LOWER POTTSGROVE >> He ran the ball a workmanlike 28 times Friday, racking up a whopping 360 yards with four touchdown runs covering a large chunk of that mileage.
So it was no surprise to hear Rahsul Faison, after playing a significant role in Pottsgrove winning its District 1 Class AAAA playoff game with Upper Perkiomen 28-14, admitted he was ready for a rest.
“I’m done,” he said jokingly outside the Pottsgrove locker room post-game. “I’ve never had a night like this.”
Faison’s big night saw him extend 11 of his totes for double-digit yardage. Appropriately, they extended the Falcons’ season at least one more week.
“We’ve been there many times,” head coach Rick Pennypacker said of a Pottsgrove program that won the district’s Class AA title in 2009 and 2011, “but none in this group have played for a district title.”
The Falcons’ latest ascent to championship-game qualification pits them against Interboro. The top-seeded Buccaneers completed their half of the title matchup with a 49-12 win over Pope John Paul II in Friday’s other playoff action.
“I haven’t played in a district-title game yet,” Faison said, “but I’m sure the coaches will prepare us well.”
Upper Perk (5-6) came into this rematch with a Pottsgrove unit — one that rolled up a 62-21 victory on it in Week 7 — looking to make the most of its first postseason qualification in head coach Tom Hontz’s three-year tenure. The Indians acquitted themselves well, trailing by just one touchdown (14-7) up to the fourth quarter, when the Falcons (7-4) scored twice in just under four minutes to stamp their title-game ticket.
“I couldn’t be prouder of these kids,” Hontz said. “They (Pottsgrove) hung 63 points on us the last time, and tonight the kids battled.”
As Faison did for his team, Zeke Hallman filled a similar role for the Indians. The senior quarterback threw 39 passes, completing 20 of them for 204 yards and one of the two touchdowns he scored.
Hallman’s four-yard hookup with Tyler Keyser inside the final minute of the second quarter got UP on the board. He went on to cap a 10-play, 77-yard march on the Indians’ final possession with a four-yard jaunt around his left end with 1:36 left in the game, tacking on the conversion kick both times.
“He was a tremendous leader for us,” Hontz said of Hallman, whose finale was marred by an interception and 22 yards of losses off three sacks. “We’re going to miss him. It was nice to see the final touchdown scored by him.”
Faison got his big night going on Pottsgrove’s second possession. He ran the ball on six of 10 plays, finishing the drive with a 17-yard sprint around his left end at the 4:08 mark of the first quarter.
His second TD proved to be the biggest of the night. After the Pottsgrove defense stopped UP on a fourth-and-one at its 12, Faison again went around his left end and out-raced the Indian defenders 89 yards along the home-team sideline for a 14-0 lead 3:40 before the half.
“We just powered them,” he said of the Falcons’ offensive game plan. “They over-leaded the right side, and we just powered to the left side.”
The fleet-footed junior got his team back on track in the fourth, scoring touchdowns on successive possessions. He had a four-yard burst up the middle at the 8:58 mark; and after the Falcons got the ball back with Adam Girafalco’s interception at the home team’s 16-yard line, he covered 47 yards on an off-tackle run around the five-minute mark.
He was quick to credit the Pottsgrove offensive line — Justin Adams, Ephriam Hurt-Ramsey, Ryan Cassidy, Malachi Hurt-Ramsey, Dylan Rolando — for his monster rushing numbers.
“I wasn’t able to do this without the line,” Faison said. “They did their job, and I was able to do mine.”
On the defensive side, the Falcons’ Ryan Bodolus and Tyler Smith dropped Hallman for lost yardage three times in the third quarter. For the night, they limited the UP ground game to 58 yards, Tyler Whary (44 on 13 carries) accounting for the bulk of it.
“One of the hardest things to do is play a team a second time in a season,” Pennypacker noted. “I give Upper Perk a lot of credit. They came in with nothing to lose.”
He also voiced concerns about his team’s state of mind following a 28-14 loss to Perkiomen Valley in last week’s Pioneer Athletic Conference championship game.
“Our kids didn’t practice well this week,” Pennypacker said. “It’s tough to get kids to play at a high level two weeks in a row. But I’m happy we’re moving on.”
For his part, Hontz saw the district-playoff experience a good one for his program.
“Our goal was to be playing November football,” he said. “Right now there are some tears on the side, and they’re probably burning. With this experience, maybe we’ll do more than just get there.”
NOTES >> In keeping with the program’s longstanding tradition, Pottsgrove’s nine senior players took one final walk on the Pennypacker Field gridiron after the game, going arm-in-arm from one end zone to the other. … Pottsgrove got all but 27 of its 438 yards total offense on the ground. Javon Colbert (five carries, 26 yards) and quarterback Ryan Finn (five totes, 16 yards) were the next gainers behind Faison. … Hallman had a particularly solid night punting for UP, averaging 45.5 yards per kick. His first two boots went for more than 50 yards.
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