Defrancesco’s big night lifts Pottsgrove over Methacton

LOWER POTTSGROVE >> There was the normal joy associated with Pottsgrove’s game against Methacton Friday.

The Falcons provided a more-than-satisfactory cap to the high school’s Homecoming celebration, rolling to a 51-7 victory over the Warriors in their Pioneer Athletic Conference duel at Pennypacker Field. The outcome took out a lot of the sting generated by last weekend’s 22-13 loss to Spring-Ford, and the hometown crowd also celebrated the crowning of Dyani Hairston as the school’s Homecoming queen earlier in the day.

But the joy for the Maroon and White was tempered by news that came out regarding one of its own. Senior Chris Defrancesco had received a diagnosis of testicular cancer recently, which will obviously impact his status with the team over the remainder of Pottsgrove’s season.

Defrancesco confirmed he will be undergoing a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) procedure next week, to determine the extent of the cancer, followed by treatment of the disease. At the same time, the Falcons’ senior linebacker/tight end expressed the determination to keep at the sport this fall as long as possible.

“I’m still playing,” he said after helping his club set a dominating tone against the Warriors. “It will all depend on the surgery date. But when I can play, I will.”

On a night that saw Pottsgrove (4-2 league, 4-3 overall) score the first five times it had possession of the pigskin – to include a fumble-recovery touchdown the fifth time – and bring the running clock unquestionably into play for the entire second half, Defrancesco played a prominent role on the defensive side.

Defrancesco capped the Falcons’ first-half point production by scoring a safety with his tackle of Jason Eckman in the end zone after the Methacton quarterback recovered a bobbled snap from the visitors’ 10-yard line. He also shared a second-half sack of Eckman with Joe Paolucci – one of at least seven the Falcons racked up on the night – and was key to his team keeping the Warriors (0-6, 0-7) bottled up until the last 4:16 of the game.

“I never sacked a quarterback in the end zone,” Defrancesco said. “It was a great experience.”

The Pottsgrove defense’s other scoring play came with 6:54 left in the first half and Methacton on its 18-yard line. A fumble by Dylan Henry was recovered by the Falcons’ Mike Gantert, who ran it into the end zone for a 35-0 lead that set the stage for the running clock second half.

That came on the heels of Pottsgrove rushing touchdowns from Wyatt Porter (two), Tyrell Barr (two) and Deyon Doctor. They were key to a dominant first half that saw the Falcons generate 294 yards total offense while leaving Methacton with minus-16 in that span.

“We’re looking at a four-game season the rest of the way,” Pottsgrove head coach Rick Pennypacker said, “and this was the first one. I was proud of the way the kids came out hard, and proud of the way they played.”

And, at the same time, the effort Defrancesco put out in spite of his medical issues.

“Chris had a great game,” Pennypacker said.

While Pottsgrove again went with a run-dominated offense — all but three pass plays, one of which Doctor completed to

Christian Pace for nine yards — Methacton went much heavier with the throwing game.

Eckman went to the air 31 times, completing 14 for 136 yards. His lone payoff pitch was a 21-yard toss to Ryan O’Toole with less than 4-1/2 minutes remaining, the cap to a 16-play drive spanning the third and four quarters but hampered by two penalties and four sacks.

“We keep battling,” head coach Paul Lepre said. “Our kids come out with a new-found enthusiasm each game. Things just haven’t been falling in place.”

Another highlight of the Warriors’ passing game came during its first possession, when it lined up to punt on a fourth-and-five from their 40-yard line. Eckman, playing the back spot between the line and punter Scott Stueben, took the snap and completed a pass to Dylan Feaster good for 14 yards and a first down at the Pottsgrove 46.

“I was proud for them (Methacton), coming out and fighting in the first quarter,” Defrancesco said. “Overall, I was proud of them for the way they played.”

But there was little else the Warriors could do against Pottsgrove’s surging defense. It forced the visitors into four other fumbles, getting recoveries on three of them by Michael Dickey, Ephraim Hurt-Ramsey and Paolucci, and a third-quarter interception by Barr, who returned the pick to the Methacton 10 before covering the rest of the distance to the end zone on a surge up the middle.

The Falcons’ sack parade featured Michael Dickey and Dylan Rolando each figuring on two, along with solos from Gantert, Parris Janusek, Paolucci and Skylar McLeod.

Offensively, Barr finished the night with a game-high 194 yards and a three-yard TD run to his credit. Porter got all but six of his 126 stripes in the first half, his touchdown runs going for 30 and seven yards; and Doctor chipped in with another 50 yards and 11-yard TD run.

Even when Pottsgrove worked its subs in, they played at a level reminiscent their fellow starters. Avery Grant added a four-yard touchdown run to cap the Falcons’ scoring in the third quarter, and Blake Strain ripped off a 59-yard run inside the final minute.

“We’re looking to go on a four-game win streak, get the fourth or fifth seed in the Class AAA playoffs and win a district championship,” Defrancesco said.

But for the present, he has another challenge to meet … though it’s one he won’t have to go at alone.
“Everybody’s sticking with me,” he said. “I have a great support system out there. I’m very appreciative of it.”

NOTES >> The high points for Methacton’s defense were Feaster’s interception of a Doctor pass attempt toward the end of the first half, and Kyle Flemming’s recovery of a Pottsgrove fumble late in the third quarter. … Hurt-Ramsey got the ball back on the very next play following Flemming’s recovery, pouncing on the loose ball at the Methacton four.

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