Heads-up Upper Perkiomen pulls away from Methacton

RED HILL >> It was a change of plans that effectively changed the face of Friday’s Upper Perkiomen/Methacton football game.

The Indians, holding a tenuous 24-21 lead with 2:17 to go, had just punted the ball away to the Warriors after three plays left them at their 16-yard line. On first down from the UP 43, Methacton fumbled the ball and Tyler Whary recovered at the 50 for the home team.

That, however, wasn’t the capper for the Indians. The capper came on the next play, when Upper Perk quarterback Zeke Hallman planned to call a running play … but that changed, thanks to an assessment by wide receiver Ryan Kendra.

“He signaled me there was no coverage on him,” Hallman recalled. “So I changed the play to a throw.”

Hallman’s lofting throw was collected by Kendra, who ran unimpeded into the end zone with two minutes to go. Hallman’s subsequent conversion kick staked UP to a 31-21 lead that ended up being the final score, after it stopped Methacton on a three-and-out at its 48 with around a minute left.

In a game where both teams were in search of the season’s first win – a game that evolved into a shootout in the second half – the Hallman-to-Kendra connection took some people by surprise.

“Including myself,” UP head coach Tom Hontz said with a laugh. “But we trust Zeke to make that call. Kendra was uncovered, and it was a heads-up play by both of them.”

Hallman had a hand in a majority of the points Upper Perk (1-2 PAC-10, 1-3 overall) scored on the night. His 24-yard field goal on the team’s opening possession staked the Indians to an early lead, and he covered four yards on an off-tackle run in the second quarter to boost their point spread to 17-0 … that in addition to a 4-for-4 on PAT kicks.

In between Hallman’s first two scoring plays, Austin Tutolo had a two-yard run up the middle to open the second quarter. But the big gun in the Upper Perk offense ended up being Mike Felix, whose hard running set the stage for his team’s point production.

UP’s hard-charging senior tailback racked up a game-high 218 yards on 23 carries, eight of them good for double-digit gains. Felix’s lone touchdown, a 44-yard play off left tackle with 6:03 to go, answered a second rushing TD by Methacton’s Ryan O’Toole, which cut the Indians’ lead to 17-14 little less than 1½ minutes earlier.

“I got the coach to run me more,” Felix said. “The line held, too. That’s how we got the win. All the credit goes to them.”

“He’s a stud,” Hallman said of his senior teammate, who also spearheaded the Indians’ defensive play with numerous jarring tackles. “Mike’s the hardest worker in practice. He really broke out of his shell in this game.”

Methacton (0-3, 0-4) used its passing attack to get back into the game. Quarterback Jason Eckman, launching 32 passes – 19 in the second half – completed 18 of them for 246 yards. Eckman hooked up with O’Toole (four catches, 65 yards) on back-to-back scoring tosses of 20 and 31 yards in a four-minute span of the fourth quarter, which brought the Warriors back to within three of catching UP.

“When they got it down to the three-point margin, we were concerned,” Hallman admitted. “But I know we’re a better-conditioned team. Coach Hontz stresses conditioning in practice.
“And playing on our home field, we weren’t going to lose this one.”

On the defensive side, Whary got Upper Perk an earlier turnover. His pick of an Eckman pass at the Methacton 48, inside the final minute of the first quarter, set the stage for Tutolo’s touchdown run four plays later … two of them end sweeps by Felix that covered 46 of the stripes to the end zone.

“This team needs to learn how to win games,” Hontz said. “They got a lot of experience tonight. They could have folded when Methacton got the game down to three points, but they answered the bell on both sides of the ball.”

NOTES >> Methacton’s defense made a timely stop of UP at the end of the first half. The Indians got the ball down to the visitors’ one on second down, but the Warriors stopped Hallman short of the end zone on a keeper, and Hallman threw incomplete on fourth down. … Eckman, on the defensive side, intercepted a Hallman pass at the start of the second quarter. That came after Whary got the ball for UP with a fumble recovery on the Methacton 42.

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