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Mercury Area Week 1 Football Preview

BUCKTOWN >> Owen J. Roberts could do no right during a hellish 12-minute span in last year’s meeting with Great Valley.

Thirty-five straight points were rung up in a second quarter against the Wildcats in their own backyard as they saw their chances of starting 2-0 dwindle score by score in what ended up a deflating 42-26 defeat.

This year the Wildcats have the same at stake — a 2-0 start for the first time since 2009 ­— against a Dan Ellis-led Great Valley team that is coming in hot after a solid performance against Phoenixville.

An away win Friday night would be huge for the Boys of Bucktown.

“Like Coach (Rich) Kolka says, the teams that go 2-0 in the first three games have an 80 percent better chance of making the playoffs,” senior linebacker Brendan Krumenacker said. “That’s what we’re going for now.”

They’ll need to do a complete 180 from last year’s effort to get there. In a game marred by poor open-field tackling and a lack of physicality on both sides of the ball, the Wildcats saw GV quarterback Robert Geiss and Ryan Hubley put on a clinic in the tide-turning second quarter. Geiss ended up with 341 passing yards and four touchdowns, Hubley four receptions for 189 yards and a score … all in the first half.

“We didn’t put on a very good display of tackling and they scored 35 points on us in the second quarter. I’ve never seen a quarter like that before,” Kolka said. “We missed a lot of tackles and they had a lot of big plays: 72 yards, 65 yards, 58 yards. We’ve been pressing on tackling in the open field which we were working on (Wednesday) so hopefully we can perform better. We were much better in Game 1 with open field tackling so hopefully that carries through.”

“Last year our tackling was atrocious,” Krumenacker added. “Coaches have reminded us and they keep telling us how bad it was. We know that and we just need to be physical going into it.”

Based on opening-week reflections, open-field tackling is improving. The defense turned in a solid effort in OJR’s 26-6 opening-week victory over Conestoga and will look to captains Krumenacker, Sean Praweckyj along with Jake Puderbach, Aidan Hayward, Dawson Stuart, Ryan Cusic and Ted Bradford to establish a physical presence Friday night against a new-look Patriot squad.

“We have to step on the gas as soon as the game starts,” Krumenacker said. “We just need to keep pushing and pushing.”

“One thing we’ve been concentrating on a lot during practice is being physical,” Praweckyj added. “We have to be physical with these guys.”

Hubley and Geiss have departed through graduation but the Patriots didn’t miss a beat in their opening-week 50-31 victory over Phoenixville. The ever-dangerous connection of Damien Carter and Nate Graeff went off in the victory, Carter throwing for 163 yards and rushing for 124 more with the 6-2, 230-pound tight end Graeff finishing with 168 yards on eight receptions and three scores. Graeff’s size and overall package (run blocking is phenomenal) will be key for Great Valley. Add in Alex Crouse, who picked up 185 yards on 15 carries, and the Patriots are looking strong as ever entering the season’s second week.

“They have three big weapons we’re concerned with,” Kolka said. “Their quarterback is really, really fast. He’s got great speed. Their running back is really good and their tight end is enormous.

He’s 6-4 and he can fly. They’re going to be hard to stop.”

Prediction >> Great Valley 26, Owen J. Roberts 24

Here’s a look at the other games on Friday night:

Perkiomen Valley at Upper Dublin, 7 p.m.
The Vikings couldn’t really ask any more from their defense after shutting out Downingtown West in a crushing 38-0 victory in the opening week. Senior defensive end Alec Jackson was virtually unblockable throughout, finishing with four tackles for a loss and four batted passes. The offense, meanwhile, also passed their first test. First-year starting quarterback Cole Peterlin performed well, running for 151 yards on 17 carries and a touchdown, for a versatile offense that saw nine players touch the ball. They’ll hope their momentum can carry against a Cardinals squad that should be well rested after forgoing Week 0. A Class 5A district playoff team a season ago, Upper Dublin only brings back five starters from last season’s 9-2 squad and its success is up in the air according to head coach Bret Stover. “We could go 6-3 or 3-6,” he said in an interview with Digital First Media during training camp, “but I know the young kids will be getting experience, so that’s how we have to approach the season.”
Continued improvement >> A 38-0 final doesn’t mean that a team is well off. PV is still looking to clean up some mistakes entering Week 1.
“We have first time starters in our secondary, so we had a few missed assignments last week but they are correctable,” PV head coach Rob Heist said. “On Offense it’s a similar story, we just need to keep practicing with a purpose and keep fine tuning our concepts through repetition so we can ultimately execute better.”
Tough Draw >> Facing the reigning Class 6A district semifinalist is a tough way for Upper Dublin to get going, but ultimately won’t dictate what kind of season they’ll have. “It was either them or Imhotep,” Stover said. “If we get a face plant in Week One, then we get a face plant.”
Prediction >> Perkiomen Valley 35, Upper Dublin 20

Methacton at Pottsgrove, 7 p.m.
Another team coming off a standout game defensively is the Falcons (1-0) as they wreaked havoc in the backfield all game long in a 14-0 victory over West Catholic last Saturday.
They’ll go up against a Methacton squad that was on the other end of the coin, falling to Harry S. Truman 48-0 in their game last week in a game that saw the Warriors failing to line up correctly and were sluggish off the ball. Head coach Paul Lepre, however, has seen improvement throughout this week in practice which will be tested against a deep and talented Pottsgrove squad. “The whole team is practicing to get better,” Lepre said. “Pottsgrove has many go-to players on offense. If you focus on shutting down the run they have weapons through the air. Also, they have strong aggressive linemen who come off the ball and their defense makes it hard to run or pass.
Champions Night >> Pottsgrove will honor past champions and will present the second Football Hall of Fame class during the game. Always a special moment for Falcons both past and present, head coach Rick Pennypacker wants his team to come out focused and ready. “Methacton always has tough kids and is well coached,” Pennypacker said. “I think Paul and his staff do a great job. We need to stay focus and play with the energy we played with last week. This is Championship weekend at the Grove as we honor all former players and championship teams. Our players will witness the players who built this program and will hopefully play to their expectations.”
Prediction >> Pottsgrove 42, Methacton 10

Upper Merion at Martin Luther King, 7 p.m.
Expect another drag-it-out game between the Golden Cougars and Upper Merion as both teams enter the second week of play after losses in their opener. Upper Merion is trying to bounce back from a 52-22 loss to Radnor in Victor Brown’s first game at the helm. Cleaning up and being more disciplined should go a long way in doing so. “We must be more disciplined and play smarter to minimize penalties,” Brown said. “This game is difficult enough for us without giving field position. We also cannot afford to extend drives for our opponents and give away yards.”
What to Look Out For >> Martin Luther King brings versatile Salim Dixon under center. Dixon, a junior, was a bright spot for MLK in last week’s 20-10 loss to Wissahickon, rushing for his first varsity touchdown. “Offensively, MLK has explosive skill players and a quarterback that can run,” Brown said. “They will spread the field and look to create 1-on-1 match ups with their formations.”
Prediction >> Martin Luther King 18, Upper Merion 15



Exeter at Boyertown, 7 p.m.
His first game as a head coach ended in frustration. Now, in search of his first victory as a high school head coach, Boyertown’s TJ Miller will face a familiar foe from his Berks County days: Exeter. A test it will be for a Boyertown squad that started out flat in an eventual 42-21 loss to Upper Perkiomen last week and is looking to avoid their first 0-2 start 2008. “We need to do a better job of starting the game with a purpose,” Miller said. “We’re focusing on playing 48 minutes. We can’t afford to spot teams 14 points early in games. Marcus Thomas is starting to really run with a purpose. Nick Moccia is stepping up as a leader. We are seeing improvement.”
Exeter returns two 1,000-yard rushers from a season ago in senior quarterback Brandon Unterkoefler (1,128 rushing yards and 1,457 passing yards) and senior running back Nick Sarangoulis (1,211 yards). The Eagles will look to get their season started off on a high note against a Boyertown squad that they have beaten in six of the eight games the two have played against one another.
“Exeter is a well-coached team,” Miller said. “Coach Matthew Bauer has done a great job of establishing a culture of winning and pride since he took over that program. There is always a concern when facing a team that is returning two 1,000 yard rushes. Defensively, we need to play our assignments, make the right reads, and fly to the ball. Offensively, we need to stay on our blocking assignments longer.”
Historic >> Friday’s game marks the 815th game in school history. The Bears are 381-410-23.
Prediction >> Exeter 28, Boyertown 20

Upper Perkiomen at Kutztown, 7 p.m.
It’s been eight years since Upper Perkiomen started a season 2-0, and after last week’s victory over Boyertown, the tide is turning in the Indians’ favor to make some history. They’ll take on Kutztown who is yet again rebuilding after letting go head coach Matt Hoffert after he oversaw a program break a 41-game losing streak and finish with the most wins since 2008 (four). Charlie Maddocks enters his first season at the helm of Kutztwn. He was a former assistant at Fleetwood before spending last season as an assistant with Lancaster Catholic.
Getting Over the Hump >> Upper Perkiomen’s ability to snap a seven-game losing streak to Boyertown was one of their goals throughout the entire offseason. “I’m more worried about our focus,” UP head coach Tom Hontz said. “After getting over the hump with Boyertown, we can’t get complacent. Kutztown will throw all sorts of schemes at you and they have some athletes who can really get after it. They had a bye week one, so there is a lot of unknown about them as well.”
Standing Out >> Senior Roberto Rosado, a big presence in the middle at 300 pounds, is showing UP’s coaching staff that he can contribute on defense. The coaching staff was also pleased to have Mark Naples back to give some depth along the offensive line.
Prediction >> Upper Perkiomen 42, Kutztown 14


Upper Moreland at Phoenixville, 7 p.m.
Phoenixville’s offense fared as well as they could have hoped after the departure of a slew of talented upperclassmen, including school rushing yards leader Matt Garcia. The Phantoms churned out more than 320 yards of total offense and went toe-to-toe with Great Valley up until the second half where they ran out of gas and lost veteran leader Bobby Strunk for most of the final 24 minutes. That lack of energy can’t happen again against Upper Moreland, which comes in hot after defeating William Tennent 41-14 in its opener. Caleb Mead rushed for 259 yards with a touchdown with Sterlen Barr adding 98 yards as the team rushed for 450 yards and amassed near 500 yards of total offense.
Difference Maker >> Once again, the battle in the trenches will go a long way in deciding this one. “Upper Moreland presents many challenges as they won big last week,” Phoenixville head coach Evan Briesblatt said. “They are big up front and have very good skill players. Their backs are touchdowns waiting to happen. We will need to sure up our tackling and stop the run to have a chance.”
Prediction >> Upper Moreland 35, Phoenixville 31

Pottstown at Solanco, 7 p.m.
Solanco’s option attack is back and ready to give the Trojans fits similar to last year’s 36-6 trouncing at Grigg Memorial Stadium. Pottstown will need to sure up their defensive line … and quick … after allowing 259 yards on the ground (361 in total) in last week’s 27-7 loss to Sun Valley. Junior quarterback Joel McGuire returns under center for Solanco and will be running behind a vaunted offensive line that consists of Joey Gote, Nick Dillon, Alex Hindman, Averex Grant and Kaleb Tucker.
Prediction >> Solanco 35, Pottstown 18


Northeastern at Daniel Boone, 7 p.m.
Seniors Josh Ehst and Spencer McIntosh, along with junior John Boraten, have headed the team’s iron-pumping effort in a record-breaking offseason workout regiment. Head coach Bill Parks hopes those achievements in the weight room will set the tone for the Blazers as they work to improve on last year’s 3-7 record (2-4 in Berks Section 1).
“In football, there’s an old saying that games are won in the offseason,” Parks said. “The guys really came together in the offseason, putting in the work. They set goals, achieved them and set them higher.”
The offseason work will show as Daniel Boone hosts a Northeastern squad that trounced them 60-6 in last season’s opener, but only return four starters from last year’s squad, including senior wide receiver/cornerback/returner Taemar Willis. He’s the only Bobcat to register any stats against Daniel Boone last season, rushing one time for four yards.
Prediction >> Daniel Boone 28, Northeastern 17



Spring-Ford at Chester, 10:30 a.m.
Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubaker called last week’s practices one of the worst in his time guiding the Rams. That week culminated in a 26-17 loss to Ches-Mont’s Unionville. If nothing else, the Rams could took some lessons from the game as their daunting non-league schedule ramps up. “Ninety percent of our kids have not seen themselves on film or been critiqued off of film by our staff because they’ve not been on the varsity field prior,” Brubaker said. “There are improvements to be made across the board and, hopefully, seeing themselves on film will close the gap between what they perceived they were doing and what they were actually doing. Film doesn’t lie.”
Speaking of practice >> “We had three of the worst practices we’ve had in my time at Spring-Ford last week,” Brubaker said. “Mental focus and toughness are an issue with our players right now. They need to realize that good play in practice is not an on/off switch. It’s something that needs to be consciously and purposefully implemented rep after rep. We’ve been and will continue to reinforce that concept.”
Saturday morning fiesta >> What’s better than a Saturday afternoon game? A morning game … said no one ever. Spring-Ford will hope their 6 a.m. start time at preseason camp will aid them in playing a contest at a site that probably won’t be too filled with fans and against a Clippers squad that is hungry after falling 40-6 over Haverford High last weekend. “They (Clippers) have some really good skill kids,” Brubaker said. “If we take a play off here and there like we did at times last Friday, we’re going to create trouble for ourselves. Additionally, it’s a Saturday morning game, and it’s probably not going to be the size crowd we’re used to. For us, who’ve struggled to create energy, it’s a concern.”
Chevy >> Spring-Ford is raffling off a car from Patriot Chevrolet. Raffle tickets are $20 and can be purchased from any football family, at Patriot Chevrolet, or at any of our first four home games. Winner will be announced at our last home game at halftime.
Prediction >> Spring-Ford 28, Chester 10



Sun Valley at Pope John Paul II, 1 p.m.
What will it take for the Golden Panthers to reach their first 2-0 start in school history? A lot of what they did against Penncrest. A pinpoint-accurate passing game coupled with a pass defense that recorded four interceptions was enough to lift PJP to a 43-7 victory and have them riding high entering what should be a heavy tilt with Sun Valley. “Sun Valley is a well coached, physical football team,” PJP head coach Rory Graver said. “They have playmakers on offense and play sound fundamental defense. We need to be ready to play from the start this week.”
Standouts in practice >> On the offensive side of the ball, offensive linemen Nick Galbraith, Denver Francis, Brandon Synder, Rick Garofolo, Bryan Bendig and Mike Ronca are focused and continue to improve. Defensively, PJP’s linebacker rotation of CJ McCafferty, Chris Haffey, Andrew Duff, AJ Natale, and Justin Mitala are competing at a high level.
Welcome to the Big Show >> Sophomore Justin Mitala was solid in his first varsity game, finishing with nine tackles and an interception. Offensively, he caught a 34-yard touchdown pass.
Prediction >> Sun Valley 24, Pope John Paul II 22

Interboro at Norristown, 1 p.m.
Norristown head coach Jason Powel said his team learned some valuable lessons in last week’s 41-7 loss to Pennridge. They’ll again be put to the test as reigning District 1 Class 4A runner-up Interboro comes into town after seeing the 1-2 punch of Kalie Kuyateh (134 yards, two touchdowns) and Joe Forte (62 yards) rush for 196 yards in a 26-13 victory over Strath Haven.
“We feel optimistic as a team overall,” Powel said. “Facing an over-sized and well-oiled machine in Pennridge for our first test, we made some correctable mistakes, sure, but we felt we gained some confidence on both sides of the ball. Interboro will not be as large, however they will bring their pads and they get off the ball fast. They are a smash mouth team who wants to execute a run game. So this will give us yet another measure to see where we are defensively.”
Prediction >> Interoboro 27, Norristown 13



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