POTTSTOWN >> It’s something that will be remembered for a long time, by the Owen J. Roberts and Pottstown High football communities.
For the Wildcats and their faithful fans, the memories of a three-way finale will be exceptionally sweet. They will remember how their team rolled up a 42-0 victory over the Trojans Thursday — in a season capper, the last high-school game for their seniors and the swan song for a Turkey Day matchup that’s come to an end after almost six decades.
Owen J. Roberts dominated this crossover Pioneer Athletic Conference pairing with a combination of precision offense and opportunistic defense. The ‘Cats (9-3 overall) offense scored three times, with senior quarterback Dawson Stuart throwing to six different receivers, and twice getting interceptions returned for touchdowns from classmates Ted Bradford and Brendan Krumenacker.
“It was a fun four years,” Stuart said afterward, “a good time. Seeing everyone who graduated … it was the best way to end it.”
It was a different feeling for Pottstown, which hosted the long-running Thanksgiving Day series finale at Grigg Memorial Field. The more-youthful Trojans (2-9) were unable to keep pace with District 1 Class 6A playoff qualifier Owen J.’s point production, held to just under 100 yards and four first downs while victimized by OJR’s interceptions converted into TDs.
“It’s an emotional day,” Pottstown head coach Mark Fischer after logging his first season at the helm of Trojan football. “It was the seniors’ last day … and it wasn’t the outcome we wanted.”
Stuart handled the bulk of Roberts’ passing offense, completing 16 of 23 passes for 204 yards. And fellow senior Sean Praweckyj chipped in as both a receiver and passer, his five catches for 60 yards and one touchdown complemented by a nine-yard scoring strike to Hunter Hinrichs (six catches for 103 yards) in the second quarter.
“It was a great team effort,” Praweckyj said. “Dawson found me on stride, and our wideouts blocked well.”
Praweckyj got OJR’s scoring on its first possession, set up by the recovery of a Pottstown fumble at the Trojan 32 on its second play of the game. He was on the receiving end of Stuart’s 18-yard toss to the right side with less than 2½ minutes gone.
And after Marcus Martin pushed the Roberts lead to 14-0 little more than four minutes later — he went nine yards around left end for the score at 5:31 — Praweckyj capped a 10-play, 53-yard drive by hooking up with Hinrichs on a nine-yard pass to the right side seven seconds into the second quarter. Praweckyj helped sustain the drive when, after catching a pass from Stuart along the Pottstown sideline, he pitched to Martin for a combined nine-yard gain into Trojan territory.
“It was a whole team effort,” OJR head coach Rich Kolka, glistening from a end-of-game water bucket dousing by his players, said. “It’s a nice way to go out.”
The OJR defense made for an even more memorable finish with its stout play. Along with the “pick sixes,” it recovered two fumbles.
But the touchdown interceptions proved very important to Owen J. being able to bring the “running clock” into play early in the second half. Bradford stepped in front of a fourth-down Owen Morton pass on what would be the final play of the first half, motoring 63 yards to the Pottstown end zone as time expired.
In the third quarter, after the Trojans’ Nehemiah Figueroa stopped the Wildcats’ first series with a pick of his own at the home team’s 17, Krumenacker returned an interception seven yards at the eight-minute mark. The conversion kick by Hugo Mateos — the last of five he had on the day — boosted Roberts’ lead to 35-0.
“I’ve never had that,” Kolka said of the two “pick six” touchdowns.
“Having the two pick sixes … we made plays,” Stuart added. “Everything went right for us.”
Stuart and Hinrichs capped the Wildcat scoring with a 27-yard touchdown pass 40 seconds before the end of the third quarter. The OJR defense, in the meantime, secured the shutout outcome by preventing Pottstown from sustaining any drives: The longest one by the Trojans was the eight plays they ran at the end of the first half.
“At the end, I think we made progress this year,” Fischer said. “We have a lot of players coming back … we had eight sophomore out on the field today, and while that doesn’t guarantee success next year, we were able to lay groundwork.”
The matter of whether the schools can continue their on-field rivalry in the future is one of speculation. One idea mentioned is to schedule the matchup earlier in the regular season, though nothing is certain at this point.
“It’s a shame this is the last one,” Praweckyj said. “Our team took it to heart. We emphasized the physicality of the game.”
“It’s a tradition of 59 years,” Fischer said, “and I’m glad to be part of it.”
NOTES >> Morton marked his final game for Pottstown with a 3-for-12 passing day, covering 44 yards. His longest completion was a 19-yarder to Figueroa. … Anthony Wiggins was the Trojans’ leading rusher with 30 yards on six carries. Hunter Scherfel led the Wildcat ground game with 37 yards on 11 carries. … The Wildcats attempted a 27-yard field goal 3-1/2 minutes before the end of the first half, but the kick was blocked. … Stuart and Praweckyj both indicated they’re looking to play football in college. Neither one has committed anywhere, however, choosing to keep their options open. … The win was the fifth in a row for Owen J, the longest streak in this Thanksgiving Day series by either school. Roberts had previously won four straight between 1998 and 2001, and Pottstown had a pair of three-win runs in 1959-61 and 1995-97.