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Norristown shuts out Upper Merion in rivalry’s final Thanksgiving game

Norristown's Boubacar Diawara gets away from Upper Merion's Marc Clayton during their Thanksgiving game on Thursday, Nov. 23, 2017. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)

UPPER MERION >> It was far from an artistic success.

And it wasn’t even a down-to-the–wire barnburner.

But the final Upper Merion-Norristown Thanksgiving Day football game had some merit.

History will remember that the Eagles won the final meeting, 10-0, but the fact that there will be no more Thanksgiving contests between the two rivals is of more historical significance.

“The PIAA is making it almost impossible to schedule Thanksgiving Day games anymore,” said Eagles head coach Jason Powel after Norristown used a partially blocked Justin Nagle field goal in the first half and 34-yard Izaiah Webb touchdown pass to John Devine to account for the final score. “They’re taking away the ability to schedule contingency games and now you have to wait around for four weeks to play on Thanksgiving, and that’s something that makes these games almost impossible to schedule.”

Upper Merion’s Mike Zelli gets hit hard by Norristown’s Zhafirr Satterthwaite during their Thanksgiving game on Thursday, Nov. 23, 2017. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)

To no one’s surprise, the game began as if neither side had played for a month (which, in truth, they hadn’t), and both sides were rusty.

Upper Merion had the territorial edge and held the ball for the bulk of the half, but it was Norristown that cashed in, with a Nagle field goal late in the first half (the stadium scoreboard was not functional) to take a 3-0 lead into halftime.

The highlights of the first half included a 38-yard pass play from Webb to Naji Beccles that keyed a drive that, unfortunately for Norristown, died on downs thanks to a Michael Zelli sack at the Vikings 15-yard line.

But the Eagles more than made up for that miss when Nagle booted his 22-yarder in the late stages of the half.

The game stayed that way until the middle of the third quarter when Norristown hit double figures thanks to the aforementioned 34-yard strike from Webb to Devine.

The Vikings huffed and puffed, but could not manage to get on the scoreboard.

Upper Merion’s Anthony Swenda tries to pull away from Norristown’s Tyler Tate during their Thanksgiving game on Thursday, Nov. 23, 2017. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)

“That was the frustrating part,” said Vikings head coach Victor Brown. “I felt we played pretty well in the first half, but not scoring was a big disappointment.”

The Vikings also lost the services of offensive tackle William Fisher, who was carted off the field with what was said to be a dislocated knee late in the first half.

The second half turned the game around, as Norristown scored on its second possession, as Webb found Devine who outran the Vikings secondary for the two-possession touchdown that put the game squarely in favor of the Eagles.

“The game changed in the second half,” said Webb, named the game’s most valuable player. “We were able to come out, get that touchdown and it changed the game.”

Upper Merion’s comeback attempts were thwarted, and the game came to a close with the Vikings scrambling to put something resembling a scoring drive together.

Norristown’s Eleazar Hill takes a hit from Upper Merion’s Marc Clayton during their Thanksgiving game on Thursday, Nov. 23, 2017. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)

The contest also featured an inordinate number of penalties, with the two sides combining for over 200 yards in penalty yardage.

“We kept up our intensity,” Powel said. “It was just a matter of us executing a play or two and our defense holding steady.”

As for the season, Powel said his team was probably better than its final record (4-8), but the future looks bright.

“We’re still moving in a steady upward direction.”

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