BOYERTOWN >> It will arguably ranks as one of the bigger season-ending games in Boyertown football history.
For the players from the Class of 2018, it will be THE best.
The Bears found themselves playing for a conference championship Friday, when they hosted Pocono Mountain East in their season finale. On a night with various historical connotations, a title-securing 48-20 victory over the Cardinals was the biggest.
Boyertown, hosting its first-ever playoff game, scored 28 unanswered points in the second half to lay claim to the Class 5A/6A Eastern Football Conference trophy. The EFC, dating back to the 1920s, is comprised of a number of schools in the Poconos and along the East Coast. It’s basically a one-game playoff for the top teams who don’t qualify for post-season playoffs in their respective states.
Still, the Bears (5-6) were more than happy to be playing for something significant in their final game. They hung with PME through a tit-for-tat first half, then broke open the 20-20 deadlock with brothers Nick and Jamie Moccia running for touchdowns on four of five second-half possessions.
“It all comes down to chemistry,” Nick, a senior and the elder brother, said after Boyertown laid claim to the conference trophy. “We stuck together and made it happen. We’re a bunch of blue-collar workers.”
For T.J. Miller, it serves as a memorable start to his tenure as Boyertown’s head coach. Miller took over the program with the expressed goals of changing the culture and getting it into the postseason.
The plan got off to a rough four-game losing streak to start the year. But the Bears reversed the decline, a three-game win streak the perfect conclusion.
“We fought back,” Miller said. “The growth the team made this season was incredible. The seniors were determined to make it happen.”
The Cardinals offered a gloomy start to Boyertown’s conference-championship prospects, scoring on the first play of the game. Quarterback Dylan Rinker hooked up with wide receiver Triston Hillman on a 52-yard touchdown pass, and PME led 13 seconds into the contest, 7-0.
Boyertown answered with Nick Moccia legging out an 80-yard scoring run — the first of four he made on the night — with 4:11 left in the quarter. The 7-7 tie lasted only 18 seconds, though, as the Cards’ workhorse running back, Praize Andrews, scored off a 39-yard burst through left tackle to regain a 13-7 lead.
“We gave them some bad field position early,” Miller said.
But the Bears kept pace with their guests the remainder of the first half. They took a 14-13 lead with junior quarterback Ayden Mathias (3-for-7, 71 yards) hitting Jerry Kapp on a 25-yard pass before Declan Coyle added the sixth of his seven conversion kicks.
The clubs traded scores over the final 6:15, PME with a 39-yard run by Andrews and Boyertown with Jamie Moccia’s 27-yard run around his right end at the 4:23 mark.
‘This is a good Pocono Mountain East team,” Miller said. “Matching them point for point was big.”
“In the locker room, Jerry (Kapp) got us together and had positive words for us,” Nick recalled. “We knew we had to step up. We’d never been in a playoff game for years. We wanted to win for the school, the team and the community.”
The Bears took ownership of the second half, the Moccias and Kapp doing their parts to keep the Cardinals at bay.
They marched for the ultimate go-ahead score off the opening kickoff, Nick (14 carries, 174 yards) capping the drive by pushing three yards up the middle at the 8:14 mark. He then scored off a two-yard plow through right tackle at the 3:42 mark, the possession set up by Kapp intercepting a Rinker pass at his 21 and Marcus Thomas (five carries, 91 yards) sprinting 78 yards to the PME two.
Jamie (10 carries, 84 yards) got back on the scoring track with a 12-yard run up the middle 4:42 from the game’s end, Kapp again settting up the drive with his program record 11th pick of the season. Then Nick finished off the night, after Boyertown got the ball back on downs with 2:47 remaining, by running 37 yards off left tackle 40 seconds in.
“This is surreal,” Kapp said. “It’s a big deal for us.”
Among Nick’s remembrances from the game is the connection he and Jamie, a sophomore, made on the gridiron this fall.
“We bonded together,” he said. “I’ll never forget this. At Thanksgiving and Christmas, we’ll talk about it. It’s special.”
NOTES >> Robert Stahl had a big play on the defensive side for Boyertown. The senior lineman batted down Rinker’s pass attempt on fourth down to get the ball back for the Bears, who capped their scoring with Nick Moccia’s final TD run. … Andrews finished with a game-leading 196 yards on 30 carries for the Cardinals. In the passing game, Rinker was 8-for-17 for 102 yards.
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