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Stuart-to-Kapp connection sparks Team Freedom in PAC Senior Bowl

RED HILL >> When it came time for Owen J. Roberts football coach Rich Kolka to draft his team for the Pioneer Athletic Conference Senior Bowl, he definitely had a plan in mind. He selected OJR all-time career touchdown pass leader Dawson Stuart and Jerry Kapp, who set a record for career receiving yards at Boyertown, to spearhead a prominent passing attack.

That selection strategy worked like a charm as the talented duo teamed up for two touchdowns in the first half Sunday afternoon that sparked their Freedom Team to a 36-20 win over the Independence Team in the seventh annual all-star contest at Upper Perkiomen’s Indian Stadium.

Freedom’s Dawson Stuart (Owen J. Roberts) tries to avoid the sack attempt of Independence’s Simeon Little (Spring-Ford) during the PAC Senior Bowl Sunday at Upper Perkiomen. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

Stuart went 12-for-18 for 135 yards and also threw a TD pass to Spring-Ford’s Mitchell Vagnozzi as the Freedom squad built a 29-0 halftime advantage. Pope John Paul II’s Jake Bildstein ran 32 yards for a score and Pottsgrove’s Dez Austin caught two passes for a total of 81 yards from Spring-Ford’s T.J. Pergine for the Independence Team.

“That was a priority of mine to get those two together,” Kolka said concerning Kapp and Stuart.

“All I had to do was put it anywhere close and I knew he’d go and get it,” Stuart said concerning Kapp. “It was a nice feeling.”

Independence’s Kobey Baldwin (Pottsgrove), left, deflects a pass intended for Freedom’s Hunter Hinrichs (Owen J. Roberts) during the PAC Senior Bowl Sunday at Upper Perkiomen. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

The Independence squad had a tough time holding onto the ball in the first half, fumbling it away five times due to a combination of errant snaps and pitches and some hard defensive hits.

Upper Merion’s Preston Hampton returned one of those fumbles 41 yards for the game’s opening score. Then Stuart hit Kapp from 13 yards out soon after another fumble in the opening quarter and lofted a pass into the right corner of the end zone to Kapp early in the second quarter for a 20-0 lead.

Independence got on the board in the second half on a 10-yard touchdown toss from Pergine to Pottstown’s Jamal Adams and closed to within 29-12 on Bildstein’s burst. But Spring-Ford’s Justin DeFrancesco countered with a 20-yard touchdown run and front flip into the end zone to wrap up the win with under seven minutes to go.

Freedom’s Anthony Wiggins (Pottstown) sacks Independence quarterback TJ Pergine on a two-point conversion attempt during the PAC Senior Bowl Sunday at Upper Perkiomen. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

“It was amazing,” said Class 6A All-State First Team defensive back Kapp, who led the state with 11 interceptions last fall and added another with an acrobatic move at the right sideline on Sunday. “I thought it was cool to play one more game against high schoolers you’ve been playing against for three years.”

“It was fun, being it’s kind of a laid back game,” said Stuart, who completed four passes to Wildcat teammate Hunter Hinrichs. “There was a lot of trash talking.”

Independence’s Jamal Adams (Pottstown) catches a touchdown pass in the third quarter during the PAC Senior Bowl Sunday at Upper Perkiomen. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

Head coaches Kolka and Tom Hontz from Upper Perk drafted the teams in February. Any PAC senior was able to declare himself eligible. Kolka also selected Pottsgrove record-setting running back Rahsul Faison, who did not play since he is on the Pennsylvania roster for the Big 33 Football Classic on June 16.

The Freedom Team practiced three times, on a Sunday and two weekdays.

“It’s hard to get everyone on the same page,” said Kolka. “They did a nice job of picking it up. Defensively, we played really well. We were tough up front. I think both teams had a lot of fun.”

Freedom’s Eleazar Hill (Norristown) deflects a pass intended for Independence’s Dez Austin (Pottsgrove) during the PAC Senior Bowl Sunday at Upper Perkiomen. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

Both Stuart and Kapp had good things to say about Norristown defensive end Tyler Tate, who was a key factor in shutting down the Independence side in the first half.

“He was impressive against us, so I picked him,” added Kolka.

Independence’s TJ Pergine (Spring-Ford), left, runs away from the pressure of Freedom’s Tyler Tate (Norristown) during the PAC Senior Bowl Sunday at Upper Perkiomen. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

The Independence team wound up with a 199-165 advantage in total yards.

“Hats off to the other team,” said Kapp. “They played really hard. I want to thank the Owen J. Roberts coaching staff for getting us ready for the game.”

Kapp had the chance to play against some of his high school teammates, as did many others on both sides.

“You scrimmage against them in practice,” he said. “It’s a lot different playing against them. There was a lot of trash talking, but the referees knew it was between teammates.”

Kapp (Seton Hill) and Stuart (East Stroudsburg) could face each other in September when their college teams meet in Week 2 of the season.

Freedom’s Mitchell Vagnozzi (Spring-Ford) is congratulated by teammates after his receiving touchdown in the second quarter during the PAC Senior Bowl Sunday at Upper Perkiomen. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

Freedom’s Preston Hampton (Upper Merion), left is congratulated by Anthony Wiggins (Pottstown) after his fumble recovery returned for a touchdown during the PAC Senior Bowl Sunday at Upper Perkiomen. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

Freedom’s Malik Gardner (Pottsgrove), left, looks for running room after a catch as Perkiomen Valley’s Brendan Schimpf (24) closes in for the tackle during the PAC Senior Bowl Sunday at Upper Perkiomen. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

Independence’s Colby Goldsmith (Spring-Ford) tackles Freedom’s Hunter Hinrichs (Owen J. Roberts) after a reception during the PAC Senior Bowl Sunday at Upper Perkiomen. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

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