BUCKTOWN >> Methacton is taking a “two-season” approach to the 2016 campaign.
So far, the second part is far surpassing the first.
After going winless through their first six games, the Warriors are 2-0 in their stretch run. Coming off a win against Norristown last weekend, they officially created a winning streak Friday by outlasting Owen J. Roberts, 14-12.
Ryan O’Toole had rushing and receiving touchdowns in the second half, and the defense picked off three passes from Wildcat quarterback Dawson Stuart to keep OJR at bay in this Pioneer Athletic Conference-Liberty matchup. Suffice it to say, the frustration of their “first season” is fast becoming a fading memory for the Warriors (2-2 PAC).
“It feels great,” O’Toole said after wrapping up the victory with a chain-moving 34-yard run inside the game’s final minute. “The coaching staff told us this could happen.”
O’Toole broke open a scoreless game at the start of the second half, collaborating with quarterback Jason Eckman on a 52-yard pass play at the 7:42 mark of the third quarter. He squeezed his second touchdown, a five-yard plow through his right tackle, into the third with just a fraction of a second showing on the clock.
Matt Kenwood tacked conversion kicks onto both scoring plays. That proved the ultimate difference, OJR (2-2 PAC, 4-4 overall) missing the conversions on its answering TDs.
“It started with the win against Norristown,” Methacton head coach Paul Lepre said. “We talked about a five-game season.”
Interceptions told the story of the first half. Both quarterbacks got picked twice, and both teams saw promising drives stopped abruptly by the turnovers.
But the killer for OJR was Ryan May’s pickoff of a Stuart pass at the Methacton six-yard line with less than a minute left. The Warriors were able to run out the clock with O’Toole covering 34 yards along the Owen J. sideline to give the visitors a fresh set of downs.
“Alex Sapalidis … I owe him that game,” O’Toole said of the sophomore playing on the offensive line. “He didn’t make one mistake tonight.”
In retrospect, O’Toole couldn’t decide which of his touchdowns was more special.
“In my book, the pass was beautiful,” he said. “The run at the end, I owed that to our fullbacks, Zach (Skalecki) and Gary (Knox).”
Eckman labored through a 7-for-19 first half that netted just 42 aerial yards, falling victim to the interceptions by OJR’s Jason Zollers and Sean Praweckyj. But he was a more productive 3-for-5 in the second, gaining 97 yards on his completions.
“Tonight was a battle,” he said. “The defense at the end, the hit by Ryan May at the end … it was a collective effort.”
With its running game stunted by the Methacton defense, Owen J. called on its passing game to equalize the Warriors’ runs. It was a higher-octane 196 yards, with eight different receivers in the mix.
Hunter Hinrichs (two catches, 52 yards) pulled in a 29-yard pass from Stuart at the 5:11 mark of the third quarter, 2-1/2 minutes after Methacton got on the board. Stuart then used his feet to cut into the Warriors’ 14-6 lead, going six yards up the middle with 4:40 left to finish off a 10-play, 58-yard march during which he completed four passes good for 41 yards.
OJR lined up for a two-point conversion that would have evened the score at 14-all. But Stuart’s pass fell incomplete, leaving Methacton with its ultimate margin of victory.
“We had a lot of miscues in the first half,” Eckman noted. “But we came together at the half, fixed some things and executed better.”
Along with May, Will Roese and Stephen Rhoads had the first-half interceptions that helped prevent Roberts from getting on the scoreboard in the first half.
“Ryan May is a battler,” Lepre noted. “He’s one of our hardest workers, in and out. He’ll do anything for you.”
Methacton faces a stiff challenge next week, in the form of unbeaten (4-0) Liberty leader Perkiomen Valley. But for now, the Warriors are enjoying the wins they’ve gotten.
“Last week, we got our feet wet against Norristown,” Eckman said. “I’m really happy with the team.”
NOTES >> Owen J. recognized the senior participants of its fall sports programs, marching band and cheerleading squad — along with their parents — at halftime. … Lepre on his team’s adjustments during the game: “Defensively, we tried to put (Dylan) Hayes in better position. On the offensive side, we had what I thought we had. The miscues hurt us.”