territory. Our defense was on the field for a long time in the first half. We started the game with four three and outs, and obviously you can’t do that.”
Sturm finished the game with 241 yards passing and three total touchdowns (two passing, one running). Justin Jaworski, who was cleared Wednesday after suffering an injury to his MCL in Week 4, finished the game with a game-best six receptions for 101 yards. Remy Sell hauled in four passes for 87 yards, his biggest a 64-yard reception that gave the Vikings a 28-9 lead with nine minutes remaining in the fourth.
“This game was huge for me,” Sturm said. “Last year I was very disappointed in the way I played. All offseason, thinking about it, if there was one game that I could fix, one game I could have prepared for more it was Spring-Ford’s. I wasn’t happy with the way I played at all. All offseason I dedicated my sweat, my hard work in the weight room to this.
“We came up, defense played amazing. The O-line was amazing and we did what we had to do.”