BUCKTOWN >> No one needed to remind the Owen J. Roberts sideline all that was at stake under the lights of Henry J. Bernat Stadium Friday night.
A win, and the Wildcats would have a great shot at making the District One Class 6A playoffs. A loss, well …
“We weren’t even thinking about what a loss could mean,” said Owen J. Roberts quarterback Dawson Stuart. “We were just focused on winning.”
The Wildcats were determined and focused throughout, dominating from start to finish on the way to a stunning 33-0 win over Spring-Ford.
With the win, the Wildcats (3-2 Pioneer Athletic Conference Liberty Division; 7-2 overall) move that much closer to earning their first district playoff berth since the 2010 season. With the loss, Spring-Ford (3-2; 5-4 overall) may very well find itself on the outside looking in for the first time since 2014 when districts get started in a couple weeks.
“It’s only been done two, maybe three times in school history,” said Owen J. Roberts head coach Rich Kolka of making districts. “So that says a lot about our guys. That was one of our goals — three years ago, no one talked about us. Now, we could be in a district playoff game.”
Friday’s game felt much like a November playoff atmosphere with Stuart at the forefront of it.
The senior threw for 213 yards along with a pair of touchdowns to wideout Hunter Hinrichs. Hinrichs racked up a game-high 143 yards on six receptions — including a 78-yard strike down the left sideline during the first quarter that set the tone.
“We knew we needed to make big plays early on to win against a good team like that,” said Hinrichs, the program’s career leader in receiving yards. “Dawson and I have that connection, that spark together.”
Stuart had nothing but praise for his favorite target as the pair has undoubtably been on the same wavelength since their youth football days at Norchester.
“Hunter is one of our best athletes,” said Stuart, who owns OJR’s all-time career records in passing touchdowns and yards. “We saw a mismatch on that play — he had (the defensive back beat) in height, quickness and speed. So I was looking at him the whole time, hoping he would make a play and he did. He beat his guy and took it all the way.
“He’s doing all the work. I know I just have to get it near him and he’ll go get it.”
Stuart kept the Spring-Ford defense honest with his feet, too. Utilizing the option with running back Hunter Scherfel in tow, Stuart racked up 50 yards rushing on 11 carries. Meanwhile Scherfel wore away the clock during the second half on the way to a 105-yard rushing game that featured a 3-yard score during the fourth quarter.
OJR’s defense was solid all game. The Wildcats held Spring-Ford to its lowest total yardage output all season — 175 yards — and hardly let quarterback TJ Pergine set his feet in the pocket.
Sean Praweckyj put the stamp on the team’s memorable night with an 80-yard interception returned for a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter for the final 33-0 score.
“That was as dominating of a performance on both sides of the ball as I have seen coaching high school football,” said Kolka. “There is no question. And that was against a good team. Spring-Ford is always a good team.”
Meanwhile, Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubacker deemed it a ‘humiliating’ night to be a part of.
The Rams were shutout for the first time since the 2012 season — a 49-0 loss against Phoenixville. They only made one trip into the red zone all night, which resulted in a missed field goal attempt from 27 yards out during the first quarter.
“They didn’t do anything special, just played tough football,” said Brubaker. “Hats off to them. They beat us in every facet of the game tonight.”
Just when it looked like the Rams were getting going, they had the carpet pulled out from under them.
On their first drive of the second half, running back Justin DeFrancesco had a 44-yard touchdown erased by a costly holding penalty. Two plays later, the Rams would punt it away for the first of three times in the half.
Defrancesco, usually a focal point to the Spring-Ford offense, was held to just 47 total yards by OJR’s bigs up front. Pergine rarely looked comfortable in the pocket where he completed just 12 of 27 passing attempts for 95 yards and scrambled for 46 yards on the ground.
* * *
Next week, the PAC holds its regular-season ending divisional crossover games. With Owen J. Roberts, Spring-Ford and Boyertown all boasting the same inner-divisional record and no team emerging based on head-to-head criteria, the standings will turn to the district power rankings.
Based on that, Owen J. Roberts will claim the No. 2 seed and face Frontier foe Upper Perkiomen, while No. 3-seeded Spring-Ford will take on Pope John Paul II.
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