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Hatboro-Horsham gets payback on Upper Moreland with Thanksgiving Day win

Hatboro-Horsham's Anthony Kwiatanowski tries to get by Upper Moreland's Billy McKenna during their Thanksgiving game on Thursday, Nov. 23, 2017. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)

UPPER MORELAND >> A couple times over the last few weeks, Nick Chapman allowed himself to dream.

Chapman, a senior lineman/linebacker on the Hatboro-Horsham football team wouldn’t allow himself to fully embrace an outcome in the Hatters’ annual Thanksgiving Day game against rival Upper Moreland, but he did allow a few fleeting moments of that one perfect play. He envisioned a gap in the line and himself bursting through for a tide-turning sack.

On the Golden Bears’ first drive of the game, that moment he pictured came to life.

“You’re in bed, thinking about having a shot at the quarterback and going to take it,” Chapman said. “You see the big tackle, making the play, you envision all of it.”

Chapman spurred a fierce and hard-hitting defensive effort while Chris Edwards orchestrated a strong offensive outing as the Hatters avenged a regular season defeat to Upper Moreland with a 34-0 win Thursday morning. It was an uncharacteristic game for the Suburban One League American Conference champion Bears, who turned the ball over four times in the first half.

Hatboro-Horsham quarterback Chris Edwards passes over the line during the Hatters’ Thanksgiving game against Upper Moreland on Thursday, Nov. 23, 2017. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)

UM had hoped to still be playing in the District 1-5A playoffs this week and by extension, make the last three weeks of practice for Hatboro-Horsham moot. To the Hatters (6-4), knowing the Bears were hoping to make them work for nothing provided all the motivation they needed.

“We felt like they were scared because they said they just wanted to make us practice the whole week and make the district final, so that gave us motivation,” Chapman said. “We heard it. Thanksgiving is like no other. It’s not a regular game like the other game. It’s like the Super Bowl around here.”

The Bears, who finished the season at 10-2, seemed fine to start. After a couple of Hatters penalties forced a punt on the first drive of the game, the Bears moved down the field and got to the Hatboro-Horsham 15. On that play, Chapman broke through and emphatically took down UM quarterback Brendan Olexa for a 12-yard loss.

Chapman, who had a monster game and was honored as the HH defensive player of the game, said he felt that play got his team fired up and swung momentum. A flag would back the Bears up five and after a short pass, Ben Ejimonyeugwo picked off Olexa at the 17-yard line.

Hatboro-Horsham would score on the following drive, fumbles would end the next two Bears possessions and the Hatters would follow those up with touchdowns as the Bears couldn’t slow the slide.

“I think the story of the game was us turning the ball over in the first half,” UM coach Adam Beach said. “We stopped ourselves a lot. We had a lot of self-inflicted wounds and that’s not this team. This team  went undefeated in the league and got to the second round of the playoffs because we didn’t turn the ball over and played fundamentally sound.”

Chapman had hands on both of those fumbles, recovering the first after a botched option pitch by Upper Moreland forced the second by knocking it out of a runner’s hands and allowing Adam Suder to recover it. On top of the wealth of motivation the rivalry provides, the middle linebacker drew from another source of inspiration.

Inserted into the front modified wristband strapped to his belt holding the team’s calls, Chapman had placed a picture of Oklahoma linebacker Brian Bosworth. The senior said Thursday’s game was the first time he had done so, trying to draw from “The Boz” when going in for tackles.

“It’s the way he played and got to the ball in a bad mood,” Chapman said.

Upper Moreland’s misfortune continued on the opening drive of the second half. At midfield, the Bears ran a fake punt and had plenty of room until the ball came loose in the runner’s hands, hit the turf and spun out of bounds for a turnover on downs.

Upper Moreland’s Brett Brossman manages to gain control of the ball before he is hit by Hatboro-Horsham’s Ben Ejimonyeugwo during their Thanksgiving game on Thursday, Nov. 23, 2017. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)

Not to be lost in the defensive effort, which also included a 1.5 sacks from Jordan Collazo, was the play of the Hatters’ offense. Edwards, a senior, was extremely efficient in going 14-of-19 for 193 yards and three touchdowns.

The quarterback’s best throw of the day was probably the 45-yard strike to Ejimonyeugwo following the second fumble that set up a two-yard run by Josh Smith.

“I’m speechless right now, I can’t thank the guys enough, I’ve been to hell and back with these guys, they’re all my family at this point,” Edwards said. “If we could, we’d have one big Thanksgiving dinner together. I just love them all like they’re the brothers I never had.”

Edwards, who added 30 rushing yards and was the Hatters’ offensive player of the game, had an especially good connection with classmate Calvin Broaddus Jr., hitting the wide out eight times for 115 yards and two scores.

Broaddus Jr. had the game’s first score on a five-yard strike from Edwards and the game’s last, when he won a jump-ball on a 33-yard flea-flicker in the fourth quarter.

“We’ve played together since we were little, but I can’t thank my linemen enough,” Edwards said. “Everything me and him do, it starts with those guys up front. Whatever the numbers are, it’s all teamwork and effort out here. I’m just glad we got to display what we can do for everybody.”

Anthony Kwiatanowski caught a five-yard score and ran in from a yard out in his final game, capping a blue-collar, team-first career. Smith was the Hatters catalyst on the ground, eclipsing 1,000 yards on the season with a 74-yard effort.

“He’s a fine young man, a heck of an individual and I love coaching him,” HH coach Mike Kapusta said of Smith. “He’s an even better guy off the field and I’m so proud of him. He works so hard, he was mainly a lead blocker last year and worked his way to become the feature back. By Week 2 or 3, he started rattling off 100-yard games left and right and his yards per carry was something like 9.2, he’s a tough kid and most of his yards are after contact.”

Upper Moreland won the teams’ regular-season meeting 41-40 in a wild shootout but as Beach said, it’s impossible to predict how a Thanksgiving game will go.

Hatboro-Horsham’s Anthony Kwiatanowski dodges clear of Upper Moreland’s Cole Kitchen during their Thanksgiving game on Thursday, Nov. 23, 2017. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)

The game got chippy in the second half, with both teams flagged a number of times for unsportsmanlike conduct. After a couple of flags on back-to-back possessions, the head official brought both teams’ captains and coaches together and reminded them to respect the rivalry, a well-timed gesture before things got out of hand.

Brett Brossman was named Upper Moreland’s defensive player of the game while Sterlen Barr was the offensive player of the game.

“I look at what we weren’t doing,” Beach said. “Even the fake punt, I thought it was a great look, the kid’s running down the field and the ball pops out. I guess they got their hand on it. Early, we moved the ball down the field, took that sack and we started moving backwards.”

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