LOWER POTTSGROVE >> Its running game has an enviable pedigree.
Exeter’s offensive backfield boasts a pair of 1,000 yard rushing seniors in quarterback Brandon Unterkoefler and running back Nick Sarangoulis. Add to that a third senior, Gage Moran, who has the ability to both pick up hard yards in the trenches and break off double-digit runs.
The Eagles exploited that trio of leggy performers Friday evening, when they opened their season against Boyertown. Their combined 395 ground yards and four touchdowns were key to a 26-14 victory over the Bears at BASH Memorial Stadium.
So how much of a challenge is it for Matt Bauer’s coaching staff to keep that stable of runners happy with the number of touches they get?
“They’re very selfless kids,” Exeter’s field boss said. “They want to win, and they’re unselfish … they’ll block for their teammates.”
It was a stout test for a Boyertown unit on the rebound from last week’s season-opening 42-21 loss to Upper Perkiomen. The Bears hung with their guests through the first half and a good part of the second, keeping it a one-touchdown game until Exeter put up a final score with 2:51 left in the game.
“They have two 1,000-yard rushers, and a powerful line,” first-year Boyertown head coach T.J. Miller said, “but our kids played their butts off.”
Boyertown tried to counter Exeter’s ground-pounding ways with the throwing of quarterback Ayden Mathias and fellow signal-caller Jerome Kapp, used more in a receiver’s role. That duo hooked up three times for 34 yards and a five-yard scoring shot that brought Exeter’s lead down to 19-14 inside the final minute of the third quarter.
But after seeing their next possession ground to a halt at the Bear 25, the Eagles cashed in on their next possession. They went from their 14 to the end zone in seven plays, Moran (11 carries, 65 yards) going up the middle for the last one off Sarangoulis’ electrifying 60-yard run to the one.
Boyertown then drove from its 33 to the Exeter 17 on 10 plays, intent on getting another touchdown back. But the clock ran off to leave them unfinished at the end.
“Our kids played tough. They stepped up to the challenge,” Miller noted. “They faced a team that could end up with a Berks Division I title, and they stayed with them.”
Sarangoulis ended up with a whopping 258 yards on 22 carries. He set an apparent fast tone for Exeter with a 45-yard sprint around his right end at the 9:52 mark of the first quarter.
But that would be all the scoring until the 9:41 mark of the third quarter, when Sarangoulis finished a kickoff-opening drive with a 22-yard bull up the middle. The Eagles saw two promising first-half drives into Boyertown territory end on downs at the 19, and another culminate with a missed 30-yard field goal. Kapp’s interception of an Unterkoefler pass at the Boyertown 30 put the brakes on another Eagle drive inside the final minute of the first half.
“We have to clear a lot of things up,” Bauer said. “We made mistakes and let them keep around us.”
Boyertown’s offense got untracked little more than three minutes into the third quarter. Jamison Moccia covered 45 yards on a sprint around his left end which, capped by the first of Declan Coyle’s two conversion kicks, cut the Eagles’ lead to 13-7.
Exeter answered with Unterkoefler (72 yards on 17 totes) scoring on an off-tackle run on its next series. Then Mathias (7-for-16, 97 yards) found Kapp (three catches, 34 yards) on a five-yard pass play to the right side which, followed by Declan Coyle’s conversion kick, cut the Eagles’ lead to 19-14.
“With a player like Kapp out there, you have to pay attention to him,” Miller said.
The Bear defense made another deep stop on Exeter’s next possession, halting the visitors at the locals’ 25. But they were forced to punt the ball away eight plays later, and the Eagles tacked on an insurance touchdown that left Boyertown fighting the clock down the stretch.
“We have a couple players who are able to spread things around,” Miller said. “We have athletes, and we’re starting to move things again.”
The Boyertown defense left Unterkoefler 5-for-13 and gaining just 64 yards in the passing game. His biggest strike was a 24-yard toss to Matt Feeney, who covered 31 on a pair of catches.
“We’re starting to play a more full game,” Miller said. “Last week we spotted (Upper Perkiomen) 14 points. We started to fight this week.”
With his team’s debut in the books, Bauer sees it not yet a finished product in spite of its running prowess.
“We still have question marks,” he said, “and we’ll address them to the best of our ability. We have to tackle better, and eliminate mistakes.”
NOTES >> Marcus Thomas was Boyertown’s rushing leader with 65 yards on 15 carries. … Kevin O’Connor contributed another 46 yards on a pair of catches to the Bears’ air game. … Robert Stahl ended with an unexpected 10-yard run near the game’s end, the senior lineman recovering a fumble and making a first-down run.
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