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Mercury Week 3 Football Preview: D’Arcangelo, Spring-Ford on a mission; Night football returns to Pottstown

ROYERSFORD >> He spent nearly a week this summer in the Dominican Republic building homes for the less fortunate in the lands outside of Santiago.

Spring-Ford students Ben D’Arcangelo, left, and Alex Shirley, right, visited the Dominican Republic this summer to help build homes as part of a mission trip with the youth group of the Christ Church of the Valley. (Submitted photo)

Now, senior nose guard Ben D’Arcangelo is still seeing construction, this time with a Spring-Ford football program that is looking to mesh together after a two-week stretch has left the Rams with a 1-1 record and a date with District 3 powerhouse Wilson looming Friday night at 7 p.m.

“We definitely have a lot of room to improve on with regards of knowing our stuff, knowing what we need to do,” D’Arcangelo said. “I think, because we have a young team, we don’t understand the importance of film and making sure we know our stuff. We have the physical ability to do all of this. Mentally is where we’re lacking with the mesh of all these new guys coming together. I think we’ve been able to mesh more, we’ve been able to have that drive. We just need to have that upbeat tempo that we had in the past.”

D’Arcangelo speaks from experience: the more work the Rams put in, the greater their rewards will be. It’s tried and true and was evident during his stay near the heart of the Dominican Republic with teammate Alex Shirley, who both went on a mission trip with their youth group at Christ Church of the Valley to build homes for those without them. Arduous would be too light of an adjective to describe the work the duo put in. Three days of hand mixing concrete, laying the foundation, raising walls and finishing work were taxing, yet highly rewarding as they got to interact with the culture that surrounded them,

“The work ethic that we had to have down there was immense,” D’Arcangelo said. “Alex and I were viewed as the guys down there. The leaders were like, ‘Hey these guys are the biggest and strongest guys we have there, we have to put them to work.’ We worked 10-hour days, hauling cement, brick, sand, rock. Our leaders would assign us tasks and we would be unsupervised and we’d go out and do it, help out the community around us.

“We were in some really poor areas and it was really fulfilling to see these families be able to have their own home. It really put things into perspective. The more that you put into something is what you’re going to get out of it. You want to work hard for those families and for God, who we were there for. If you want to work hard for them and for God, you can truly accomplish anything.”

* * *

With Wilson, fresh off a 21-14 loss to Governor Mifflin, coming into Ram Country looking not to fall to 0-2 for the first time since 1993, the Rams’ improvement throughout the last two weeks will be tested. Head coach Chad Brubaker hopes that it starts to shine through in Week 3.

“Our players have not been watching enough film on their own, and we have made that a goal for the week,” he said. “We know that Wilson is going to improve dramatically from Week 1 to Week 2. We’re hoping that we delayed that improvement to this week. We are obviously concerned about No. 28 (running back Iggy Reynoso) and No. 12 (quarterback Connor Uhrig) offensively. We need to pursue to the ball and tackle much better than we have in our first two games. Most importantly, we have to protect the football. We just have to play better in every phase of the game.”

Fast Facts

– Uhrig finished last year’s double-overtime 41-40 victory with 271 passing yards and three touchdowns to go along with 83 rushing yards on 17 attempts.
– Wilson lost to Governor Mifflin, 21-14, last week. It was the first win for Mifflin in seven tries.
– Spring-Ford has more fumbles in its first two games (seven) than they had all of last season (12 games).

Prediction >> Wilson 24, Spring-Ford 21

The lights will be back on at Pottstown’s Grigg Memorial Stadium Friday night with the Trojans football team hosts Bishop Shanahan. (John Armato – For DFM)

Let it Shine

Owen Morton used to dream of playing under the lights at Pottstown High School’s Grigg Memorial Field. Same too for Jamal Adams, Tom Doyle and Anthony Wiggins.

Each as a young kid up through middle school would make the trip to their hometown field and dream about being on the field in their high school days playing in front of their hometown, their family and friends. When the lights went out, so did their dreams.

Now, the lights are back and so are the Trojans’ dreams, which will be realized Friday night when Pottstown hosts Bishop Shanahan under the lights for the first time since the 2013 season.

“It’s going to be a great moment for us to be able to finally step out onto our home field on a Friday night,” Morton, now a senior quarterback, said. “We’ve waited a long time for this to happen. It’s a dream come true.”

“Having this for our senior year is huge,” added Adams. “We’ve been raising money for a long time and to finally have it the year before we leave high school, it’s going to bring some excitement to our program.”

With the help of a $250,000 grant bestowed by State Sen. Robert Mensch, Pottstown has stadium lights again, installed during the summer and tested regularly in the past week in anticipation of Friday night’s re-debut.

Four years have passed since Pottstown played their last night game at Grigg Memorial Stadium, a 40-0 loss to Spring-Ford. The lights were removed later that school year in May of 2014 due to safety concerns of the old wooden beams that supported the light structure.

The construction crews removed more than dilapidated wooden beams when they hauled the lights away.

Attendance sunk dramatically. Saturday games often were sights of a quarter-filled stadium, most coming and going throughout the game. Even a winning record didn’t matter too much. The stands stood a little more crowded as Brandon Tinson and the Trojans sprung to a 6-1 start in 2015 that ended with a berth into the District 1 Class 3A playoffs. Attendance returned to normal last season as Morton and the Trojans struggled to a 2-9 finish.

“When we were young and growing up into middle school, we used to watch the games on Friday night and we imagined playing there just like that when we got into high school,” Morton said.

“Once we got into high school and found out that we didn’t have the lights, it was a gut punch.”

Prospects didn’t appear promising entering Morton’s senior season, either. The Pottstown School District didn’t have the money to take on the $300,000 cost for the new lighting system and the community’s Save the Lights campaign struggled to gain traction among a community that questioned the importance of the lights on nearly all articles posted on The Pottstown Mercury’s Facebook page.

All changed when Mensch appeared at a school board meeting in the spring with a grant in hand.

“There’s nothing like a home Friday night game,” running back Anthony Wiggins said. “You get butterflies going to an away Friday night game. When you’re home, you have your own people here in your own backyard doing what you love to do. I feel as if the whole vibe is completely different now that we have lights.”

They’ll get it all started against a Bishop Shanahan squad that comes in with a record of 2-0 following victories over West Philadelphia (48-6) and Glen Mills (28-16). Dan Beneditto comes in at quarterback with a Ches-Mont best 193.6 passer rating, throwing for 271 yards and five touchdowns in the two wins. Defensively, the Eagles have allowed a Ches-Mont best 113 yards per game.

“We have focused on improving our tackling this week for Bishop Shanahan,” first-year head coach Mark Fischer said. “They give you a lot to prepare for with formations and packages. We want to put pressure on their quarterback. He will run the ball a lot. They are very physical up front blocking for him.”

Correcting mistakes will be the goal for Fischer and Pottstown, which enters 0-2 following losses to Sun Valley and Solanco. Morton and the Wiggings brothers (Anthony and Josiah) have shown promise in the two losses, same too sophomore Jon Oister, who played well at linebacker in last week’s loss.

“From Week 2, we made too many mistakes on each side of the ball,” Fischer said. “Our goal all week was to correct the mistakes and play with intensity. We need to improve on playing team defense and finishing drives offensively.”

Prediction >> Bishop Shanahan 38, Pottstown 18.

Other games on Friday night:

Perkiomen School at Saint Joseph’s Catholic Academy, 5:30 p.m.

The Perkiomen School enters the 2017 season with a ton of new faces and will look to Chandler Gavin, Ryan O’Donnell, Nick Guadarrama, Bryce Noel and David Smith to lead the way for a roster that numbers 18 and doesn’t have a single lineman weighing in over 230 pounds. Guadarrama, under center for the second straight season, returns after spending the entire summer playing with Puerto Rico’s Under-19 World Cup Basketball Team. His athleticism will be needed against a hungry SJCA (0-2) that enters Friday being outscored 53-6 in its two losses.
“We’re looking at getting better and improving each day, (being) more aggressive and finishing the play,” Perkiomen School head coach Tom Calvario said. “We’ve prepared OK; it will be interesting. They are a hungry team looking for a W.”
Two Ways About It >> With the loss of 11 seniors from last season’s squad, including all five from the starting line, Calvario said that the Panthers may have nine to 11 players going both ways this season.
Prediction >> Perkiomen School 12, SJCA 8.

Hill School at Wyoming Seminary, 7 p.m.

Running back will be the primary strength for the Rams as they return a bevy of talented runners in Daniel Adeboboye, Gernard Finney and Mamadou Bah. Sixteen seniors return for the Hill, which finished 3-6 overall last season (1-4 in Mid-Atlantic League Play). Junior quarterback Syre Gruber enters his second season under center and will look for a fast start against a Wyoming Seminary squad that is guided by new head coach Jim Anderson, a longtime defensive coordinator at King’s College and Dallas High School. Postgrad Jonathan Abrams (Gilmour Academy; Lafayette commit) looks to bring stability in the backfield while the speed of senior Daeshaun Jupiter-Deane could give opposing defenses some trouble. “We need to play smart and fast,” Hill head coach Jeff Hollway said. “We have a couple ways to attack you on offense. On defense we simply need to run and tackle. If we play smart on offense and run and tackle on defense we are going to be fun to watch.”
Building Cohesion >> Hollway and the team stressed bonding over the preseason: “Preseason is such a fun time for me and the boys,” Hollway said. “We have our team all stay in one dorm; innately the group comes together very fast. We have a bunch of new faces so it is fun for us to all get to know one another when there are really no other distractions. One of the most important things that came away from camp is that we are at full strength. We got better.”
Prediction >> Hill School 28, Wyoming Seminary 16.

Daniel Boone at Red Lion, 7 p.m.

Red Lion replaced 19 starters from last season’s team which finished 10-0 in the regular season before bowing out in the opening round of the District 3 Class 6A playoffs. The new guys didn’t miss a beat in a resounding 35-7 victory over Waynesboro to open their season. Senior quarterback Zach Throne threw for 211 yards and three touchdowns on 10-for-12 passing with Zach Crossland providing 111 of the team’s 251 total yards on the ground. The Lions face a Blazers (0-1) squad that comes off a 27-12 loss to Northeastern. Playing without head coach Bill Parks, who remains away from the team due to undisclosed reasons, the Blazers’ offense was stuck in neutral, only finishing with 114 yards of total offense — 45 coming on the ground.
Prediction >> Red Lion 35, Daniel Boone 21

Perkiomen Valley at Pennridge, 7 p.m.

Perkiomen Valley (2-0), ranked No. 7 in this week’s Pa. Prep Live Top 20, has outscored opponents 69-9 through the first two weeks and has looked good on both sides of the ball in doing so. Now, comes a major test as they visit No. 14 Pennridge (1-1), which comes off a 23-14 loss to Neshaminy (ranked No. 9). Quarterbacks Zak Kantor and Oliver Jervis are looking to rebound after having a very, very forgettable performance in last week’s loss, the duo combining for 103 passing yards on a 5-of-23 completion effort with two interceptions. Running back Josh Pinkney remains a focal point for the Rams, rushing for 228 yards on 20 carries with four touchdowns this season.
“Pennridge is an excellent football team,” PV head coach Rob Heist said. “They are well-coached, big and physical. Our kids understand that this is going to be a heavy-weight bout for 48 minutes. We will need to play assignment football on defensive and tackle extremely well.”
Getting their feet under them >> Much attention has been placed on the play of PV quarterback Cole Peterlin, who leads the PAC with 327 passing yards, but the play of Noah Shine, Jahir Holes, Isaiah Domine (four receptions, 41 yards and a TD last week) and Brendan Schimpf has been a huge factor in the Vikings’ 2-0 start. Shine and Brian Fehr have been standouts on a defense that’s allowed some yards (356.5 ypg), but not points.
Prediction >> Perkiomen Valley 28, Pennridge 20.

West Chester Henderson at Owen J. Roberts, 7 p.m.

It’s been a disappointing start for a West Chester Henderson (0-2) squad that has fallen back down to earth after a 9-4 record last season. Nothing went right for Henderson in last week’s 37-6 loss to rival Rustin (1-1), only scoring in the game’s final quarter while star running back C.J. Preston was limited to just 35 yards on 17 carries. That doesn’t bode well for Hendy entering Friday’s tilt with Owen J. Roberts (2-0), which is ranked second in the PAC in rushing yards allowed/game (64.5). The OJR defense was relentless in last week’s 20-8 victory over Great Valley with dominating efforts from the whole starting 11. Quarterback Dawson Stuart looked sharp, as did Hunter Hinrichs as he hauled in two touchdown receptions.
Cleaning Up >> OJR head Rich Kolka wants his team to improve on scoring after crossing getting into the opponents’ half. OJR had four opportunities inside the Patriots’ 40 last week that didn’t yield any points. “We need to improve upon scoring when we are inside the 40-yard line,” he said, “we could have iced the game much earlier than we did.”
“Henderson is the best football team we have played so far. They have the best set of skill players we have seen and a top-notch running back (Preston),” Kolka said. “We need to score when given the opportunity with short fields and we need to stop their running game.”
Prediction >> Owen J. Roberts 20, WC Henderson 12

Sun Valley at Upper Merion, 7 p.m.

Cleaning up the turnovers will be the focal point for Upper Merion head coach Victor Brown and the Vikings after a four-turnover game yielded a 24-6 loss to Martin Luther King last week. Upper Merion (0-2) was outgained 358-156 in the loss, but Brown saw some positives in the loss — creating opportunities off the takeaways. “The offense made the most improvement from Week 1,” Brown said. “They did a good creating opportunities for the running backs. We need to continue to work on reducing our mental mistakes and protect the football.” Sun Valley (1-1) comes into this week after being shut out by Pope John Paul II, 34-0, where they were limited to just 167 rushing yards after amassing more than 340 yards in Week 1’s win over Pottstown. Don’t plan on the Vanguards deviating from their run-heavy offense. Charlie Wendling and the rest of the SV squad are going to try and ground and pound. “Sun Valley is a physical football team,” Brown said. “Offensively, they line up in a pistol formation and run right at you. Their fullback is big and their tailback is explosive.”
Prediction >> Sun Valley 24, Upper Merion 14.

Norristown at Plymouth-Whitemarsh, 7 p.m.

It hasn’t been the start that either squad was looking for entering the 2017 season. Plymouth-Whitemarsh has struggled out of the gate under new head coach Dan Chang, having been outscored 91-6 in two losses to Downingtown East and Abington. They were held to just 96 yards of total offense in last week’s loss. Norristown (0-2) comes into Week 3 trying to put the pieces together after being outscored 75-7 in losses to Pennridge and Interboro. Quarterback Izaiah Webb has stood out so far for the Eagles, throwing for 260 yards through two games. “Our positive takeaway from Week 2 is that our players learned something about themselves in that showing up does not win games,” Norristown head coach Jason Powel said. “Coming off the best practice week I felt in my tenure proved to us on game day we have to do two times the work for Friday night, in a short period.”
Prediction >> Plymouth-Whitemarsh 34, Norristown 16

Pope John Paul II at Chichester, 7 p.m.

What an emphatic way to start the season 2-0 for the first time in school history. PJP (2-0) did it all in a resounding 34-0 victory over Sun Valley, and now will look to continue the streak in a visit to Chichester (2-0), which is coming off a milestone of their own after earning the school’s first 2-0 start since 2005. Cleaning up penalties will be the key for the Eagles, who were penalized 13 times for 115 yards in a 20-12 victory over Kennett. PJP, which limited ground-heavy Sun Valley to just 67 rushing yards last week, will look for another solid effort from a defense that ranks third in the PAC in yards per game allowed (169). “Our entire defensive unit played a good game vs. Sun Valley,” PJP head coach Rory Graver said. “It starts with our defensive linemen (Nick Galbraith, Denver Francis, Bryan Bendig, Mark Bowen, and Mike Ronca). Our linebacker rotation (Justin Mitala, CJ McCafferty, Andrew Duff, AJ Natale and Chris Haffey) continues to improve and play good football each week. And our defensive backs (Dan Cirino, Ricky Bearden, Gunner George, Jake Bildstein) caused turnovers.”
Coach Talk >> Graver was high on the efforts of the offensive line during this week’s practice: “We have had a good week of preparation,” he said. “We have the mindset of taking it one day at a time and focusing on improving each day. Our offensive linemen have had a great week (Denver Francis, Nick Galbraith, Brandon Synder, Rick Garofolo, Bryan Bendig, Mike Ronca).”
Prediction >> Pope John Paul II 24, Chichester 12

Phoenixville at Oxford, 7 p.m.

Last week’s 42-7 loss to Upper Moreland wasn’t what the Phantoms had in mind as they looked to rebound from a defeat to Great Valley in Week 1. “Week 2 was a complete shock to me in the way we played and performed,” Phoenixville head coach Evan Breisblatt said. “We were a totally different team from Week 1. We were undisciplined with seven false start penalties, four turnovers and had 25 missed tackles. We blew multiple coverages and did not get aligned correctly.” No. 20 Oxford (2-0) comes in hot after defeating Twin Valley 42-35 last week. Chandler England threw for 281 yards and two scores with Tim Faber rushing for 101 yards on 19 carries. The aerial attack will put the Phantoms’ passing defense (10th-ranked in PAC) to the test.
“After watching film, we were able to utilize last game as a valuable teaching tool,” Breisblatt said. “Hopefully, we have learned from our mistakes and have worked out the on-field discipline issues. Our offensive line got stalemated at times last week and they will need to establish themselves for us to have a chance. Obviously we will need to tackle better and execute.”
Prediction >> Oxford 35, Phoenixville 20

Upper Moreland at Upper Perkiomen, 7 p.m.

Upper Perkiomen (2-0) didn’t disappoint in what may have been deemed a trap game in last week’s contest against Kutztown. “We had a solid game against an opponent that is trying to rebuild and develop some young athletes,” UP head coach Tom Hontz said. “We played disciplined football and were able to play second- and third-team guys for the entire second half which was very important in regards to getting those guys some quality varsity time.” UP’s Tyrese Reid has been having quite the start, rushing for 258 yards on 22 carries with two scores. He’s complemented by Tyler Keyser, who keeps improving at quarterback, and Nick Benner, who was stellar on defense and special teams in last week’s victory. They’ll take on an Upper Moreland (2-0) squad led by the running back tandem of Caleb Mead (438 yards on 44 carries with three touchdowns) and the 5-9, 165-pound Sterlen Barr (100 yards, two touchdowns on 13 carries). UM comes in averaging 438 yards of offense per game. “Upper Moreland is a very physical team that has a lot of ways to beat you,” Hontz said. “We must tackle well, respect the run, but be careful of play action, and we need to keep our starters on the field to compete with their elite athletes. They have a very gifted QB and several backs who can hurt you in different ways. Their offensive line is big and they like to hit you on defense.”
Making History >> Upper Perkiomen’s Kayleigh Durning became the first female in Upper Perkiomen history to score in a varsity game. She booted three extra points in last week’s victory over Kutztown.
Prediction >> Upper Perkiomen 31, Upper Moreland 28

Pottsgrove at Boyertown, 7 p.m.

It’s Rick Pennypacker. It’s Pottsgrove. So hearing that the Falcons have areas to improve on — even after a 56-0 victory over Methacton last week — shouldn’t come as a surprise. Pennypacker and the Falcons have been working on the fundamentals as they prepare for Marcus Thomas and a Boyertown squad that is still searching for a win for new head coach TJ Miller. “We had some good efforts from many of our players this past week but they need to improve,” Pennypacker said. “We are not where we want to be fundamentally and are working on fundamentals more than schemes. (Boyertown’s) option attack is very dangerous and has some pretty good players running it. (Thomas) is impressive as are the rest of their players. We know we are in for a battle and must be prepared for their best efforts.” Boyertown (0-2) comes in after falling to Exeter 26-14. The effort was there for the Bears, now it’s all about containing Rahsul Faison (376 yards and three touchdowns on 41 attempts) and the Falcons’ skill players. “The biggest concern against Pottsgrove is No. 2 (Faison),” Miller said. “He is a phenomenal athlete. He has quick feet and he gains yards after contact. Pottsgrove has great skill position people. This will be a good barometer of where we are as a football team.”
Prediction >> Pottsgrove 35, Boyertown 16

Methacton at Central Bucks East, 7 p.m.

Methacton (0-2) was overmatched against a Pottsgrove squad that head coach Paul Lepre believed was “probably one of the best Pottsgrove teams they have had” in his tenure at the helm of the Warriors. Athaniel Cougle returns for a Warrior squad that is looking to generate something offensively after being shut out the last two games. The defense will have their hands full with CB East quarterback Evan O’Donnell (20-28, 329 yards) and running backs Chad Guzzi (101 yards) and Jake Ventresca (29 attempts for 85 yards). “I think we improved defensively from a responsibility standpoint,” Lepre said, “but we have to do a better job of tackling this week. CB East relies on QB Evan O’Donnell and Jake Ventresca for most of their offense so shutting those two down will be our focus. On our side of the ball we need to be more aggressive on offense and eliminate mental mistakes.”
Rough Start >> CB East comes into this week 0-2, falling to Downingtown East and Quakertown.
Prediction >> Central Bucks East 28, Methacton 10

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