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Upper Merion hopes to end season on high note

The Upper Merion football season did not go as planned. The school’s first season in the Pioneer Athletic Conference resulted in a 3-8 overall record with a 2-3 mark in league play. It finished No. 20 in the District 1 Class-5A power rankings — four spots away from a playoff berth.

But there is still one game left. The Vikings will face rival Norristown on Thanksgiving Day.

“The year didn’t go the way we wanted to,” Upper Merion coach Hal Smith said. “We wanted to be in the playoffs, we just missed that a couple of weeks back. (Thanksgiving against Norristown) is a game. Every time you compete you want to go out and win no matter what. I don’t think it will salvage the season, but it’s another opportunity to go out there and try to win a game.”

After a 26-year break from the holiday rivalry, the teams played on Turkey Day last year. The Vikings won the game, 33-21, to take a 16-15-5 lead in the Thanksgiving Day game series.

In last year’s game, Upper Merion used plenty of trickery. It opened the game with an onsides kick and later ran a reverse wide receiver pass that resulted in a touchdown. Smith wouldn’t say whether the Vikings are going to try plays like that again.

“We’ll have to see,” he said. “It depends. We saw things on film last year that gave us those opportunities to take the onside — saw things we thought we could get by the film. This year is a different team. (Norristown) has a different team, so things are a little bit different. I don’t know if we’ll see all that stuff.”

This year’s game is at Norristown. While it doesn’t have the same mystique that the rivalry had back in the day at Roosevelt Field, people around the Vikings program are still looking forward to it.

“Not like last year when it was the first time coming back,” Smith said of the buzz around the game, “but I’ve talked to some of the kids and they’re excited about it — even the kids that don’t play. A couple alumni who played before are coming back home and have texted me and things like that about coming out to the game.”

This will be the Vikings first game in nearly three weeks. Last time out they lost to Northampton, 21-0, on Nov. 4.

“It’s been practice and film study, things like that, then we’ll get a day off,” Smith said of how they’ve handled the long gap between games. “They were off (Monday), then we’ll practice Tuesday and Wednesday. We’ll do our final stuff on Tuesday and Wednesday and get ready for Thursday.”

Upper Merion and Norristown (2-9, 1-4 PAC) will kick off at 10 a.m.

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