POTTSGROVE >> He sat for eight weeks, watching on as Perkiomen Valley ran roughshod over its non-conference schedule, then the league.
Now, Vikings senior linebacker and captain Ryan McCourt is back from a broken arm … and just in time as Perkiomen Valley travels to Pottsgrove for the inaugural Pioneer Athletic Conference Championship Friday night at 7 p.m.
“It feels great to be back,” McCourt said. “Watching these guys playing throughout the first nine weeks, coming out prepared and strong, was really motivating. Everyone was doubting us, whether we could handle our non-league schedule. To see how we handled those teams, and now to come back to the team and be a leader, it just feels great.”
McCourt’s return in full (he played 12-15 reps in last week’s victory) comes against the very team that knocked him during the team’s second scrimmage … against Pottsgrove.
Trying to get off a block, McCourt hit the turf at an awkward angle and heard a “snap.” From there, he knew he was in trouble. Doctors said his season was finished. McCourt, however, never believed it.
“It’s was definitely demoralizing when it happened,” McCourt said. “You train all offseason for the PAC championship and then to have that happen kind of ruins those plans. All the doctors said I was done for the season. It kind of sucked. I knew I was going to come back at some point but obviously the doctors have to clear you. It was a tough road.”
McCourt’s return to the defense is another welcome addition to a Viking squad that had question marks surrounding it after Week 4’s injury to PAC-leading receiver Justin Jaworski. Jaworski helped quell some doubt when he returned in the Vikings’ 28-16 victory over Spring-Ford three weeks ago. Now, McCourt’s return has the Vikings fully stocked and fully loaded to vie for a PAC title after falling short in last year’s 28-14 loss to Spring-Ford.
“It would feel great to get this one,” McCourt said. “Last year I feel like we kind of lost ourselves. We got hyped up way too much early and kind of fell flat in the second half. This year I hope we can change it, keep that 1-0 mentality that we’ve had all year.”
“I think it’s really about something we stated at the beginning of the year,” PV senior quarterback Stephen Sturm said. “We came together and said that the PAC championship was the most important thing on our mind this year. To be in the position to fight for it is kind of awesome for us. If we come out and do what we do, it’ll be a great game.”
The Falcons, meanwhile, are seeking their fifth PAC title since 2008.
“I think some people are underestimating us but it’s bringing us together and keeping us focused,” Pottsgrove junior running back Rahsul Faison said. “I think we’ll be ready.
“We need to believe in ourselves and have a lot of confidence. If we believe in each other, we’ll be OK.”
The Falcons looked anything but a title contender last Saturday after being stung for a bitter 18-12 loss to Pope John Paul II — the team’s first-ever loss to the Golden Panthers. Lack of focus and lack of discipline (12 penalties for 135 yards) were the main culprits behind the loss; both surely will be rectified according to Pottsgrove quarterback/linebacker and captain Ryan Finn.
“We were flat. We just didn’t come out ready to play,” Finn said. “We were too lackadaisical in what we were doing. We can’t kill ourselves with the penalties like we did last week, we just can’t. We just have to play hard, disciplined football. Everyone has to do their job.”
Pottsgrove’s run game vs. PV’s front eight >> Friday night’s game pits the No. 1 rush offense against the No. 1 rush defense. How Pottsgrove’s O-line bounces back while facing its toughest test of the season against Perkiomen Valley’s 3-5-3 defense that’s led up front by Jon Rotunda, Kevin Lovett, Kevin DelaCruz, Mario Scotese, Nick Marren, Noah Shine, Kyle Beaudoin and McCourt, will go a long way in deciding the outcome.
Pottsgrove’s defense vs. Perkiomen Valley’s offense >> Perkiomen Valley comes into Friday night rated as the No. 1 offense in terms of total yards per game in the league. Pottsgrove ranks No. 1 in total defense. Who breaks first?
“Pottsgrove is a really well-coached team,” PV starting lineman and Temple commit Chris Jimenez said. “Their kids up front are real physical so up front this week we have to prepare, pick out who’s going to be blitzing and when and just stay cool, calm and collected.”
“They have a lot of things to bring to the table offensively,” Finn said. “We just have to be ready for everything. Last year’s loss gave us some experience that we’ll use this season.”
One week mentality
Both team’s urged a sense of calm and keeping the right frame of mind ahead of Friday night’s game.
“We’re just getting in the right mindset to play a good football game against a good opponent,” Sturm said. “This game is just one week. We’re not going to try and overhype ourselves and get our heads all crazy before the game.”
“We can’t give up on ourselves,” Faison said. “We just need to keep working every week and treat every game like the championship.”
Expected attendance for Friday’s game is 4,000. Parking will be at a premium and additional seating will be placed behind the end zone for fans. The administration urges fans to get to the game early and be patient.
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Now a look at the rest of Week 10’s matchups:
For who, for what?
Win or lose Friday night, expect Spring-Ford to come down or stay put in the District 1 Class 6A power rankings. It’s just a question of how far the Rams will fall, if at all.
Don’t blame the Rams, however; they’ve done nothing but win. Blame this week.
The Rams, who are No. 8 in the power rankings with 1,310 power points, are only 10 points above No. 9 Central Bucks East, 20 above No. 10 Plymouth-Whitemarsh and 30 above No. 11 Garnet Valley and are in danger of dropping spots if CB East and PW both come away with wins to close out the regular season.
Due to their matchup against Upper Perkiomen (5-4 overall), which resides in 4A, the Rams will only receive 150 power points with the victory — a 40-point drop of what it would receive if Upper Perk was in 6A (140 points for 6A victory vs. 6A; 100 for 6A vs. 4A victory. 150 points is 100+ bonus points (amount of UP victories multiplied by 10).
If Spring-Ford beats Upper Perkiomen, and the rest of their previous schedule emerges victorious, the Rams would finish with 1,550 power points, which just may be enough to keep them at No. 8 and maybe move up a spot.
Meanwhile in 4A, Upper Perkiomen will remain at No. 3 with a win or loss.
Prediction >> Spring-Ford wins 35-14.
Pottstown clings to a chance
The Trojans (2-7) come into Saturday’s contest against Boyertown with a chance to overtake Pope John Paul II for the last position in the 4A playoffs. A victory and Pope John Paul II (4-5) loss to Methacton (2-7) would give Pottstown a slight edge in power points (930-910), before bonus points are awarded (Win or lose, your team will receive 10 points for each game that your opponent wins during the 10-week season. Bonus points are cumulative throughout the season. Bonus points are not related to team classifications).
Predictions >> Boyertown tops Pottstown 20-14; Pope John Paul II beats Methacton 21-13.
We Meet Again
It was bound to happen, yet its surprising that Owen J. Roberts and Upper Merion are the only two teams playing in a rematch of a game earlier this season. The Wildcats (2-3, 4-5) travel to Upper Merion for the second time this season and will look to thwart any Viking plans of making the District 1 Class 5A playoffs.
Hunter Scherfel’s ground effort and the Wildcat defense were the stars in the Week 4 showdown. Scherfel rushed for 113 yards while the defense limited Upper Merion to just six yards of offense in a 12-0 victory.
The Vikings (2-3, 3-6) come in winners of two of their last three. Last week UM took advantage of key special teams plays to score 13 unanswered in the second half of a 27-14 victory over Phoenixville.
Prediction >> OJR has lost two straight since shutting out Boyertown, but Wildcats find a way to win. OJR wins 21-14.
Elsewhere in the PAC
Phoenixville (3-6) needs a lot of help in order to advance to the district playoffs after its loss to Upper Merion last week. The Phantoms sit No. 20 in the district rankings and won’t really benefit with a victory over Norristown (1-8).
Norristown looks to close out its league slate on a high note after earning first victory of the season in win over Boyertown last week.
Prediction >> Phoenixville is hot and cold. This week, they may be hot. Phantoms win 28-21.
- The Hill School travels to Mercersburg Academy and hopes to snap a five-game skid. Mercersburg has dropped four straight after starting the season 2-0. Prediction >> Hill 24-22.
- Perkiomen School hosts Pennington Friday at 4 p.m. The Panthers, who fell 15-10 last week to Wyoming Seminary, haven’t lost two straight since 2013. Prediction >> Perkiomen School wins 26-22