UPPER CHICHESTER >> It may not have been as catchy as a 1980s heavy metal tour name, but the Pope John Paul II football “revenge tour” has firmly rampaged through Delaware County over the past three weeks.
The Golden Panthers squeaked out an overtime thriller Friday night over Chichester 21-20, after already pushing aside both Penncrest and Sun Valley in the first two weeks of the season.
The Eagles, Vanguards, and Lions were all victors over Pope John Paul II last year, but the Golden Panthers were determined to dole out a little retribution. After smacking Penncrest and Sun Valley by a combined score of 77-7, Pope John Paul II had a different experience with the feisty Eagles, who were also looking to stay undefeated.
“We just have a completely different mindset this year,” said PJP quarterback Matt DeLaurentis, who completed 20 of 36 passes for 156 yards, while throwing for one touchdown and running for two more. “Over the offseason we gained confidence and that has allowed us to execute the way we were able to.”
With the teams knotted at 14-14 at the end of regulation, Chichester received the first possession and scored when quarterback Adam Rodriguez hit Andre Dean with a 10-yard touchdown pass. Rashaad Shaw’s two-point conversion attempt was stuffed however, which gave the Golden Panthers a boost of confidence.
With a reliable kicker in Matthew Moroz, Pope John Paul II knew it had an excellent chance to win if it could reach the end zone.
DeLaurentis had used his arm and his athleticism to keep the Eagles off balance all night, which helped create some space for himself in overtime. The quarterback rifled a pass to A.J. Natale for a 10-yard scoring strike in the extra session to set up Moroz to successfully kick the game-winning PAT.
The Golden Panthers (3-0) also received contributions from all-purpose weapon Jake Bildstein, who had six catches for 55 yards, 52 rushing yards, and an interception on defense; and Daniel Cirino (seven catches, 75 yards), who made a series of tough catches to keep the Pope John Paul II offense moving the chains throughout the game.
“The game was going up and down for both teams and momentum was switching quickly,” DeLaurentis said. “When we stopped them on the fourth down late in the game, we knew when we got the ball in overtime that we would be able to score.”
For the Eagles, who dropped to 2-1, it is time to regroup focus on a non-league matchup against Phoenixville before kicking off the Del Val League season.
“At this time last week we won the game and I was sick to my stomach, but tonight you look at the scoreboard and even though we lost we could see that these kids played hard and they played well,” Eagles coach Ryan Smith said. “That’s what we ask them to do and they did it. Once you get into the league, it’s nitty gritty and everyone beats each other up. We’ve got to work on some little things and finishing to be ready for that.”
Despite the loss, there were many positives for Chichester. Rodriguez hit Dean with a 33-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter and also found Shaheem Pleasant for another score. Shaw had five catches for 85 yards and the defense did an excellent job of making the Golden Panthers fight to earn every yard they gained.