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PAC Football Preview: Pottstown, Methacton face off searching for first win

POTTSTOWN >> Pottstown is 0-3 for the second straight season.

At practice, however, one couldn’t guess.

A week removed from their return to prime time and months after the arrival of new head coach Mark Fischer, the buzz around the Trojan program is still palpable. The belief: one win can change the tide of the season. The goal: to get the first one Friday as the Trojans visit Fairview Village to take on winless Methacton Friday night at 7 p.m.

Pottstown’s Jamal Adams, center, takes a handoff from quarterback Owen Morton while getting a lead block from Anthony Wiggins during last week’s game against Bishop Shanahan. The Trojans are looking for their first win Friday when they travel to winless Methacton. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

“This is very important for us,” Fischer said. “We stressed it all week. We’re 0-3 so far and we gotta get this first win to get momentum going as we head into league play.”

“It’s very important to get this one,” running back Anthony Wiggins said. “It gets us back to the playoff run and that’s where we want to go. This will be a step in the right direction.”

It’s been a trying start to 2017 for the Trojans as they’ve taken their lumps in double-digit losses to Sun Valley, Solanco and Bishop Shanahan, the last two district contenders. Call it a stroke of bad luck for a first-year head coach to get pitted against teams of that caliber to start the year, but unlike last season, the Trojans have banded together.

Why? Accountability and work.

“We have a lot more respect around here,” Wiggins said. “Everyone is accountable for everything that they do and how they play. If they talk bad about the team they’re held accountable. If they miss a block, they’re held accountable.”

“We come out, get the work done and get out,” Jamal Adams said. “We get a lot more done than we did last year. We’re more disciplined and we have a lot more respect for each other.”

Adams and Wiggins enter Friday night hopeful the Trojans will get back on track after their three straight losses have them sitting at 11.0 points per game (9th-best in the PAC) and 190.3 yards total offense per game (10th in PAC). Adams, who leads the team with eight receptions for 124 yards and two scores, looks to have a big game against a Methacton squad that enters Friday losers of three straight — all via shutout.

Consistency and efficiency will be the keys.

“We have to give every play 100 percent and make sure we get the job done,” Adams said.

Methacton, meanwhile, is looking to show signs of improvement after an arduous three weeks. Improvement is the main goal for head coach Paul Lepre as his Warriors look to turn a corner.

“Our goal is to get better this week,” Lepre said. “If it is good enough to get the win we’ll take it, but the main goal is improvement. Against CB East we lacked consistent execution.  When players were getting their job done positive things happened, so we are looking for more consistency this week.”

Shutting down the Run >> A run-heavy offense in Pottstown has opened things up through the air with quarterback Owen Morton completing 28 of his 48 passes for 291 yards and three scores. For Lepre and Methacton, containing the arm of Morton is key. He’ll also look for linebackers Gary Knox and Zack Skalecki to have an impact on the Pottstown run game.

Military Night >> Methacton will be hosting its annual Military Appreciation Night and tentative plans are for a flyover during the national anthem.

Prediction >> Pottstown 16, Methacton 8.

Other games on Friday night:

Tower Hill at Perkiomen School, 4 p.m.

A roster of 23 players fared extremely well for the Panthers in last week’s 50-21 victory over Saint Joseph’s Catholic Academy in their season opener. They’ll face a 0-1 Tower Hill squad (37-0 loss to Harford Tech last week) that has beaten them each year since 2012, when Perk came away with a 23-0 victory.

Prediction >> Tower Hill 28, Perkiomen School 16

Perkiomen Valley at Interboro, 7 p.m.

Both teams are looking to bounce back after forgettable results last week, Perkiomen Valley (2-1) a 29-0 loss to Pennridge, Interboro (2-1) a 54-25 defeat at the hands of Neumann-Goretti. Vikings head coach Rob Heist isn’t worried about a lasting effect from the defeat. “We have a resilient group this year and they understand that we are working incredibly hard toward a long-term goal this season,” Heist said. “This was certainly a bump in the road, but I know our kids and they’ll respond positively. That game is the past at this point and our single focus is on Interboro.”

Interboro, led by Delco legend Steve Lennox, are led by tandem backs Kalie Kuyateh and Joe Forte, who rushed for 128 and 75 yards, respectively last week. They’ll look to ground out more yardage against a PV squad that ranks eighth in the PAC in rushing yards allowed per game (222.3). “We need to continue improving our attention to detail and playing disciplined football,” Heist said. “Interboro is another very good non-league opponent for us.  Their coach, Steve Lennox, is a legend in Delaware County and his kids play extremely hard. They are a downhill, physical running football team and we are excited to be a part of another great matchup this week.”

Perkiomen Valley’s Alec Jackson tackles Downingtown West’s Owen Landis in the backfield for a loss earlier this season. The Vikings rank eighth in the PAC in rushing yards per game (222.3) entering Friday’s game against Interboro. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

Prediction >> Perkiomen Valley 28, Interboro 20

Glen Mills at Pottsgrove, 7 p.m.

A five-touchdown victory usually hides the blemishes from early in the game but for head coach Rick Pennypacker, he thought that the team’s slow start last week against Boyertown was a blessing in disguise. A stronger sense of purpose has gravitated to the practice field where the Falcons are sharp and ready for visiting Glen Mills (0-2), which is coming off a bye week following a 28-16 loss to Bishop Shanahan in Week 2. “Our kids have been much more focused this week,” Pennypacker said. “I know they had a wake up call last week. I expect them to play well because if they do not, they will get blown off the field. Glen Mills is physical, fast and very talented. Their running back burnt us last year and he is back this year. We have to play an errorless game and play with more emotion in order to compete with them.” That “running back” Pennypacker eluded to was Quadir Gibson, who rushed for 142 yards and 18 carries for the Battlin’ Bulls in last season’s win — one which came after losses to Bishop Shanahan and Springfield-Delco. Will history repeat?

And He Can Pass >> Jay Sisko comes into Friday with 225 passing yards and six touchdowns, three going to receiver Desmond Austin. He’s come on strong as of late, throwing for 178 yards and three touchdowns in last week’s victory over Boyertown.

Military Night >> Like Methacton and Phoenixville, the Falcons will be hosting their annual Military/First Responder Night to honor those who are presently, or have served, the country.

Prediction >> Pottsgrove 24, Glen Mills 16

Spring-Ford at Exeter, 7 p.m.

Don’t question the effort in the Rams’ 28-21 loss to Wilson last week. It was there and the level needs to stay high as Spring-Ford faces undefeated Exeter (2-0) Friday night. “I’d like to think that we derived some confidence from our effort versus Wilson,” Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubaker said. “Exeter is another quality opponent with some good returning players so we cannot have a letdown.” Of those returning are dual-threat quarterback Brandon Unterkoefler and running back Nick Sarangoulis. Both have caused headaches for opposing defenses this season, mainly on the ground, as the duo has rushed for 795 yards in two games (Sarangoulis 394 on 40 attempts; Unterkoefler 301 on 37 attempts). “We are concerned with them, obviously,” Brubaker said. “They ran for a ton of yards last week. Their running game is going to be a real challenge for our defensive front. We’re going to need to have everyone involved.”

Quarterback TJ Pergine enters with a PAC-best 542 passing yards. His play in last week’s loss was sensational as he tied a Ram program record with 23 completions in a single game. He’ll need to have a big week again as the Rams try to shore up some defensive miscues that turned three negative plays into three Iggy Reynoso touchdowns. “Tackling is something we need to do better,” Brubaker said. “There were three tackles for loss that turned into touchdowns last Friday. It wasn’t anything that they did. We just started with a bad angle, didn’t use good technique on the ball carrier, and he (Reynoso) was a pretty good high school player. The truth of the matter is, as a team, we are not as strong as we aspire or need to be. We expect and need TJ to have a big week every week. College coaches that see his Wilson film will come away saying, ‘that kid is a player.’”

Spring-Ford quarterback TJ Pergine gets off a pass during the district playoffs against North Penn last season. Pergine has a PAC-best 542 passing yards this season entering Friday’s game against Exeter. (Bob Raines – Digital First Media)

Prediction >> Spring-Ford 24, Exeter 20

Pope John Paul II at Schuylkill Valley, 7 p.m.

One couldn’t ask of more from the Golden Panthers in last year’s victory over Schuylkill Valley when they held the team to one yard of total offense. Whether that can be repeated against a SV squad that comes in 2-1 is unlikely, but don’t expect the Golden Panther defense to allow too much. They’ve been really good in their 3-0 start. “This is a much improved SV team,” PJP head coach Rory Graver said. “They are well coached and have many playmakers on both sides of the ball.  We will need to be at our best on Friday night. We need to get off to a fast start, protect the football, and play fundamentally sound defense.”

Keeping it 100 >> PJP senior receiver Dan Cirino recorded his 100th career reception in last Friday night’s overtime victory over Chichester. The all-time leading receiver at PJP has a PAC-best 15 receptions to go along with 163 yards (good for fourth in league).

Prediction >> Pope John Paul II 28, Schuylkill Valley 8

Upper Perkiomen at Cocalico, 7 p.m.

Facing one of the tougher non-league schedules in the PAC, the Indians head to Denver to face an Eagles squad that is whipping up on their opponents, including an impressive 42-21 victory over Berks County’s Governor Mifflin. Don’t expect anything flashy from the Eagles (2-0) as they’ll do their best to jam the ball down the opposition’s throats with a heavy-run attack led by running backs Brandon Brubaker (172 yards, six touchdowns) and sophomore Noah Palm (284 yards, four touchdowns). Upper Perkiomen (2-1), coming off a 34-20 loss to Upper Moreland, is looking forward to the challenge. “We are treating this week as an opportunity to get back to basics and work to prepare for the upcoming PAC season,” head coach Tom Hontz said. “We look forward to the big challenge of competing against a very powerful Cocalico team and hope these games against solid squads like Coaclico and Upper Moreland prepare us for league competition and the ultimate goal, of making the playoffs.”

Prediction >> Cocalico 35, Upper Perkiomen 21

Upper Merion at Owen J. Roberts, 7 p.m.

The Vikings have had a hard going in trying to find offense in the past two losses, being held to under 200 yards of total offense in defeats to Martin Luther King and Sun Valley. An 0-3 start wasn’t what the Vikings had in mind for head coach Victor Brown and trying to keep their season from slipping to 0-4 will become a daunting task as they face a Wildcat squad that ranks No. 1 in the PAC in total defense (151.7 ypg). “Our defense was pretty solid outside of two drives last week,” OJR head coach Rich Kolka said. “Dawson Stuart, Brendan Krummenacker and Teddy Bradford were really good last week on defense.”

OJR comes into Friday with its first 3-0 start since 2009 and the school is starting to buzz.  “The atmosphere is electric, lots of positive comments and people purchasing spirit wear,” Kolka said. “To be 4-0 would be awesome and would certainly give us the confidence to play with anybody in our league.”

Prediction >> Owen J. Roberts 27, Upper Merion 10

Boyertown at Academy Park, 7 p.m.

The Bears may have lost by 35 to Pottsgrove in Week 3, but there were some positives in the form of big plays, notably Ayden Mathias’ 80-plus yard touchdown. To keep up with Academy Park (1-2), the Bears will need to do more than hit the home run, they’ll need to sustain some drives. Look for running back Marcus Thomas to help achieve that goal – he’s third in the PAC with 268 rushing yards (5.4 yards per carry). “When games are in a back and forth contest, we need to be able to take over and seal it up,” first-year head coach TJ Miller said. “Academy Park is a very good football team. They are athletic and fast. We expect Marcus Thomas to continue to improve and the offensive line to help carry us to our goals.”

Back on Track >> Academy Park got into the win column with a 43-20 non-league victory over Great Valley last week. Kareem Burton rushed for 226 yards on 17 carries as the reigning District 1 Class 5A champs amassed 503 yards of total offense.

Save the Date >> Boyertown is 2-6 in its history playing on September 15. The Bears’ last game on the 15th came in 2007: a 28-13 loss to former PAC team Lansdale Catholic.

Prediction >> Academy Park 27, Boyertown 14

Chichester at Phoenixville, 7 p.m.

The Phantoms continue to put up points. Their defense, however, is struggling, especially without their leading defensive back and one of the better ones in the league in Bobby Strunk (out since halftime vs. Great Valley). A 46-26 loss to Oxford was the Phantoms’ (0-3) latest defeat as the team has allowed 40 or more points in each of their losses. They take on a Chichester (2-1) squad that’s coming off a one-point loss to undefeated Pope John Paul II. A win would be huge. “We are looking forward in coming back home for military night which is an awesome event,” Phoenixville head coach Evan Breisblatt said. “A win would obviously be great for all kinds of reasons, especially heading into PAC play.” Don’t let the 0-3 record fool you, though. Breisblatt continues to see growth, meaning that an upswing could be on the horizon. “I still believe we have a good football team,” Breisblatt said. “Dorian County has been terrific all offense as a big time deep threat down field along with Zion Small. Our all-junior backfield grows up each game more and more, and our line has held their own most of the time.’

Prediction >> Chichester 28, Phoenixville 26

Daniel Boone at Northern Lebanon, 7 p.m.

It’s been a trying start to the season for the Blazers, who faced an unsettled coaching situation to start the season. That situation is no longer in flux with the resignation on Monday of coach Bill Parks, who was not with the team in its first two defeats after being suspended following an incident at practice. Assistant coach and offensive coordinator Ryan Contento served as interim coach in Boone’s first two defeats, most recently 35-14 loss at Red Lion. The Blazers visit Northern Lebanon (1-1), which fell 35-7 to Cedar Crest last week.

Prediction >> Northern Lebanon 21, Daniel Boone 16

Saturday’s Games

Norristown at Penn Wood, 1 p.m.

It didn’t take the Eagles long to get their first victory of the season after a dominating defensive effort led to a 10-9 victory over Plymouth-Whitemarsh. Now, they’ll face another PW in Penn Wood as the Patriots look to build off a 28-7 victory over Council Rock North. “Our D-line came to play last week and with a bigger Penn Wood team we need to do the same,” Norristown head coach Jason Powel said. “We will have our hands full, but if our offense can start sustaining drives this will help. Our health has declined a bit and we will looking to get these guys back as soon as they can, so our younger guys will have to get plays in spots and need to contribute.”

Prediction >> Penn Wood 20, Norristown 13

Kiski School at Hill School, 2:30 p.m.

It wasn’t the start that The Hill would have liked in a 22-20 loss to Wyoming Seminary, but all focus turns to a Kiski squad that comes into Pottstown 1-0 after downing Reigning Sports Thunder (Columbus, Ohio). Hill quarterback Syre Gruber looks to maintain his pace after throwing for a touchdown in last week’s loss.

Prediction >> Hill School 35, Kiski 20

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