Spring-Ford holds off stubborn OJR, 35-14

BUCKTOWN >> Spring-Ford’s offensive machine never quite got into its full, vintage, mow-‘em-down mode Friday night.

Penalties played a part, but so did Owen J. Roberts’ stubborn defense.

At halftime, it appeared the game was headed toward the mercy clock, with Spring-Ford leading 28-0. But the Wildcats kept showing fight and got within two touchdowns before the Rams took control and remained undefeated with a 35-14 victory at Henry J. Bernat Field.

Recollecting when OJR cut the lead to 28-14 with 2:07 left in the third quarter on an 11-yard touchdown pass from sophomore Dawson Stuart to Mitch Bradford, Spring-Ford’s versatile Stone Scarcelle said, “It was more like a reality check; we didn’t win it yet. Coach said (at halftime) it was 0-0. We obviously didn’t take that seriously. We should’ve come out with a harder effort, but luckily we had time to pick it up. Everybody got a little more intense, but we should’ve been like that from the opening kick.”

Spring-Ford (6-0 in the PAC-10, 7-0 overall) essentially iced it with a long drive culminating in dynamic junior Selwyn Simpson’s 35-yard TD run early in the fourth quarter. The Wildcats, who had difficulty all night moving the ball on the ground, got a big 43-yard passing play on their next possession from the promising Stuart to the versatile Bradford (also the starting QB), but an incomplete pass on fourth down at the Spring-Ford 24 effectively spelled the end to any comeback.

Spring-Ford’s defense wasn’t exactly second-fiddle. The Rams held the Wildcats to 19 total yards in the first half and no legitimate first downs; OJR’s only first down the first half came by penalty in the final minute. And the Ram offense, despite sputtering at times, still managed some prolific numbers rushing, getting 126 from Matt Gibson and 92 from Simpson. The underdog Wildcats (3-2, 3-4), to their credit, just wouldn’t let the Rams turn it into a track meet, and they gained the Rams’ respect.

“Our run game was good tonight,” Simpson said. “We knew we had to run hard, especially after halftime. Their d-line was amazing; they’re one of the best ones we’ve faced. We scouted for them and prepared well.”

“I think we have the best defensive line in the league,” OJR coach Rich Kolka said, listing Connor Mitchell, Bryce Weeks, Nick Duliakas and Dan Hultz as his front four Friday night.

“I don’t think there was any reason we couldn’t have won the game tonight,” Kolka added. “At 28-14, we needed an additional stop. It’s hard to keep stopping them all night. We did a good job for the most part in the first half. It was just ‘almost,’ which I think is the best word to describe it.”

OJR recorded five sacks, 2.5 of them by Mitchell. Four sacks came in the first half.

Spring-Ford suffered 75 yards in penalties, some in the red zone.

“We had some penalties last week also, some in the red zone,” Scarcelle said. “It’s just not having our minds straight. We’ve got to keep our heads in the game.”

The Rams stalled in the red zone on their first two possessions, getting two field goals from talented kicker Owen Gulati, the first one a 43-yarder. With good field position, the Rams scooted 45 yards capped by Gibson’s 18-yard run to make it 14-0 late in the first quarter.

Sacks by Duliakas and Mitchell forced Spring-Ford to punt on its first second-quarter possession. But Spring-Ford’s sturdy ‘D’ led by Jeremiah Ndjali, Tim Rudderow, Joe Campbell and Danny Kelchner up front gave the Wildcats nowhere to go.

Scarcelle, who occasionally lines up at QB, took a direct snap and scored from seven yards out for a 21-0 lead with 5:41 left in the half. Area passer-rating leader Ricky Venuto, who kept his interception-less season intact, completed some nice medium-range passes to help set up Simpson’s score right before the half.

But it wasn’t over.

OJR opened the second half with Stuart at quarterback and marched 76 yards to its first touchdown. Spring-Ford’s Trey Jarmon ran back the ensuing kickoff 86 yards to the end zone but it was called back for a holding penalty. OJR’s defense then held firm, forced a punt, and taking advantage of a short field (starting at the Ram 15 after Anthony Buehler’s nice runback), they scored to make it interesting.

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