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Upper Dublin fends off Hatboro-Horsham on final play

Upper Dublin's Malik Bootman looks to run during game against Hatboro-Horsham during their game on Friday, Oct. 20, 2017. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

UPPER DUBLIN >> It would have taken a significant effort for Upper Dublin to come up with a more dramatic ending than it did Friday night.

Sophomore Mike Slivka’s outstretched right hand got enough of a Chris Edwards pass in the end zone on the final play of the game to prevent a Hatboro-Horsham comeback. In a fourth quarter full of twists and turns, the Flying Cardinals made one more play than the visiting Hatters.

The result of Slivka’s effort was a 14-7 win over Hatboro-Horsham as UD celebrated both Homecoming and Senior Night in theatrical style.

“It’s been a little bit dramatic, but we pulled through in the end,” UD senior quarterback Julian Gimbel said. “As long as we come out on top, it’s all good. In the past, especially against Quakertown, we came out kind of slow but tonight we came out on fire and with some poise.”

Earlier this season, the Cardinals blew a two-score fourth quarter lead against Quakertown, which coach Bret Stover called a learning experience for his young team. While the Cardinals have seniors in a number of key spots, many of them spent at least one of the last two years as a backup as UD went on two long playoff runs.

Gimbel was one of those guys, waiting behind Ryan Stover and Justin Horn for his turn to call the plays. Friday, with Hatboro-Horsham gearing up to stop the Cardinals’ senior workhorse tailback, Malik Bootman, Gimbel rose to the task.

The senior completed 9-of-14 passes for 104 yards and threw for both of UD’s scores.

“It’s all a connection, when I’m scrambling, I know who’s in the open field and where to throw it to,” Gimbel said. “It’s a great connection between me and my boys that they know where to go when I’m scrambling and running.”

Stover was extremely proud of his team’s effort, especially the defense and Gimbel.

“We didn’t score a lot of points tonight, but we played a good football team and a well-coached team tonight, they have some real players over there, some excellent skill kids on offense and they really hit on defense,” Stover said. “We’re fortunate to come out on top of it.”

Hatboro-Horsham quarterback Chris Edwards runs for yardage as Upper Dublin’s Max Winebrake makes the tackle during their game on Friday, Oct. 20, 2017. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

The first quarter was eaten up by two drives, one from each team that ended on turnover on downs. Really, neither team could get much going offensively in the first half. UD’s first score came mostly as a result of Bootman. The tailback ripped off a 55-yard run in the second quarter, eluding or powering through a handful of tacklers to flip the field.

Gimbel made a big throw to Selvin Haynes to convert a fourth down, then hit Brody Balasa in the corner of the endzone with 3:54 left in the first half.

“Julian has really improved his decision-making,” Stover said. “He’s not just throwing balls up, he’s throwing balls with a purpose, he’s getting rid of balls to avoid sacks and he’s starting to make plays with his feet because he is a really good runner.”

The Cardinals sacked Edwards three times in the first half and also bottled up the Hatters’ run game, especially tailback Josh Smith. With the offense bottled up for three quarters, the Hatters struggled to sustain drives but their defense kept Upper Dublin from adding onto its lead.

After the game, Hatters coach Mike Kapusta just watched as his team huddled up and the seniors addressed their teammates.

“There was no quit and I’m really proud of that,” Kapusta said. “The seniors pulled everybody together at the end of the game, so I’m very happy about that side of things. The bottom line is things didn’t go our way tonight, we were very close and it’s a game of inches so maybe one little break here or one thing there and it could have been a different ballgame. Our kids know that, and it hurts, but we have to come back and prepare for Cheltenham.”

Upper Dublin went up 14-0 when Gimbel found Ryan Besachio for a 17-yard score with 9:34 left in the game. Things were only just getting started. Led by Edwards, the Hatters went right down the field and got all the way to the Cardinals’ 19-yard line as they threatened to score.

Slivka bailed his team out when he picked off Edwards in the end zone, but the Cardinals couldn’t pick up a first down and punted. Upper Dublin opted to kick and punt short and away from the Hatters dangerous returners, especially Calvin Broaddus Jr, so they sacrificed some field position all game.

Upper Dublin’s Brody Balasa runs for yards after a reception during game against Hatboro-Horsham on Friday, Oct. 20, 2017. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

Edwards completed three of four passes, then ran 20 yards untouched until he powered over the goal line with 2:24 left for a touchdown.

“Broaddus is a really special player, (receiver Ben Ejimonyeugwo) is a special, special player and you can’t let those guys beat you on big plays,” Stover said. “Edwards is a great player too, he’s a tremendous quarterback and he’s a great athlete too. The touchdown run looked easy.

“Dave Sowers, my defensive co-ordinator, put together a heck of a game plan and those guys executed.”

The Hatter sacked Gimbel on third down following the Edwards score and UD had to punt it away again. Taking over from their own 35, the Hatters finally connected on some bigger pass plays with Edwards hitting four passes without any timeouts to get the ball to the Cardinals’ 14 with 1.5 left.

He spiked it, setting up the all-or-nothing final play with 0.6 left on the clock. Edwards looked for Ejimonyeuwgo, who was covered by Lucas Roselli, but Slivka stuck his mitt in the way first, deflecting the ball up and out the back of the end zone.

“Michael is a heady kid, he’s probably our quarterback of the future but we’ve got him out there playing free safety,” Stover said. “He’s really grown up before our eyes. He’s a smart, smart players and I’m excited to have him for two more years.”

Now at 6-2, the Cardinals have likely sewn up a home game in the District 1-5A playoffs but still have a shot at a share of the SOL American title with a win next week. Of course, to do that, they’ll have to do what no one else has this season and beat Upper Moreland.

“I think every year we’re doubted but this year especially, we lost a lot of good players the last couple of years and people doubted us a lot but we’re coming through,” Gimbel said. “I knew we had potential but we had to work for it. We wanted a playoff home game, that was our goal and we knew we had to work toward that goal.”

UPPER DUBLIN 0 7 0 7 – 14


Scoring Plays

2nd Quarter

UD – Julian Gimbel 9 pass to Brody Balasa (Chris Barbera kick) 3:54

4th Quarter

UD – Gimbel 17 pass to Ryan Besachio (Barbera kick) 9:34

HH – Chris Edwards 20 run (Jin Kim kick) 2:24

Team Statistics


First Downs 11 12

Rushes-Yards 31-114 25-59

Passing 9-14-2-0 19-35-0-1

Passing Yards 104 200

Total Yards 218 259

Penalties-Yards 4-40 5-45

Fumbles-Lost 0-0 0-0

Punting 4-26.5 2-31

Individual Stats

Rushing: UD – Malik Bootman 15-83, Lucas Roselli 9-17, Julian Gimbel 7-14; HH – Chris Edwards 8-23, Josh Smith 9-36, Adam Suder 4-9, Calvin Broaddus Jr 1-(-9)

Passing: UD – Gimbel 9-14-20-0-104; HH – Edwards 19-35-0-1-200

Receiving: UD – Brody Balasa 3-43, Selvin Haynes 2-18, Ryan Besachio 2-18, Malik Bootman 1-2;  HH – Ben Ejimonyeuwgo 7-87, Calvin Broaddus Jr 8-77, Anthony Kwiatanowski 1-2, Adam Suder 2-(-1), Josh Smith 1-21, Will Riemenschneider 1-23

Interceptions: UD – Mike Slivka



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