WR standouts Johns-Lupold, Palubinsky bolster PJP-Phoenixville matchup

By Sam Stewart

@Samuel_Stewart7 on Twitter

Jared Johns-Lupold had a plan for his offseason training.

Then it burst.

Yet one would never be able to tell with the season the Pope John Paul II senior is having.

Held out of offseason training sessions for three months due to a ruptured appendix, the senior wide receiver has been on a tear of late, ranking second in the PAC-10 in receptions and receiving yards. He will look to improve upon those numbers and guide the Golden Panthers to their first win Saturday afternoon (1 p.m.) as they host Phoenixville, which features a standout receiver of its own in Matt Palubinsky.

“I’ve just been working my butt off everyday at practice and just trying to be the best that I can be,” Johns-Lupold said. “I was pretty ill during the beginning, lost a lot of weight and right when I got back I started training hard, running routes for the quarterbacks anytime I could and ran hills every week. It was rough, but I just kept working, building up my stamina, speed and strength and I’m probably a lot better than what I was then.”

“When he came back he wasn’t as strong as he was or as fast he was before,” PJP head coach Rory Graver said. “But the type of kid that Jared is, he worked his butt off. He got himself to where he’s faster than he was last year, stronger than he was last year. It just shows you the type of kid that he is.”

For Johns-Lupold, it was a hellish three months.

Then a junior, Johns-Lupold started to experience severe stomach pains right after Christmas vacation. His parents had taken him to the ER after the pains got worse, only to be told by the doctors that they believed it was a virus that had been going around. A few days later, Johns-Lupold was back in the hospital, a CAT scan revealing that his appendix had been ruptured for about a week. He stayed in the hospital for a couple of weeks, getting his nutrition back in order before undergoing surgery on Super Bowl Sunday.

“I was so worried that I wouldn’t be able to play this season,” Johns-Lupold said. “When it happened and I was in the hospital I thought about that every day. Coach Graver came to see me the one day, and he brought me the awards that I had won last season and he told me the team was thinking about me and praying for me and that really boosted me up. I knew I had to get back out there.”

That he did.

Johns-Lupold, a hopeful to play football at Ursinus or Wilkes College, has been a bright spot for the winless Golden Panthers, racking up 21 receptions for 368 yards and four receiving touchdowns. He turned in one of his better performances in a Week 4 loss to Pottstown, hauling in a season-best nine receptions for 144 yards. He followed that with a six-reception, 97-yard performance in a loss to Boyertown the following week.

To Graver, Johns-Lupold’s numbers aren’t a surprise.

“He sets a tone for how we work at practice,” Graver said. “He’s not the loudest guy out there. He’s not a rah-rah type guy, but he sets the example for everyone else on how we should practice, how we should train and how we should play during the game.”

His leadership will be needed as the Golden Panthers seek their maiden victory over one-win Phoenixville, which also boasts a standout player in senior Palubinsky.

“They have a lot of playmakers on offense and they play very, very hard on defense,” Graver said of Phoenixville. “The coaching staff does a great job over there. Palubinsky is a great player, (Nasir) Green is a great football player, (Matt) Garcia is a good football player. They bring a lot of challenges for us on defense and with their defense, they really fly to the football.”

The Phantoms are coming off three straight losses after a 48-20 victory over Methacton in Week 3. The team has struggled running the ball recently, compiling only 36 rushing yards in losses to Pottsgrove, Owen J. Roberts and Pottstown, while also being held to 5.7 points per game in that span.

Palubinsky, however, has been a solid contributor throughout the season, rushing for 215 yards on 62 carries with three scores while hauling in 17 passes for 144 yards. He, along with Nasir Green (19 receptions for 264 yards and five touchdowns), will look to give the Phantoms a second conference win for the first time under second-year Phoenixville head coach Evan Breisblatt.

“It’s going to be a tough game for both teams,” Breisblatt said. “We feel like we’re battle tested. We’ve gone through the gauntlet of good teams in the PAC and Great Valley so we’re looking to play hard like we always do and run to the football. We think good things will happen if we do those things.”

“We’re looking to play perfect,” Palubinsky said. “We’re ready to go, our team battled all week at practice and now we’re ready to battle PJP on the weekend. We’re looking forward to playing a good game.”

Both teams are treating the Week 7 point as a new beginning with Graver and the Golden Panthers looking to seek out a few more wins before the season ends. Getting a win against Phoenxville would be huge for PJP said Graver.

“These guys are desperate for their first win, and they deserve it for how hard they’ve been working in practice and in the offseason,” Graver said. “This is the most important game of our season so far.

“I told them this week that even if our record doesn’t show it, we’re a much better football team at this point than we were last year. That’s a credit to these guys for all hard they work, how hard they practice and their dedication in the offseason.”

Phoenixville, meanwhile, knows what it’s up against with PJP’s offense.

“I’m worried about their entire offense,” Breisblatt said. “Their screen game is phenomenal. I’m sure they’ll have a million trick plays this week, wheeling the back out of the backfield and their middle screen game. Rory does a very good job scheme wise. We have to put pressure on their quarterback (Matt Duff), come at different angles, be physical with the receivers and knock them off their routes.”

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