LEESPORT >> Rory Graver spoke lightly about the change of venue for Saturday’s Pope John Paul II/Schuylkill Valley football game.
But the Golden Panthers were solidly serious about maintaining their unbeaten run in the first month of the season. That desire was manifested in the 42-14 win PJP rolled up against its guests-turned-hosts.
The Panthers scored on three of four first-half possessions — one ended by a fumbled-away football — to set the tone for this non-league affair. And after the SV Panthers cut the early lead to a single touchdown, the PJP Panthers (4-0) regained control of the momentum with three scores in the third quarter.
“I wasn’t happy with the way we performed in the first half,” Graver said, “but I was happy with how we responded in the second half.”
The game originally had a 1 p.m. start at Pope John Paul II, but field conditions prompted the change to a 6 p.m. matchup at Schuylkill Valley. The decision was made at noon Friday.
“I guess their field is under water,” SV head coach Jeff Chillot noted.
No matter. The Golden Panthers made themselves at home in the open spaces of Berks County, collecting close to 300 yards in the air and scoring off passes four times.
Kamal Gray went on a passing tear for PJP in the first half. The junior quarterback completed seven of 10 passes in that span, an output good for 210 yards and the Panthers’ three touchdowns.
Gray got the aerial game going with a 70-yard pass to Justin Kormos on PJP’s first possession, 5:36 into the game. He went long distance on the Golden Panthers’ second series, finding Steve Skarbek at the end of a 72-yard toss 50 seconds into the second quarter. Gray then hooked up with Kormos on the conversion pass for a 14-0 lead.
Gray then rallied the Panthers for a third TD after Schuylkill Valley got on the scoreboard 2:50 before the half. He hit C.J. McCafferty with a seven-yard strike inside the final minute of the half.
“All the credit goes to our offensive line,” Graver noted. “And (John) Mattiola blocked well, too.
Schuylkill Valley flexed its own pass-throwing muscle in the early going, too. Though Anikin Glassmire was 5-for-10 in the first half, he and Luke Ammarell collaborated on TD tosses of 33 and 43 yards. The second came as the buzzer sounded, the drive set up by a pass-interference call that gave the Panthers a first down at midfield.
“We moved the ball well in the first half,” Chillot said. “That play at the end of the half was good for momentum.”
The Golden Panthers went to their running game to regain the momentum at the start of the second. Gray scored on an eight-yard tote at the 8:09 mark, and A.J. Natale went on a 12-yard scoring jaunt 1:13 before the end of the quarter.
The passing game added a 23-yard scoring hookup from Gray to Natale in between, at the 8:09 mark.
“We did a good job balancing the offense,” Graver said.
Defensively, Skarbek’s interception of a Glassmire pass late in the fourth ended SV’s final series at the PJP 32. And Brandon Snyder recorded a sack of the Panther QB on a previous series.
NOTES >> The site change gave PJP a unique opportunity to perform on turf during the regular season. “This is the only game we have on turf. All the others are on grass.” … Its big lead — one that was set by the end of the third quarter — gave the PJP coaching staff the chance to get other players off the bench and into the mix. One in particular, Steele DePetrillo, gained 28 yards toward the end to help run off the clock. “He’s got a bright future with us,” Graver said of the freshman.
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