Stover, Upper Dublin manhandle Abington

UPPER DUBLIN >> Sure, it’s Abington High School that has the supernatural mascot, but it was Upper Dublin — whose namesake is born from but a tiny avian creature — that was truly terrifying on the gridiron Friday night. The Cardinals played the part of an apparition — darting, dashing, and diving their way ever out of reach of the Galloping Ghosts in their huge 63-17 blowout win.

“We had a better week at practice,” Bret Stover, head coach of Upper Dublin, said. “We kind of went back to basics.”

“Last week,” he said, “it’s not that we were bad, but we weren’t sharp or crisp. We had a little more emphasis on the offensive side of the ball this week.”

Did they ever.

Upper Dublin’s offense drove the ball nine times, each resulting in a touchdown. Ryan Stover, son of Bret, had what was probably his best performance of the year thus far, throwing for 123 yards and three scores on 8-of-9 passing, while adding another score and 43 yards on six carries.

The senior QB, who is hoping to play college ball at the Football Championship Subdivision level (Division I-AA, for those of you who are old-school) could feel something special going in.

“It was one of those nights,” he said. “In warm-ups, there was a little moisture in the air. My hand had that perfect tackiness to the ball, and it was spinning well. It was a good feeling.”

The elder Stover was a little hesitant to inflate his son’s ego, though.

“He played well,” Bret said, “but we had one more point than they did — that’s all that matters. I’m glad, and very happy for him, but the whole team played well tonight. That’s the bottom line.”

He’s right — it would be a shame to not give credit where it’s due elsewhere. Upper Dublin’s mauling offensive line manhandled an undersized Ghost defensive front, giving Stover all day to throw and opening up truck-sized holes for the ground game.

“They set up the blocks, and I just ran behind them,” Stacey Gardner, who finished with 144 yards and a score on just eight carries said. “Everybody stepped up — it was a great team effort.”

It wasn’t all roses early on, though. Abington cut the lead to as little as seven when Darryl Davis-McNeal scored to put the Ghosts down 21-14 partway through the second quarter, but from that point, Abington crumbled, gaining only two first downs in the remaining 32 minutes of football.

“It wasn’t a ‘tough one,’” Ghost coach Tim Sorber said. “It was a blowout.”

“Upper Dublin is a good football team — it’s one of the best Cardinal teams I’ve ever seen,” he went on. “It’s one of those games that just kind of snowballed.”

“You can’t put yourself in a hole early,” he said, referring to poor special teams play that led to Abington’s opening drive starting within their 15. Said drive ended with a blocked punt, giving Upper Dublin its first offensive possession with just a yard needed to score.

“We were down 7-0, then 14-0, and that’s tough,” he went on.

Offensively, the Galloping Ghosts played more like sputtering specters. Outside of a 73-yard touchdown pass from David Kretschman to George Reed (one that he barely avoided a sack on), Abington gained just 128 yards of offense. Kretschman did most of the work, finishing with 108 yards and the aforementioned score on 6-of-11 passing while also leading the team on the ground with 38 yards on 10 carries.

For Upper Dublin, Kaleif Lee had the largest share of carries and did pretty well despite being overshadowed by Gardener’s monster performance. He ran for a pair of scores and 56 yards on nine rushes. In total, the Cardinals bullied their way to 329 yards on the ground.

“It’s a fortunate situation that we have right now,” Bret Stover said, referring to his skill-position depth. “Usually our main problem is that we don’t have enough, but this year we do. We’ve got a sideline full of receivers, and nobody’s jealous of anyone else either. It’s all about the team, which goes a long way.”

Up next for UD is their first road and conference matchup of the year at Cheltenham next weekend.

“Finishing 3-0 in the nonconference games was highest on our list,” Ryan Stover said. “Now we can get to the league and handle our business.”

“We’ve got to go on the road now,” Bret Stover said, “which is a little more hostile.”

“We had three good tests,” he went on. “We played up — we played three bigger schools and we handled them well.”

“The conference is going to a whole lot tougher though,” he said, “and we know that.”

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