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Pottstown hosts Owen J. Roberts for final game in historic rivalry

POTTSTOWN >> The annual Thanksgiving Day rivalry game between Pottstown High School and Owen J. Roberts strikes up memories for anyone who has ever been a part of either program through the years.

That includes, of course, today’s crop of players who were among the faithful ones in the stands for several seasons.

“I’ve been to just about all of them, as far back as I can remember,” said Owen J. Roberts senior quarterback Dawson Stuart. “I can remember sitting in the stands with my dad watching some of the greats — watching (Ryan) Brumfield play … the Wyatt Scott era.

“I couldn’t wait until I had the chance to be on the field and play in this game.”

“When I was little, I always loved coming to the Thanksgiving Day game,” added Pottstown quarterback Owen Morton. “I always looked up to those players and couldn’t wait until it was my turn.”

And now for one final time, it is their turn. OJR and Pottstown are set to meet for the 59th and final Thanksgiving Day rivalry game at Pottstown’s Grigg Memorial Field on Thursday morning at 10 a.m.

Pottstown’s Jamal Adams, center, takes a handoff from quarterback Owen Morton while getting a lead block from Anthony Wiggins during a game against Bishop Shanahan. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

Earlier this month, Pottstown announced that the Pioneer Athletic Conference’s longest-running annual rivalry game would be discontinued after this season’s contest. The decision came as a result of new PIAA rules, a shift in the season’s schedule and the newly-adopted postseason schedule, according to Stephen Rodriguez, Pottstown’s Superintendent of Schools.

Through the years, Owen J. Roberts owns a 36-21-1 advantage over Pottstown, the Wildcats having won the previous four matchups. That’s a trend that Stuart and his Wildcat teammates hope to continue.

“We want to make sure it’s a statement win,” he said. “It’s the last one — so we want to keep that trophy at Owen J.”

If this past season is any indication, that trophy may in fact find a permanent home in the halls of Owen J. Roberts.

The Wildcats, who finished the season 3-2 in the PAC’s Liberty Division (8-3 overall), are coming off one of their strongest seasons in recent memory.

Riding the standout play from their defense, OJR has held the opposition under 13 points per game and rode it all the way to their first district playoff berth since the 2010 season. OJR has held the opposition to a league-best 92 rushing yards per game and only about 200 yards of total offense each game.

Owen J. Roberts’ Aidan Hayward (54) is congratulated after a sack to force a turnover on downs against Upper Perkiomen earlier this season. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

Offensively, Stuart has turned in a strong senior season where he has thrown for 1,233 yards and 12 touchdowns — six of which were to senior wideout Hunter Hinrichs (35 receptions, 557 yards). On the ground, Stuart has racked up 381 yards and eight touchdowns while running back Hunter Scherfel carried it for 610 yards and eight touchdowns on the year.

“Owen J. is a very good football team,” said first-year Pottstown head coach Mark Fischer. “Their offense can put up a lot of points and defensively, they’re very fast. They’ve got a physical defense and they get after you. We’ve been watching film the past couple of weeks and we know we’ve got our work cut out for us.”

It hasn’t exactly been a season to remember for Pottstown (0-5 PAC Frontier Division; 2-9 overall), whose only victories have come against winless Methacton.

However, they certainly have the talent to compete and make a push, especially in a winner-take-all type game.

“We want to leave it all out there,” added Morton. “This is a lot of the seniors’ last game as a high school football player. So who wouldn’t want to finish out with a win?”

Morton turned in a strong senior season — passing for 995 yards and 11 touchdowns against nine interceptions, including a three-touchdown performance against Methacton during the PAC’s crossover week. He’s also tucked it and rushed for 183 yards and three touchdowns.

Pottstown’s Jamal Adams breaks a tackle and runs for a first down after a reception in the second half earlier this season against Upper Merion. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

Morton’s key target has been speedster Jamal Adams, who has racked up 502 yards and five touchdowns on 30 receptions.

“They have some good athletes,” said OJR head coach Rich Kokla of Pottstown. “Their quarterback can make plays and their receiver is a really good athlete.”

Kolka would much prefer to sit down for dinner Thursday night with a win in his back-pocket. The Wildcats, who haven’t posted a nine-win season since 2010, find themselves within striking distance.

“These guys want to get to No. 9,” said Kolka. “This would be an important win for us and everything we’ve accomplished. We want to cap off the season with this one.”

Really Hits Home >> A loss Thursday would put Pottstown on the wrong side of history.

With a loss, Pottstown would finish the season 0-6 on its home turf, the first time since the 2013 season that the Trojans finished winless at home. In their five home losses this year, Pottstown has been outscored 175-54.

Another One Bites the Dust >> The Thanksgiving rivalry game has been on the decline around the area over the past few years, with the game between Owen J. Roberts and Pottstown just the latest to come to an end. There were four Thanksgiving Day games played during the 2009 season — Phoenixville vs. Spring-Ford (ended in 2013); Boyertown vs. Upper Perkiomen (ended in 2011) and Pottsgrove vs. Saint Pius X (ended in 2009). Only one will stand after this season — newcomers Upper Merion vs. Norristown, who revived their longtime rivalry game in 2015.

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