Upper Dublin ready for Cheltenham’s best

CHELTENHAM >> No longer is Upper Dublin High’s football team an underdog or hoping to break into the big time.

The Cardinals are there, folks, and now they’re the ones getting every team’s best game and best effort.

Opposition coaches are burning the midnight oil preparing for them, and all opposition players are listening intently at practice instead of eyeing up the cheerleaders.

Upper Dublin is a prized scalp, a legitimate, chest-puffing red circle on the football calendar.

“That’s what we’re telling our players every week,” said Cardinals head coach Bret Stover. “I liken it to when we used to always be chasing Plymouth Whitemarsh.

“We’re getting everybody’s best punch.”

So far, the Cardinals have stood up to that punch.

Which is not to say there isn’t still some work to do.

“We’re doing all right,” Stover said. “We’re getting there, but we’re still making mistakes.

“It’s been more mental mistakes than anything, we’re missing assignments and we’ve had some injuries and have had to move people around.”

A year ago at this time the Cardinals were a good team that not many knew about outside of the Suburban One League.

That all changed when the Cardinals went on a postseason jaunt all the way to the District One Class AAAA semifinals, beating the likes of Council Rock North and Bayard Rustin along the way.

The magical mystery tour ended against eventual District One champ Pennsbury, but with the majority of the team back this year, the target has been on the Cardinals’ collective backs since August.

And while no one has offered sympathy, the Cardinals have already lost starting center Jason O’Gara for the season due to a torn miniscus and have other assorted bumps and bruises that have hindered their start.

That’s not to say the Cardinals haven’t been impressive.

They go into Friday night’s Suburban One League American Conference opener at Cheltenham (7 p.m.) with a 3-0 record.

And while the Cardinals are wary of the Panthers, and expecially the Panthers’ quarterback Branden Mack, a Temple commit, they know they are the ones under the microscope.

“One of our themes this year is to start fast,” Stover said, “and we’ve done that in our first three games.

“We’re the ones that have to get going, and not let our opponents get that sense they can surprise us.”

The team leaders, as they were a year ago, are quarterback Ryan Stover, the coach’s son, who’s off to a fast start, and middle linebacker Henry Winebrake, who once saw himself as a collegiate lacrosse player, but who has since decided to play football at the next level.

“Ryan has things in perspective,” his father said. “He has an offer from Millersville, but I think the Colonial Association or the Patriot Conference would be a good fit for him.

“As he says, he’ll have some fun with his teammates and see what happens.

“As for Henry, I think he’d like to go to a Columbia or a Princeton. So we’re waiting to see what happens.”

In the meantime, the Cardinals will continue to don their targeted jerseys and hope for another postseason run.

“Hey, all we can do is go play the games,” Stover said.


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