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A to Z: A look back at the 2017 PAC football season

The 2017 fall high school football season was yet another to remember in the Mercury’s coverage area.

Reloaded Perkiomen Valley picked up its second straight Pioneer Athletic Conference title while Pottsgrove’s season culminated into a second straight state playoff berth in Rick Pennypacker’s final season as head coach.

Records were shattered, accomplishments were fulfilled and memories were made. Here’s a look back at some of the standout moments, people and players from the 2017 fall season:

A is for Answering the Call >> There were certainly questions surrounding Perk Valley following the graduation of Stephen Sturm and Justin Jaworski, the PAC’s respective all-time leading quarterback and receiver. Sophomore quarterback Cole Peterlin answered those questions, the first-year QB racking up 1,705 passing yards with 13 touchdowns and a team-high 906 yards rushing with eight TDs on the ground. The Vikings featured multiple receiving threats in Jon Moccia, Remy Sell, Brendan Schimpf and Isaiah Domine, who led the way with 522 yards and six TDs.

Perkiomen Valley quarterback Cole Peterlin is congratulated after rushing for a long touchdown against Downingtown West. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

B is for Bonanni >> Spring-Ford sophomore Dante Bonanni led the Rams with 649 yards receiving (second in the PAC) along with four touchdowns. He pulled in a season-best 162 yards and two touchdowns during Spring-Ford’s win against Methacton.

C is for Coyle >> Boyertown kicker Declan Coyle nailed his first-ever field goal attempt from 24 yards out with seconds remaining to give Boyertown a 24-21 upset win over Owen J. Roberts Week 7. The moment took a while to sink in. “I don’t even know what to say,” Coyle said after the game. “This time last year, I was watching these games (from the stands)… now I’m being mobbed by my teammates. I’m so happy I was able to create this memory with these guys.”

Boyertown kicker Declan Coyle

D is for Defend the Land >> Of the six PAC teams that finished out with winning records (Perkiomen Valley, Owen J. Roberts, Spring-Ford, Pottsgrove, Upper Perkiomen and Pope John Paul II), the teams were a combined 27-7 on their home turf. OJR and Pottsgrove were both 6-0 at home.

E is for Excellent Ending >> After a forgettable 0-4 start to the season, Boyertown hit its strides during the final stretch under first-year head coach TJ Miller. The Bears won their final three games — four of their last five — including a 48-20 win over Pocono Mountain East in the Eastern Conference championship.

F is for Faison >> Pottsgrove’s senior running back Rahsul Faison was nearly untouchable. He rushed for 2,919 yards — the 10th best on Pennsylvania’s all-time list for rushing yards in a season, surpassing Owen J. Roberts’ Ryan Brumfield’s PAC record of 2,863 yards — to go along with 42 touchdowns in leading the Falcons to a second straight District 1 Class 4A championship and state playoff berth. He surpassed the 300-yard rushing mark in two games, including a season-high 352 yards during a game against Upper Perk.

Pottsgrove’s Rahsul Faison takes a carry against Pottstown earlier this fall. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

G is for Golden Panthers >> The start to Pope John Paul II’s season was historic as they opened up with seven straight wins before faltering down the final stretch. Capable quarterback Matt DeLaurentis was surrounded with an array of talent including Jake Bildstein (907 total yards, 10 TDs), Dan Cirino (501 receiving yards, four TDs), AJ Natale (571 rushing yards, nine TDs) and Ricky Bearden (422 receiving yards, seven TDs).

Pope John Paul II quarterback Matt DeLaurentis throws on the the run against Pottstown. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

H is for Hosting History >> Pottstown played host to two historic events this fall at Grigg Memorial Field. The Trojans turned on the lights during Week 3 for the first time since the 2013 season, then closed out the year with their final Thanksgiving Day game with Owen J. Roberts after announcing the 2017 matchup would be the final in the storied rivalry.

I is for Izaiah Webb >> Norristown’s quarterback finished the season with 1,392 passing yards and 13 total touchdowns. He posted a season-high four touchdowns against Methacton.

J is for Jerry! Jerry! Jerry! >> Boyertown’s Jerry Kapp led the state with 11 interceptions on the season — bolstered by an unheard of four-interception performance against Phoenixville.

Boyertown’s Jerry Kapp breaks up a pass intended for Perkiomen Valley’s during the second quarter Thursday. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

K is for Kolka’s Kids >> Owen J. Roberts, under head coach Rich Kolka, turned in its strongest season since 2010 — the Wildcats earning their first district playoff berth since that time. At the forefront of it was a strong defense that allowed under 12 points a game with four shutouts, along with the play of quarterback Dawson Stuart and his top target Hunter Hinrichs.

Owen J. Roberts coach Rick Kolka walks the sideline during last week’s Thanksgiving Day game against Pottstown. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

L is for League of Their Own >> Perkiomen School finished out the year 5-3 overall while outscoring teams 276-243. The Panthers put in an impressive year despite listing less than 25 players on their roster.

M is for Major League >> Ches-Mont League representatives Coatesville and Unionville won the respective District 1 Class 6A and 5A championships this past weekend. Spring-Ford was the only PAC school to face either team this fall, the Rams falling 26-17 against Unionville Week 1.

N is for New Arrivals >> The area’s football scene featured four first-year head coaches — Boyertown’s Miller, Daniel Boone’s Ryan Contento (who started the season), Pottstown’s Mark Fischer and Upper Merion’s Victor Brown. Their teams found rocky paths while going a combined 10-34.

O is for Out of Turkey >> The tradition of Thanksgiving Day football in the PAC is seemingly over. Pottstown announced earlier this month that the 2017 Turkey Day matchup against Owen J. Roberts would be the last while Norristown and Upper Merion faced off for the final time as well.

Members of the Owen J. Roberts football team celebrate with the winner’s trophy after defeating Pottstown in the final Thanksgiving Day meeting between the schools. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

P is for Pennypacker >> Pottsgrove’s head coach since 1989, Rick Pennypacker quietly announced his plans to retire at season’s end. The Falcons bought him plenty of time on his way out, though, picking up their second straight District 1-4A title along with a second straight PIAA-4A playoff berth.

Pottsgrove head coach Rick Pennypacker. (Austin Hertzog – DFM)

Q is for Quality Quarterback >> Spring-Ford’s senior quarterback TJ Pergine turned in another strong season — finishing with a PAC-best 2,041 yards with 20 touchdowns against just eight interceptions. He threw for a season-high four touchdowns during the Rams’ PAC divisional crossover win against Pope John Paul II.

Spring-Ford’s TJ Pergine throws a pass as he’s pressured by Owen J. Roberts’ Aidan Hayward. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

R is for Repetition >> For the third straight season, Spring-Ford, Perkiomen Valley and Pottsgrove all earned trips within their respective classes to the District 1 playoffs.

S is for Sam Stewart >> The Mercury’s lead football writer for the past four years, Stewart maintained the position’s high standard and brought new elements as the driving force behind Digital First Media’s southeast Pa. football preview and Pa. Prep Live. One could spot him on the sideline — camera in one hand, iPad keeping statistics in another, all while maintaining a constantly-updated Twitter feed. After four years as a sportswriter, Stewart enlisted to join the U.S. Army.

T is for Triple Threat >> Upper Perk’s backfield trio of Tyler Whary, Austin Tutolo and the speedster Tyrese Reid proved to be a lethal combo. Whary led the way with 1,236 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns along with Reid (570 yards, seven touchdowns) and Tutolo (518 yards, four touchdowns) as the Tribe picked up its first district win since the 1997 season.

U is for Undersized Overachiever >> Despite being listed at only 5-6 on Spring-Ford’s roster, running back Justin Defrancesco played big all season for the Rams. The senior led the team with 1,271 rushing yards (second in the PAC) with 14 touchdowns. He also pulled in 27 catches for 318 yards and four touchdowns.

Spring-Ford’s Justin DeFrancesco runs for a first down during the second half of the Rams’ 49-6 victory over Norristown. (Sam Stewart – Digital First Media)

V is for Versatility >> Owen J. Roberts senior Sean Praweckyj was a do-it-all player for the Wildcats this fall. Used regularly in the Wildcat formation, Praweckyj finished with a touchdown pass, five receiving touchdowns and three more on the ground. The only other player in the PAC to score in all three phases was Pottstown’s Josiah Wiggins.

W is for Walk the Walk >> Ryan Walker was a bright spot for Daniel Boone as he finished with a Berks-best 532 yards receiving to go along with eight touchdowns.

X is for X-Factor >> Hard to call any quarterback an X-factor, but in Pottsgrove’s offense, that’s just the case. Junior Jay Sisko was a key piece to the Falcons’ offense, hardly allowing defenses to sell out to stop Faison. He finished with 555 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns along with 807 passing yards and 12 touchdowns on only 73 attempts.

Pottsgrove quarterback Jay Sisko (11) hits the open field on a long touchdown run in the first quarter against Bethlehem Catholic. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

Y is for Year to Forget >> It was another trying season for Methacton as the Warriors finished 0-5 in the PAC’s Liberty Division and 0-10 overall. The Warriors were outscored 41-415 and were shut out six times. Quarterback Dylan Schultz scored four touchdowns on the season.

Z is for Zion Small >> The Phoenixville senior pulled in a school-record eight interceptions this fall and also finished the year with 436 receiving yards (eighth in the PAC) and five touchdowns.

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