ROYERSFORD >> Halloween came a couple days early on Saturday afternoon at Pope John Paul II High School.
Methacton senior Ryan O’Toole tricked the PJP offense throughout, then treated himself to the game-sealing interception during the Warriors’ 31-26 win over the Golden Panthers.
“He’s a gamer,” said Methacton head coach Paul Lepre of O’Toole. “He was the vocal guy we needed today. He kept us going when we got down on ourselves early on. He really came through for us.”
O’Toole racked up 147 yards rushing — along with a first-quarter 99-yard halfback pass to John Keenan for a touchdown — and racked up three total scores. He also forced a huge interception late, deep in Warrior territory just one play after the Golden Panthers took over.
“We all knew we weren’t making playoffs,” said O’Toole, “but we didn’t play like it at all. We played like we had everything on the line.”
Regardless of Saturday’s result, Pope John Paul II (3-2 PAC Frontier; 4-6 overall) locked up the final spot in the District 1-4A playoffs with Pottstown’s loss against Boyertown. The Golden Panthers will square up against top-seeded powerhouse Interboro in the opening round next Friday night.
Methacton (2-3 PAC Liberty; 3-7 overall) will go up against Upper Darby in a contingency game next Saturday afternoon to close out the season.
A week removed from the program’s historic win over Pottsgrove, Pope John Paul II head coach Rory Graver was quick to point out that his team is now 0-2 coming off upset victories.
After beating Phoenixville last month, PJP responded with a 24-21 loss against Upper Merion the following week — where they were outscored 17-7 in the final quarter.
“We stressed it all week,” said Graver, “for us to take the next step as a program, we’ve got to learn how to win those games coming off a big one. We didn’t play our best game today, especially early on.”
The Golden Panthers were dominant in the passing game — 367 yards and four touchdowns from quarterback Matt DeLaurentis — and forced three turnovers on defense, but couldn’t convert offensively when they needed points the most.
As the first half wound down, PJP marched it down to the Methacton red zone, but came up empty after two incompletions and a sack.
Ryan Kormos finished with 154 receiving yards on four catches with a pair of touchdown receptions while Nick Yerger and Brandon Knox both hauled in touchdown grabs. CJ McCafferty finished with 92 receiving yards and two interceptions while Jacob Bildstein came away with one interception.
“Matt (DeLaurentis) has been getting better every day,” said Graver. “He’s carried our offense over the past couple of weeks. That’s helped us to make a lot of good things happen.”
For Methacton, Keenan finished with 164 yards receiving and a pair of touchdown catches while quarterback Jason Eckman completed eight of his 19 passing attempts for 117 yards.
O’Toole, who admitted he hadn’t played quarterback since his Pee-Wee days, looked pretty comfortable slinging the rock from his own end zone Saturday. His 99-yard strike to Keenan proved to be the team’s longest offensive play of the season.
“When coach put it back in the playbook this season, I knew it would come up at a clutch time,” said O’Toole, who now has two passing touchdowns on the season. “It was pretty great to watch John take it up the sideline.”
Keeping the Trend
Although in recent years, Methacton isn’t quite the power it had been in the past, the Warriors have still never lost to Pope John Paul II in six matchups. Saturday’s five-point differential was the closest it’s been as Methacton has dominated the Golden Panthers, holding a 215-100 scoring differential through the years.
Rough Seas Ahead
Next week’s district opener will be nothing easy for the Golden Panthers. Interboro enter with a 9-1 overall record after going 5-0 in the Delaware Valley League. On the season, the Buccaneers have posted five shutouts.
“They’re a very good football team with a really strong defense,” said Graver. “They come directly at you. So it’s going to be quite a test for us, but we’re excited for the opportunity.”
After starting out the season 0-6, Methacton hopes to close it out on a high note — taking four of their final five.
“We talked about reestablishing what it was we wanted out of this season,” said Lepre. “After the slow start, our goal was to come out and finish 5-0 or 4-1 at the worst. Right now, we’re 3-1, so we’ll see how bad we want this one next week.”