LOWER POTTSGROVE >> It’s not often that the best athlete on a football team struggles to shine throughout a season. After a record-setting junior season, that’s the fate that fell upon Upper Perkiomen’s Ryan Kendra during his senior season.
But rather than complaining about his role with the team, Kendra took advantage of every opportunity he got and carried a “whatever is best for the team” attitude with him, which led the Indians to a 7-5 record and place in the District 1 Class 4A championship game, ultimately falling Friday night to Pioneer Athletic Conference rival Pottsgrove, 38-14.
The senior wideout and defensive back came into the season as the area’s returning leader in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns after posting 50 receptions for 749 yards and eight touchdowns in 2016 to go along with being named an All-Pioneer Athletic Conference First Team selection at wide receiver and defensive back.
The three-headed rushing attack of Tyler Whary, Austin Tutolo and Tyrese Reid became Upper Perk’s offensive attack of choice after the graduation of standout quarterback Zeke Hallman leading to former receiver Tyler Keyser moving under center. Despite his past success, Kendra took the shift in stride.
“If I catch a touchdown and a couple passes each game it’s no big deal as long as we’re winning,” said Kendra who finished Friday’s game with three catches for 29 yards including a 25-yard touchdown reception on the Tribe’s first play from scrimmage. “I wanted the ball throughout the season but Whary, Tutolo and Tyrese (Reid) have been putting in the work throughout the year.”
Kendra finished the season with 32 receptions for 425 yards and five touchdowns, a little more than half of the production he gave the Indians’ offense in 2016.
“He’s a really outstanding athlete and its a shame he’s not shone as brightly this year,” said Indians’ head coach Tom Hontz. “We had a totally different quarterback after three years and when you have the running tandem that we did you want to pound the ball.”
The Indians’ offense was hampered after the loss of All-Area Second Team quarterback Hallman to graduation, leading them to throw the ball 179 times this season as compared to 268 pass attempts in 2016.
After intercepting five passes in 2016, good for a tie for first in the conference, Kendra became a defensive back to avoid this season where he managed two picks.
“He really didn’t get tested as much and when he did he came up with a number of picks,” said Hontz who added that the Indians will surely miss Kendra and his production.
For Hontz, this senior class had a special place in his heart.
Prior to coaching Kendra and the rest of the Upper Perk seniors, he coached them as eighth graders.
“We went undefeated that year and then when we heard (Hontz) was coming up with us to the high school level we got chills, we were ready to play,” said Kendra.
The Indians will now look to replace a senior class which lead them to back-to-back district playoff appearance and their first district playoff win since 1997.
“It’s an honor to coach them and not only be their coach, but I’ve become friends with them as well,” said Hontz. “I’m gonna miss this group, it’s been a treat and they’re such a great group of guys.”
“Everyone in my grade has been playing football with me since we were in second grade and a lot of guys started as a freshman with me,” said Kendra. “It was a great experience to go through all four years with them.”
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