UPPER MERION >> Man, what a football game.
Upper Moreland beat Upper Merion Friday night, 22-21, in what seemed, heading in, like standard Suburban One American fare. The Golden Bears were supposed to pretty good, and the Vikes, as they have been for the last few years, weren’t.
But, as it often happens in sports, the game was anything but standard.
Let’s fast forward to the fourth quarter because before that, nothing particularly interesting happened. Botros Borsoum knocked in a field goal for Upper Merion in the first quarter, and Upper Moreland got a pair of early touchdowns on a Casey Decker pass to Ryan Norton and Rodney Morgan run.
That’s how it stayed until early in the fourth. Upper Moreland was driving, and on a third-and-10 play, Decker dropped back and threw a pick into the hands of Isaiah Graham-Mobley.
About then was when the fun started.
“He’s a game changer,” Upper Merion coach Harold Smith said.
That would be the understatement of the night. Twelve yards into the next drive, Graham-Mobley took over for Jarrett Quinn at quarterback and got started. He ripped off runs of 12 and 13 yards, and mixed in with some carries by Kori Smith, got down to the Viking 49 on fourth down with 12 to go.
His 16-yard pass to Borsoum kept the Vikes’ hopes alive, and on the next play, danced all the way to the end zone with 3:17 left on the clock.
“He’s a dynamic player,” Smith said of his QB-WR-safety hybrid star. “He just took the game into his hands.”
Borsoum missed the PAT, and Upper Merion still found themselves down 14-9 with not a whole lot of time left.
The Viking defense forced a three-and-out on the next series, and on fourth-and-12, from his own 30, Bears punter Randy Meehl took a slightly wide snap and ran it all the way back through the end zone for a safety.
Yes, he ran for a negative-30-yard safety. The Upper Merion crowd, while ecstatic, was in shock.
“I told him to do that,” Upper Moreland coach Adam Beach said. “I told him if the play wasn’t right, take it back, and run in the back of the end zone.”
The logic was — and it turned out to be correct — that it would be better to make Upper Merion have to drive its way to win. Had Meehl fallen to the ground or gotten tackled, the Vikings would have needed just 15 or 20 yards to march for a touchdown to win the game. With the safety, they ended up needing to go 45 (a kick out of bounds gave them better field position) to score, with the worst case scenario being a field goal to tie it.
“I called a timeout,” Beach said, “and made sure I told (Meehl) that.”
“I think he did a really nice job of realizing what was happening,” Beach went on. “It was a heads-up, smart play on his part.”
On the ensuing possession, Vikes marched down to the 13, (a holding penalty negated a stellar Graham-Mobley would-be winning touchdown run) and Bortrous nailed the 30 yard field goal as time expired, his second of such a distance for the game.
Cue overtime. The Vikes got the ball first, and with a good deal of momentum (they had, after all, scored 11 unanswered points in about three-and-a-half minutes), Graham-Mobley threw a 10-yard touchdown on their first play to Bortrous (who else) to give the Vikes the lead. The kick was good, and Upper Merion was up 21-14.
You already know how the rest ends. Decker lofted another pass to Norton, this one for eight yards, to score and give the Bears a chance to win. They took it, and Morgan, who finished with 170 and a score on 24 carries, bounced an off-tackle run to the outside for the two-point conversion, sealing Upper Moreland’s dramatic win.
Graham-Mobley added another dimension to the Vikes’ offense that Upper Moreland wasn’t really ready for—his legs—but Smith doesn’t regret waiting until the fourth to bring his Temple-bound star under center.
“Our guys have their roles,” he said. “We have confidence in (Quinn). He missed a couple reads, and we felt like they were getting some pressure, so we wanted to bring in a more athletic quarterback.”
That’s no slight to Quinn, given that he throws a sharper ball and stands at least three inches taller than Graham-Mobley, but one would have to be a fool not to acknowledge his disadvantage in the running department.
Graham-Mobley led the Vikings on the ground with 71 yards on just six carries. Smith had a nice night too: 111 total yards (56 rushing, 55 receiving) on only 13 touches. Upper Merion has the standard positives to take away from this one—fighting back in the fourth after being down, not giving up, etc.—but Smith wasn’t wholly satisfied.
“We don’t play for moral victories,” he said. “You want to get a W, especially after losing in overtime for two weeks in a row.”
“It’s tough, but I’m proud of the kids,” he said. “We really played well, but it comes down to one run, and not getting one stop.”