RED HILL >> This was a game Upper Perkiomen wanted.
And after the Tribe’s performance Friday night, it was a win they deserved as the Pioneer Athletic Conference regular season winds down the next two weeks.
Ryan Kendra was a force on both sides of the ball, finishing with two interceptions and two touchdowns while the Tribe’s running back tandem of Austin Tutolo and Tyler Whary wreaked havoc all game long as Upper Perkiomen came away with a convincing 32-13 victory over visiting Pope John Paul II on the Tribe’s Homecoming night.
Upper Perkiomen (3-1 PAC, 4-4 overall) clinches the No. 2 seed in the Frontier Division with the victory and made another step toward sealing the No. 3 seed in the District 1 Class 4A playoffs.
“We knew it was a must-win game to get into the playoffs and get ahead of PJP,” Kendra said. “We knew what we had to do and we did it.”
There wasn’t much Kendra or the Tribe didn’t do in Friday night’s victory, which quickly eliminated the sting of last week’s 62-21 loss at the hands of Pottsgrove. The team finished with a season-best 517 yards of total offense, including 285 from the arm of senior quarterback Zeke Hallman. Hallman finished with four touchdown passes on a 16-of-21 throwing effort. Kendra led the way with 98 yards receiving on six receptions and two scores with Tyler Keyser (54 yards on two receptions) and Tutolo (78 yards on five receptions) each adding a touchdown.
Junior running back Tyler Whary and Tutolo paced the ground game, Whary finishing with 127 yards on 24 carries and a score while Tutolo added 66 yards on 11 carries for an Upper Perkiomen team that built a 19-0 lead through the first three quarters.
“We had a lot of errors last week,” Kendra, a junior, said. “To come back this week and have Tutolo and Whary running the ball and me and Tyler catching like we did, we did pretty well. We should have put up more points against Pottsgrove but we made up for it this week.”
“It was awesome,” Tutolo said. “This made up for last week.”
PJP junior quarterback Matt DeLaurentis finished the game 18-of-34 for 167 yards and a score. His 46 rushing yards also led a PJP team that was eliminated from PAC Frontier contention. The loss is the Golden Panthers’ second straight after winning three in-a-row for the first time since 2011.
“I talked to our team and asked them, ‘Why do you think they beat us?’ And they nailed it on the head. They were more physical than us, we didn’t finish drives and we let up the big plays tonight,” PJP head coach Rory Graver said.
The big play, one that PJP had done so well defending against the past four weeks, haunted them all Friday night.
It started with a 26-yard touchdown pass from Hallman to Kendra, who had his man beat on a seam route before beating him in a one-on-one for the ball in the corner of the end zone to make it 13-0 with 8:59 in the second.
It continued in the third, Kendra working back to the middle of the field on a post route while seeing Hallman scramble to his right. Hallman’s eyes met the streaking Kendra, who hauled in the 34-yard pass to make it 19-0 with 3:29 left in the third.
It got worse in the fourth. In the shotgun, Hallman faked a handoff to Keyser on a jet sweep, only to find him wide open on a wheel route down the sideline for a 20-yard score to put the game out of reach at 26-7 with 8:45 left.
It finished with a Hallman-to-Tutolo connection on a simple out route. Tutolo, who caught the short five-yard pass, broke a tackle and raced 40 yards down the sideline to cap the scoring and send the Tribe to their biggest win of the season.
NOTES >> Kendra’s two interceptions give him five for the season, a PAC best. His first stemmed from an overthrown ball, the second coming two drives later as he cut in front of a slant pattern. … AJ Natale finished with 77 yards receiving and a score on six receptions for PJP. … Hallman finished with 41 yards rushing.