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Upper Dublin downs Upper Moreland, earns share of SOL American title

UPPER DUBLIN >>  The Upper Dublin football team ended up celebrating a championship Friday night. Not that the Cardinals were planning on it.

“This whole week we were completely focused on Upper Moreland,” UD quarterback Justin Horn said. “Coach (Bret Stover) said it – Quakertown-PW was not even mentioned all week at practice. It was not in our minds out at all.”

Trailing first place Plymouth Whitemarsh by a game in the Suburban One League American Conference standings, Upper Dublin had to take care of its own business with visiting Upper Moreland then get some helps from Quakertown.

The Cardinals got both. After ending the first quarter tied 7-7 with the Golden Bears, UD scored 34 straight points and cruised to a 41-21 victory. Quakertown, meanwhile, topped the Colonial 26-17 give both Upper Dublin and PW a share of the SOL American crown.

“It was out of our hands, we had to take care of what we did here,” Stover said. “And I commended my guys in the huddle – focus on what you need to do and everything else takes care of itself or it doesn’t. And tonight it did.”

Horn threw three touchdowns passes and ran for another score as Upper Dublin (8-1, 6-1 conference) stayed on top of the American for a third straight year – having won the title outright the previous two seasons – and heads into the District 1-5A postseason with momentum.

“Definitely not the way we’d like to do it,” said Horn on clinching their share of the title. “We took care of business, took care of what we could control and got the job done.”

Upper Moreland (5-5, 2-5) pulled level with UD on Sterlen Barr Jr.’s 85-yard kickoff return for a TD with 44.4 seconds left in the opening quarter. But the Golden Bears struggled to get going on offense throughout the contest and trailed 41-6 before two Caleb Mead touchdown runs.

“I told our kids, look, they’re a quality football team and they came out and the provided it tonight,” said Upper Moreland coach Adam Beach of the Cards. “I was glad to see our kids didn’t quit in the second half, they kept fighting. We were able to get a couple scores at the end to make it a little more respectable.

“Hats off to them, they’re a quality team, they’re going to playoffs. We’re going to the same playoffs. I think they’re going to be tough to beat. And that’s what I told my team and that’s what pretty much happened tonight.”

Upper Dublin came into Friday fourth in the latest District 1-5A power rankings and with the win should stay in the top four, guaranteeing UD – last year’s District 1-AAAA champ – at least two home games in the 16-team tournament.

“We were playing for some home playoff games,” Stover said. “Home field we found that out, it’s tough to go on the road. No matter where you are, it’s tough to go on the road, especially if you travel far.”

Upper Moreland was 14th in the 5A power rankings before Friday’s loss.

Michael Cottom caught a pair of touchdown passes from Horn, who finished 9-of-18 for 105 yards. Naiim Huff had a game-high 145 yards and a score on 14 carries as the Cardinals compiled 334 yards on the ground.

“We’re multi-dimensional that we take what you give us. And Adam does a really nice job of taking stuff away from us and we just have to find the right piece at the right time,” Stover said. “I enjoying playing him cause they come with a plan and it takes us a little while. It took us three drives before we got things going and that’s a tribute to him and what he does with his players.”

Mead had 132 yards and 2 TDs on eight carries for UM while quarterback Casey Decker was 15-off-22 passing for 87 yards.

“We had a hard time blocking them tonight,” Beach said. “And when you have a hard time blocking people, it’s hard to get anything done.

Upper Dublin came up empty on its first two possessions – turning the ball over on downs on its second drive at the UM 16 – but took a 7-0 lead on its third as Malik Bootman muscled in from two yards out at 55.4 seconds in the first quarter.

Barr Jr.’s kickoff return touchdown made it 7-7 before the Cardinals reclaimed the lead on a six-play, 60-yard drive Horn finished by rolling right and finding JT Breslin the back of the end zone for an 16-yard score at 11:12 in the second quarter.

“You really never know what to expect on plays like that,” Horn said. “You come out and it’s just nothing’s there. You got to string the play along and trust your guys to get open and hang in there as long as you can.”

The Cardinals pushed their advantage to 21-7 with an 11-play, 46-yard drive capped by Horn hitting Cottom on an out route for an 8-yard score at 3:51.

With 23 seconds left in the half, Horn found Cottom over the middle for a 15-yard touchdown to send UD into the break up 28-7.

“He’s one of the best athletes I’ve ever seen at the high school level,” said Horn of Cottom. “He’s like a Darren Sproles kind of player, you can put him anywhere on the field, he’s pretty much going to do damage.”

After forcing an Upper Moreland punt on the first series of the third quarter, UD needed just two plays for a 35-7 lead. Huff rumbled down the field for 52 yards while Horn dashed 27 yards into the end zone at 8:53.

Huff scored on a four-yard touchdown run at 2:55 with a blocked extra point putting UD up 41-6.

Mead’s 54-yard TD run as time expired in the third made it 41-14. The sophomore found the end zone again on a 50-yard run with 49.4 seconds left.

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