POTTSGROVE >> Perkiomen Valley’s seniors made their goal really simple for 2016: win a Pioneer Athletic Conference championship.
Friday night, in a game that started with a flash and ended with the flashbulbs, the Viking seniors can cross that goal off a growing list as Perkiomen Valley clinched their second PAC title in three seasons with a 28-14 victory over Pottsgrove in the conference’s inaugural championship game.
“We had amazing help from our underclassmen to our seniors,” PV senior quarterback Stephen Sturm said. “It was a great team effort this season. This year, I feel like we’re a real team that’s real close. Our team camaraderie really helps when we get into tough games. This one was a tough one.”
The toughest one yet.
Pottsgrove, rebounding from a dismal 18-12 loss to Pope John Paul II last Saturday, looked nothing similar to last week’s team that had 12 penalties for 135 yards. Instead, the Falcons resembled the PAC powerhouse they have been under head coach Rick Pennypacker for the past 20 seasons. A strong running attack headed by junior running back Rahsul Faison kept the Vikings offense off the field for 15 minutes of the first half. The defense, meanwhile, did its job in the first 24 minutes, only breaking on a 53-yard rush up the gut by Sturm that set up the game-tying score in the second quarter.
Faison had 123 rushing yards in the first half, including a mind-boggling 32-yard touchdown run in the second quarter that left jaws dropped along the Falcon sideline. Faison broke free into the second level and lowered his pad level to break a tackle of PV safety David Williams and then somehow escaped as Perkiomen Valley defenders seemingly had him pinned for the score to make it 14-7.
It just wasn’t a sustainable effort. Bad field position hindered the Falcons in the final 24 minutes as they didn’t start a drive beyond their own 20. Four punts, 80 yards of total offense and a fumble on the last possession followed for a Falcons team that will enter the District 1 Class 4A playoffs as the second seed.
“I’m proud of my kids,” Pennypacker said. “After what happened last week, I’m just proud of them. They played hard, they played tough and they gave them (Perkiomen Valley) one of the toughest games they’ve had all year. That was a hell of a football game. You can’t do any better than that.”
PV’s Sturm didn’t put up his usual gaudy numbers, finishing with only 185 yards passing on a 16-for-25 effort. Senior receiver Justin Jaworski’s performance was similar as he only finished with five receptions for 90 yards. Credit that to Pottsgrove’s defense, which disguised their coverages all throughout.
“They were dropping eight in coverage,” Sturm described. “They’d roll from a Cover 3 to a Cover 4. They’d act like they were in man and play in zone. I’ve seen it before. It’s a good strategy since we’re a pass heavy team.”
Still, Sturm and company made the big plays when needed.
Sturm started with a touchdown connection with David Williams (three receptions for 27 yards) for the game’s first score, one play after Faison fumbled on the first play from scrimmage. He then broke free for aforementioned 53-yard rush up the gut on a designed quarterback keeper set up Brendan Schimpf’s 10-yard touchdown that tied the game at 14.
“It was a trap,” Sturm described. “My guard, Vaughn Stolzer, was pulling for me and it left a wide open hole for me to go through. Once I got into the open field I tried to put on the after burners.”
Sturm then delivered again in the third quarter, buying time in the pocket (which was aplenty throughout courtesy of the play of linemen Chris Jimenez, Stolzer, Matt Mikesic, Zach Brewer and Hahir Holmes) and connecting with receiver Remy Sell for a 16-yard touchdown to make it 21-14 with 18 seconds left in the third. Jaworski then emerged in the fourth, hauling in a 56-yard pass from Sturm to bring the Vikings out from deep in their own end.
“I always want the ball. I’m a competitor, it’s just how I am,” Jaworski said. “We were moving the ball and I was just trying to stay ready. I made a good play. Sturm made a good throw. It just worked out. I didn’t have as many yards as I usually have, but I wanted to impact the game as much as possible.”
Ryan Cerula then took a wide receiver reverse to the Pottsgrove 1 before Williams scored on a one-yard plunge to make it 28-14 to seal it.
Putting the clamps down
The Vikings effectively shut the door on Faison’s running lanes after being gashed for 123 yards in the first half. Faison only rushed for six yards in the final two quarters.
“We knew they (Pottsgrove) were going to be physical,” PV head coach Rob Heist said. “We knew they were going to rebound from losing last week and come out and give us everything they had. They played a hell of a football game. I don’t think we matched their physicality in the first half. We challenged them at half and our kids responded.”
Notes >> Desmond Austin scored a 37-yard touchdown on a slant pattern to make it 7-7. Austin finished with 63 yards receiving on four receptions. … Javon Colbert had 63 yards rushing on nine carries in the loss. … PV’s Sean Owens hauled in five passes for 34 yards. … Pottsgrove turned the ball over twice. PV once. … PV was penalized seven times for 75 yards; PG three times for 20 yards.