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Stuart’s late score sends Owen J. Roberts past Upper Merion

KING OF PRUSSIA >> Scoring opportunities were scarce for both teams. So when Upper Merion’s Botros Barsoum made his third interception and ran it back well into Owen J. Roberts territory, it looked like curtains for the Wildcats, who trailed 10-7 at that point early in the fourth quarter.

But while momentum was a no-show most of the night, it swung in a big way to the Wildcats on that seemingly self-destructive play. Roughing the passer was called on Upper Merion, and the Wildcats got the ball on the UM 20. And OJR, which had wasted a long drive to start the second half — reaching the Vikings’ 2 and getting a field goal blocked by Jared Skidds — wasn’t about to blow this opportunity. Quarterback Dawson Stuart scored on a keeper from 13 yards out with 10:36 left in the fourth, and that was the difference as the visiting Wildcats hung on for a 14-12 victory.

OJR’s defense stood up and survived a late Viking surge that advanced to the Wildcat 12-yard-line, with quarterback John Paul Batton’s fourth-down throw to the end zone just a bit too long for Jake McGrath with 4 minutes left. The Wildcats remained pinned pretty deep and, unable to get a first down and run out the clock, opted to take a safety rather than punt from the end zone.

After OJR kicked off from its 20, Jason Zoller iced it for the Wildcats with an interception in the final minute.

The Wildcats (5-5), who beat Upper Merion 12-0 in the first meeting, took some satisfaction toughing this one out on a relatively unimpressive offensive night. They totaled only 173 yards, while Upper Merion got a modest 198.

“To beat any team twice is a great feeling,” said Stuart, a busy two-way player who picked off a pass in the first half. “That’s a tough team to beat. They’re physical, they come at you. A win like that is great.”

On its Senior Night, Upper Merion (3-7) got a good showing from rugged senior running back Zach Desanto (77 yards, 15 carries) and two picks from Barsoum. Desanto’s 29-yard run helped set up junior kicker Anthony Littlewood’s 37-yard field goal for a 10-7 Upper Merion lead with 4 minutes left in the third.

OJR’s Hunter Scherfel was the heavy-duty back for the Wildcats, carrying it 19 times for 58 hard-earned yards. He scored the game’s first touchdown to cap a 71-yard drive early in the second quarter that was assisted by consecutive face-mask penalties.

“We stepped up and made plays when we needed to and it paid off,” Scherfel said.

UM tied it 7-7 3:31 before halftime on a fourth-down pass from Batton to Mark Picariello from 13 yards out. Batton’s completions of 15 and 14 yards to Barsoum and Desanto’s 13-yard burst positioned the TD pass.

“They did not give up,” OJR coach Rick Kolka said. “I thought one of our keys was the up-tempo offense we came out with in the second half. It changed field position. They stopped us down there, but a momentum builder was our running game, and our quarterback making a play when we needed to get in (the end zone).

“That big penalty helped turn the game. We took advantage of it. I still think we were one or two scores better than we played tonight, but they must be physical, more physical than I think, because that’s two games against them now where we weren’t as prolific as we normally are.”

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