DENVER >> It was a night where Upper Perkiomen needed to bring a bend-don’t-break approach.
Yet by the final horn, the Tribe simply looked broken.
District 3 power Cocalico grounded, pounded and weaved its way to a dominant 56-0 win over visiting Upper Perk on Friday night at Eagles Stadium.
“They overwhelm you with their speed and their pounding approach,” said UP head coach Tom Hontz of Cocalico. “They’re an elite District 3 team, very disciplined and very impressive.”
The result improves Cocalico to 3-0 overall on the young season, fresh off last weekend’s impressive 42-21 win over Governor Mifflin. The Eagles are now outscoring the opposition 167-28.
Upper Perkiomen drops to 2-2 overall after starting out the season 2-0.
Devon Fichthorn gave the Eagles the start they needed. After the Cocalico defense forced a three-and-out on UP’s opening drive, Fichthorn blocked the punt, then had the wherewithal to scoop it up and return it 12 yards for the game’s opening score.
From there, it was all Eagles, all the time.
Cocalico’s offense was dominant from the get-go as the Eagles possessed the ball for just 3:36 and ran only 12 offensive plays during the first half yet held a 35-0 lead at the break.
“Normally, we’re the opposite,” said Cocalico head coach Dave Gingrich. “Normally, we have the ball for 16 or 18 minutes of a half. Our defense couldn’t get their offense off the field.”
That said, he definitely saw plenty of positives from his own offense.
“Our quarterback (Noah Palm) makes good decisions,” said Gingrich. “Our offensive line does a good job. And the guys on the perimeter, whether they’re slot guys or wide outs, they block. If they’re not getting the ball, they’re doing a good job of blocking. They played really unselfish and let us open up the run-game.”
That didn’t change much in the second half, either.
To make matters worse, Upper Perk recorded more defensive tackles (2) during the third quarter than they had offensive first downs (none).
The Eagles ran just four offensive plays during that quarter, as Austin Landers busted loose for a 65-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage of the second half to make it 42-0.
After a UP three-and-out, Aidin Frey then broke loose for a 27-yard touchdown run to make it 49-0 on the second play from scrimmage on the ensuing drive.
Then, after Upper Perk turned it over on downs, Cody Shay plowed his way right through the middle on his way to a 51-yard touchdown run for the game’s final score.
“We’ve had some big plays, but you can’t always rely on big plays,” said Gingrich. “Blocked punts … those don’t always happen. And one-play drives … they don’t always happen. Am I happy with where we’re at? Yeah, I’m happy with where we’re at. But we’ve got plenty to work on.”
For the game, Landers carried it twice for 136 yards, also busting loose on a 71-yard touchdown midway through the second quarter. Palm threw for 114 yards passing and two touchdowns while completing four of his five attempts. He hit Ronald Zahm for a 40-yard strike on Cocalico’s first offensive possession, then found a lull in the UP defense later in the second quarter to find Garrett Longenecker for a 31-yard strike.
After falling behind early on, Upper Perk’s offense settled in on its second drive. The Tribe moved the ball 59 yards on their ensuing drive, all the way into the Cocalico redzone, before they turned it over on downs.
On their next drive, Upper Perk moved the ball again effectively during their 14-play series. It was all for naught, though, as a false-start penalty would effectively end the drive.
“We shot ourselves a little bit on offense,” said Hontz. “A false start penalty and a couple poor exchanges on the handoff. You can’t do that against a team like this. You get into those second- and third-and-long situations, it’s hard to convert.”
The Tribe starts its run in the Pioneer Athletic Conference next weekend with a visit to Frontier Division foe Phoenixville on Friday night.
Last week and Friday night in the rearview, Hontz hopes that the past two games have geared up the Tribe for what lies ahead.
“All we can hope is that these past two weeks have prepped us for whatever we’re gonna see in the PAC.”