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Picture Perfect: Perkiomen Valley downs Pottsgrove for third straight PAC championship

LOWER POTTSGROVE >> One thing was missing as Ethan Kohler was posing for pictures with his offensive line and the Pioneer Athletic Conference plaque: the one who got them there.

“Hey, get one with Cole,” Perkiomen Valley’s backup quarterback Kohler told his line, ducking out of the picture so starter Cole Peterlin had the spotlight. “He’s the one who got us here.”

With Peterlin sidelined by an injury for the second straight game, Kohler has stepped up and filled in admirably in his place. The freshman delivered Perkiomen Valley its third straight PAC championship Friday night with a 35-17 win over Pottsgrove at Pennypacker Field.

Perkiomen Valley’s Austin Rowley (23) is congratulated by Zach Lomonaco (39) after scoring a touchdown in the first half of the PAC championship game against Pottsgrove. (Thomas Nash – Digital First Media)

“Our confidence from last week really carried into this weekend,” said Kohler, referencing last week’s come-from-behind 27-20 win over Spring-Ford. “Our offensive line did a great job up front, our receivers made plays and we moved the ball well the entire game.”

Up against the league’s most dominant defense — which had allowed just seven points against per game on the season — Kohler looked plenty up for the challenge behind center for Perk Valley (5-0 PAC Liberty; 8-2 overall). The Vikings’ 35 points was the most a Pottsgrove (5-0 PAC Frontier; 9-1 overall) team had let up since the state playoffs last fall.

Perkiomen Valley quarterback Ethan Kohler (8) looks to pass amid pressure from Pottsgrove’s Bryce Kennedy. (Thomas Nash – Digital First Media)

The freshman Kohler stood tall in the pocket and racked up 143 passing yards and a pair of passing touchdowns while completing five of 11 attempts on the night.

After Pottsgrove opened the game with a methodical, 8-play 57-yard drive ending with quarterback Jay Sisko hitting Jadore Colbert in the end zone, Kohler and the Vikings were quick to respond.

Perkiomen Valley’s Austin Rowley (23) fires up the fan section late in the second half of the Vikings’ PAC championship game win over Pottsgrove. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

The Vikings utilized big scoring plays on their first two drives, Kohler hitting running back Jon Moccia for a 57-yard touchdown before connecting with Austin Rowley for a 37-yard touchdown strike on 4th down on their next drive to give the Vikings a 14-7 lead in the first quarter.

“He’s playing within himself,” Perkiomen Valley head coach Rob Heist said of Kohler. “The kids are making plays around him, we’re blocking well up front. All around, I thought this was the most complete game that we’ve played all year.”

Perkiomen Valley’s Jon Moccia (4) raises his arms in celebration after a Vikings’ touchdown late in the second half against Pottsgrove in the PAC championship game Friday. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

Moccia racked up 160 total yards on the night with a season-high 98 yards rushing.

The junior arguably had the play of the night.

With the score tied at 14-14 and less than a minute remaining in the first half, Moccia burst through the middle of his line and broke loose for an 85-yard touchdown, giving the Vikings a 21-14 advantage and a lead they’d never again let go.

Perkiomen Valley quarterback Ethan Kohler talks to head coach Rob Heist. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

“I put it all on my offensive line,” said Moccia, who rushed for a season-high 98 yards on the night. “I told my guys on the line, I’m gonna buy them all pizza if we win. They created every hole. It was all them.”

And after Friday night’s result, Perk Valley linemen Tyler Wilhelm, Kyle Rittenhouse, Will Marotta, Eli Johnston and Dylan Schell should be ready for a feast. Better get that check book ready.

Perkiomen Valley’s Isaiah Domine (6) catches a pass over Pottsgrove cornerback Jimai Springfield in the second half. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

“That run right before the half was big,” said Pottsgrove head coach Bill Hawthorne. “You give a great player a little crease, he took it and he went with it.”

After the game, Heist vowed that the Vikings weren’t playing to run the clock out, rather try and set something up.

“That’s not really our style,” said Heist. “We call a play, we’re trying to execute it. They executed that play perfectly and it worked out great. Definitely a good way to go into the half.”

Perkiomen Valley’s defense stepped it up in the second half, limiting Pottsgrove to just 108 total yards and forcing three interceptions.

Perkiomen Valley’s Doug Lingo (13) and Jake Sterling (56) brings pressure in the backfield against Pottsgrove quarterback Jay Sisko. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

But it was the special teams that then came through when it was needed most.

After a 23-yard field goal from Pottsgrove kicker Mike Sereny made it 21-17, Perk Valley’s Isaiah Domine answered right back when he busted loose for a 94-yard kickoff return to make it 28-17.

The senior fielded the kick, crossed paths with Randy Washington between the hash marks and pretended to pitch his teammate the ball before breaking loose up the left sideline sending the Perk Valley faithful into an uproar.

Kohler then ended the scoring with a 6-yard keeper late in the fourth, giving the game its final score at 35-17.

There was a time this fall where Perk Valley was 0-2 on the season and looked to be coming down from its perch.

Pottsgrove head coach Bill Hawthorne, right, and Perkiomen Valley head coach Rob Heist shake hands after PV’s 35-17 win in the PAC championship game. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

“We came into the season with two losses,” said Moccia. “At least one starter was out every game, but we kept pushing. People kept filling in doing a great job stepping in. It’s been a team effort every single game.

“We knew the first four games would be tough games. But we were in that position before. We focused in practice 100 percent, we were in the film room every week. We earned this.”

For Heist, the win marked a third straight PAC championship for the third-year head coach.

“Talk about a dream start to your career,” said Heist with a smile. “For our staff and for our kids, it’s been a blessing. I’m very thankful to be a part of this program. We’ve got great people around here.”

A win for Pottsgrove would have been a dream start for first-year head coach Hawthorne.

Perkiomen Valley quarterback Ethan Kohler (8) rushes for a touchdown in the second half against Pottsgrove. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

With an undefeated regular season and a Frontier Division title to his credit, the first-year head coach now shifts his focus to the District One Class 4A playoffs.

“We’ve got to do our best and see what happens,” he said.

Sisko racked up 74 yards rushing and a touchdown on 15 carries while freshman running back Kayden White had 103 yards on 22 carries.

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