RED HILL >> For all the positives during Upper Perkiomen’s recent rise from the Pioneer Athletic Conference basement, there has been one obstacle the Indians haven’t been able to hurdle: Boyertown.
Seven straight and 21 out of the last 24 contests have gone to their bordering rival, the more deflating coming the past two seasons where the Indians came oh so close to snapping a skid that has become a focal point during offseason workouts. “Beat Boyertown” has become the motto and a driving force behind each drill.
Friday night, entering the 60th meeting between the two schools, maybe that goal comes into fruition for Upper Perkiomen which faces the Bears and Mercury All-Area first teamer Jerry Kapp in newly-appointed head coach TJ Miller’s first test with the Bears.
“Facing a team with a new coach opening week concerns us,” Upper Perkiomen head coach Tom Hontz said. “With only one scrimmage to view, it doesn’t give us a lot to work with. The triple option is always tough to defend. (Jerry) Kapp is a stud. We need to establish a physical pace, swarm to the ball on defense and try to contain Kapp.”
Hontz’s concern over Kapp’s playmaking ability is warranted. The senior do-it-all athlete has been a thorn in the side for Hontz and company the past two seasons, both culminating in heart-breaking losses for the boys of Red Hill. He showed off his pass-catching ability two seasons ago, hauling in three passes for 51 yards and a score as the Bears escaped with a 41-36 victory, nearly losing a 20-point lead in the last five minutes. He was then in full form last season at quarterback, rushing for 177 yards and three touchdowns as the Bears overcame a 14-0 deficit for a 34-27 victory.
How Kapp is utilized in Miller’s option attack is still up in the air, but expect him to get a lot of touches for a Bears squad that is looking to start off on the right foot as they try to rebound from three straight seasons of a .500 record or worse.
“I want to see how our culture change translates to the field,” Miller said. “I want to see our kids compete and fight for 48 minutes. (After Saturday’s scrimmage) there are still some wrinkles in the offense that we need to correct. Defensively, we need to get to the ball and play with intensity for 48 minutes. We know Upper Perk is a good football team and we need to come to play.”
Upper Perkiomen begins this season with a new signal caller in their backfield. Senior Tyler Keyser takes over for the graduated Zeke Hallman, who set the school’s all-time mark for most passing yards in a season (1,938), eclipsing the 1,727 set by Sean Nevin in 2005. Keyser’s arm looked good in the team’s opening scrimmage against Wilson (District 11), the most impressive coming on a 30-yard strike to Tyler Whary for a score. Whary, coming strong off a 1,000-yard season looked good in camp said Hontz, same goes to lineman Cole Fryer and halfback Austin Tutolo. Hontz also noted the work from freshman Riley Decker and junior Luke Whary with senior Nick Benner stepping up on the defensive side of the ball. Penalties and turnovers will be their key correction entering Week 1.
“We need to eliminate the mental errors while still being a very physical team,” Hontz said.
Boyertown’s Miller pointed out the efforts of Carter Watts (OL/DL) and Glenn Robinson (DL) in camp. Darryl Carver (LB) also had a good camp and all three are expected to positively impact the team.
Boyertown leads the all-time series 40-16-3. The first game in the series was a 0-0 tie on Thanksgiving Day in 1952 at Boyertown. Since then, the game had been traditionally played on Week 1 before going on a break from the 1993-2000 season.
Here’s a look at the other games featuring Pioneer Athletic Conference teams on Friday night:
Coverage >> @Thomas_Nash10 on Twitter
Let’s Get Crazy >> Perkiomen Valley head coach Rob Heist nearly had his first head coaching win derailed in last season’s meeting when the Vikings nearly surrendered a four-touchdown lead in the final 8:29 of the fourth quarter, eventually eking out a 42-41 victory. Now, the series shifts to Graterford with the Whippets (4-6 in 2016) looking to start off the season on the right foot after a disappointing campaign last year. Quarterback Kyle Geiser returns as a player to watch for West after throwing for 324 yards on an 18-for-34 effort in last year’s opening-week loss. How Perkiomen Valley (12-1) responds to the loss of the winningest senior class in school history will be the major question for the Vikings. Cole Peterlin has taken over quarterbacking duties for the team, which will lean on leadership supplied from players such as Noah Shine, Brian Fehr, Alec Jackson, Jahir Holmes and Remy Sell.
Prediction >> Downingtown West 27, Perkiomen Valley 20
Coverage >> @Emor09 on Twitter
Bounceback? >> Pennridge throttled Norristown last season in an eventual 40-20 victory. This season, Norristown (3-9) has even more to contend with as the Rams (6-6) will start 6-foot-6, 250-pound Oliver Jervis at quarterback. They also bring back Penn State commit Nick Tarburton at linebacker, who will look to give Eagles quarterback Izaiah Webb fits in the backfield.
Prediction >> Pennridge 35, Norristown 15
On the Right Foot >> Radnor’s season-opening 34-10 win over Upper Merion last season was deflating for the Vikings as they struggled to a 3-9 season. The Raiders (5-7) bring back Sean Mullarkey at quarterback after an injury thrust him into the position last season, and defensive lineman Joaquin Hollero, who will look to be extremely disruptive in the backfield. Upper Merion and new head coach Victor Brown will get a big test.
Prediction >> Radnor 28, Upper Merion 14.
Who’s Who >> Time to find out what these Rams are made of after seeing their entire defense depart due to graduation. Spring-Ford (9-3) is Spring-Ford – they’ll always have a wealth of players. The fun this week is to see who will step up in those sharp checkered helmets. Unionville (7-4) will look to bring a bigger test than they did in last year’s 33-3 loss. J.T. Hower will be a player to watch for the Indians. His play on the perimeter will be a test to a youthful and experienced Rams defense.
Prediction >> Unionville 21, Spring-Ford 17
1-2 Punch >> Charlie Wendling and Caliph Jones will look to get Greg Bernhardt’s Vanguard tenure off on the right foot after the former Bonner & Prendergast head coach makes his debut. A 4-0 start propelled the Vanguards to a 6-6 season, but improvement is the major goal for the team. That starts off against Pottstown and first-year head coach Mark Fischer. He’ll look to guide the Trojans to an opening-week win and will look to quarterback Owen Morton, running back Anthony Wiggins and lineman Tom Doyle to help guide him there. True test for Pottstown and could be a good litmus test for the rest of the way in Pottstown.
Prediction >> Sun Valley 33, Pottstown 18
Questions >> Truman is another squad that will look to impress with a new head coach as the Tigers brought in Mike LaPolombara and the Wing-T offense that was successfully run at Pennsbury. They’ll look to bounce back from a 3-7 season last year against a Warriors team that is struggling for numbers and are looking for pieces to replace Dylan Henry, Ryan O’Toole and Jason Eckman.
Prediction >> Truman 21, Methacton 14
Coverage >> @tbagley515 on Twitter
Route 29 Showdown? >> The Route 29 Series has been one-sided the past five seasons as the Patriots have bettered their neighboring foes with relative ease, including last season’s 38-9 victory that was played without 10 of the Phantoms players and head coach Evan Breisblatt. Great Valley four-year starting lineman Xander Utecht (6-2, 270) along with Grayson Jenkins (5-7, 200), Jack McDaid (6-4, 220) and Cade Reat (6-0, 250) will be a huge test for a veteran Phoenixville line that includes Jon Miller and Sean Sabo. The game will be won in the trenches.
Prediction >> Great Valley 24, Phoenixville 14
Coverage >> @MercuryXStover on Twitter
Wildcat Way >> Can’t see this going in any other way but in the Wildcats’ favor. Dawson Stuart, Ted Bradford and the Wildcats are looking to rebound from a self-appointed “disappointing” 7-5 season a year ago. Their journey to the top first goes through the Pioneers (2-6), which are looking to put a very forgettable 2016 in the past and will look to tandem running backs Milton Robinson and Amani Christopher to help them out.
Prediction >> Owen J. Roberts 35, Conestoga 10.
Coverage >> @MercuryXStover on Twitter
Finally the One >> It won’t take until Week 4 for the Golden Panthers to get a win in 2017. It may happen Week 1. The Golden Panthers (4-7) return Matt DeLaurentis at quarterback after he threw for 2,000 yards last season and return playmakers Dan Cirino and Jake Bildstein. They’ll look to start fast against a Lions (3-8) squad that is guided by first-year head coach Andrew Pidgeon.
Prediction >> Pope John Paul II 24, Penncrest 21
Coverage >> @Samuel_Stewart7 on Twitter
Geared and Ready >> It’s hard to see Pottsgrove losing last year’s game against the Burrs with Rahsul Faison in its starting lineup. Faison missed last year’s opening week meeting and still wound up with more than 2,000 yards on the ground. Led by Michael Dickey, Ephraim Hurt-Ramsey and Paris Janusek, the Falcons’ line looks like a Rick Pennypacker-line. Big, strong, smart. They’ll be ready for a West Catholic squad that returns CJ Pressley, a 6-4, 255-pound defensive end with an offer from Morgan State and linebacker Rovny Dasilva, who recorded 98 tackles last season.
Prediction >> Pottsgrove 27, West Catholic 21