LOWER GWYNEDD >> For a much of the year the problem for Wissahickon has been its defense.
Giving up over 35 points per game through 7 contests has made it tough for the Trojans to close opponents out and has been a huge factor in their disappointing 1-6 start.
However, Friday night it was a different story for them. Their defense kept them in the game for most of the night but their offense continually stalled and struggled to find any rhythm as they fell 27-14 to Cheltenham.
The struggles started with the Trojans run game. The usually potent attack managed just 15 total yards on the ground and made it almost impossible to keep Cheltenham honest. Once the Panthers realized the Trojans needed to air it out to gain any yards they were able to attack Wissahickon quarterback Mike Shoenleber and wreak havoc in the backfield.
“I don’t really know what all was going wrong, I have to look at the tape,’ Wissahickon head coach Randy Cuthbert said. “They kind of controlled the line of scrimmage and that’s kind of been the theme in a lot of these games and we need to get better.”
On the other side of the ball, Cheltenham’s run game was extremely effective, totaling 271 yards and three TDs. The two headed attack of Yasin Abdul-Haqq (97 yards) and Jarrett Jenkins (118 yards) punished the Trojans’ front seven, even on a night where their defense looked better than it had in the past.
“Jarrett (Jenkins) has been running really well all season but Yasin (Abdul-Haqq) hasn’t been eligible for 5 games,’ Cheltenham head coach Joe Gro said. “When you put someone back there to compliment Jarret they both end up being more effective and that was definitely the case tonight.”
With the Trojans struggling mightily on offense they needed to get a spark from somewhere else, and they looked to their special team’s unit for just that. A 45-yard kickoff return into opponent territory by Anthony Marino set them up for their only offensive score of the night right before half.
Then, with the third quarter winding down to a close Gro and his coaching staff decided to kick it deep again, and this time Antaun Lloyd brought it back 87 yards to the house making it a 5-point game at 19-14.
“As I saw him running I was just thinking to myself ‘Oh no, not again,’” Gro said.“I told myself at the half, after the first one, I wasn’t going to kick it deep again and then we did. Luckily we were able to hold on for the win.”
Even with Lloyd’s efforts on the kickoff return the Trojans would come up short. On the ensuing drive Cheltenham jammed the ball down their throat for the final blow, a 7-yard touchdown run from Abdul-Haqq, as they managed their first victory since Week 2.
“We needed a win dramatically,” added Gro. “You know, I’ve been in this a long time but I just knew these kids just needed to come out and have a good performance and that’s what we had. Now it’s on to Plymouth Whitemarsh next week.”
For the Trojans, they fall to 1-7 on the year and will have to play their remaining games all on the road. Even though this season hasn’t gone as planned for Cuthbert and his team, he knows they still have something to play for.
“We’re disappointed but this isn’t the last game,” Cuthbert said. “You always remember your last one and we need to finish the season strong so we’re going to do everything possible to do that.”