Owen J. Roberts gives Kolka his first win, 43-22 over Pope John Paul II

BUCKTOWN >> There was no shortage of happy folks wearing Owen J. Roberts red Friday.

Two of the happier ones were affiliated with the football team … and for good reason.

Roberts’ 43-22 victory over Pope John Paul II was the first for head coach Rich Kolka, who took over the Wildcat grid program earlier this year. And it was secured, in large part, by a workmanlike effort from junior tailback Bryce Weeks … a major contributor to the 300-plus yard rushing game that got Owen J. in the win column after two early-season losses.

Weeks covered 131 yards on 12 carries, his longest run from scrimmage the 42-yard sprint around his right end with 4:08 left in the first half. That got the OJR junior the first of three touchdowns he scored on the night, one that helped stake the ‘Cats to a 22-14 halftime advantage over a PJP squad also looking for its first win of the fall, and first in the Pioneer Athletic Conference.

“It took a lot of hard work,” Weeks said. “Coach said they (PJP) were tough. We stuck with them.”

The most tangible prize for Kolka was the game ball the team presented him in the post-game huddle.  Just as big for him was seeing his club rebound from last weekend’s 34-21 loss to Great Valley by scoring 21 unanswered points after the Golden Panthers (0-3) pulled even at 22 with 4:44 left in the third quarter.

“The guys worked hard,” he said. “We were close last week, but mistakes hurt us. You can’t make mistakes in the PAC-10 and expect to win.”

To its credit, PJP forced Roberts into a pair of turnovers in punting situations that set the table for its first two scores.

Dan Cirino’s recovery of a fumbled punt by Owen J. at its 37 put the Panthers in position for quarterback Matt Duff to hook up with Ryan Kormos on a 22-yard TD toss at the start of the second quarter. And Ricky Bearden’s block of a punt by Roberts’ Matt Dinnocenti gave the visitors possession at the OJR 13, from which they scored three plays later off another Duff TD toss to Andrew Salvo.

“We have to eliminate mistakes like that,” Kolka said. “After those two mistakes, we played consistent.”

Roberts answered yet another turnover – Cirino’s interception of a Mitch Bradford pass four plays into the second half, off which the Panthers scored the tying TD 13 plays later – by shifting its ground game into overdrive. Weeks and Rayquon Stewart steered the Wildcats’ last three possessions into scoring marches to effectively close out the game.

Weeks’ third TD was a six-yard burst through his right tackle 57 seconds before the end of the third quarter, a series that saw him carry the ball five times for 55 yards – the last 33 on three totes. Stewart, who got the bulk of his 54 yards during a busier second half, bulled his way for touchdowns of three and four yards in the fourth quarter.

“We got really aggressive after that,” Weeks said of PJP’s tying touchdown. “We went through it.”

Bradford got OJR’s scoring act started in the first quarter. An 11-play, 59-yard march set up by Anthony Buehler’s interception of a Duff pass seven plays into the game was capped by the Roberts quarterback (11 carries, 79 yards) bulling his way into the end zone from one yard out with 3:54 left in the first.

“Our quarterback made it through, which was big after the last two games,” Kolka said.

Roberts had a number of standouts on the defensive side, Weeks among them with two quarterback sacks and a dropped ballcarrier. Dawson Stuart, Christian Krumenacker, Bill Scherfel, Aidan Hayward and Nick Duliakas all figured in on drops of PJP runners behind the line of scrimmage, and Stuart also batted away a Duff pass attempt midway through the second quarter.

“Our defense kept a lot of pressure on them all night,” Kolka said. “I don’t think we were beaten by any vertical passes.”

“It was hard work day in and out,” Weeks added.

The Panthers’ offensive production lay primarily with the passing game, where Duff completed nine of 20 tosses for 135 yards. Salvo was a frequent target, making four catches covering 30 yards, while Kormos and Jared Johns-Lupold each had pairs of receptions good for 34 and 46 yards, respectively.

NOTES >> Owen J. ended up punting just once, compared to PJP kicking the ball away four times at an average of 37.3 yards per punt. … Matt Dinnocenti converted kicks on all but Roberts’ first TD, where C.J. Weaver ran for two.

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