Second half explosion lifts Pottsgrove over OJR

POTTSTOWN >> A close call against Boyertown last week served as a wakeup call for Pottsgrove.

“After the Boyertown scare (a 28-27 Pottsgrove victory), we came out with a more intense mindset last week in practice,” said Pottsgrove running back Wyatt Porter. “And it showed tonight.”

Indeed it did. After a close first half – the Falcons led Owen J. Roberts by only 10-3 – the Wildcats couldn’t locate the Falcons with a telescope thereafter. Pottsgrove was miles better the last two quarters, unleashing a 37-point second-half explosion and winning 47-3.

The fireworks detonated immediately out of the halftime locker room, as speedy Pottsgrove sophomore Avery Grant took the second-half kickoff right up the middle for a 92-yard touchdown. It snowballed from there, as Pottsgrove’s potent running game and ravenous defense dominated.

“We felt disrespected,” said Pottsgrove linebacker Madison Kelsey. “They put on Twitter last week how they were going to beat us, and we took it personal to come out and get some respect.”

Kelsey had a big hand in the respect department, dragging down Wildcats runner Rayquon Stewart for a loss on a fourth-and-goal play at the Pottsgrove 3-yard line early in the second quarter. Later in the first half the Wildcats again got inside the Pottsgrove 5 and couldn’t score a touchdown, managing a field goal by Matthew Dinnocenti.

Owen J. Roberts’ defense played well in the first half in keeping the game close. The Wildcats actually had a 183-149 edge in total offense the first half, thanks largely to OJR sophomore quarterback Dawson Stuart’s hot hand (8-of-12 for 128 yards the first half), but everything changed quickly in the second half.

Pottsgrove cornerback Adam Girafalco made three second-half interceptions of Stuart, and the Falcon defense swarmed, allowing the Wildcats only two first downs over the last two quarters.

“I was really happy for Girafalco,” said Pottsgrove coach Rick Pennypacker, whose team improved to 6-2 in the PAC-10 and 6-3 overall. “He had a rough week (against Boyertown), but he’s a great kid and a great athlete and he came back and played like a champ.

“My defensive coordinator and our staff also deserve a lot of credit. (Defensive coordinator) Bill Bradford has two sons playing for Owen J. (Mitch and Ted Bradford), so this was a tough week for him.”

Meanwhile, Pottsgrove’s Porter and Tyrell Barr ran wild, each cresting the 100-yard rushing mark. Barr rushed for 100 yards and two scores in the second half, 135 yards for the game on 11 carries. Porter picked up 102 for the game on nine totes with two TDs.

“Our offensive line was great,” said Porter.

Pottsgrove’s strong-legged kicker, Garrett Bleakley, had a field goal in each half, the second one an impressive 48-yarder.
Stuart opened up the OJR offense in the first half with his passing, hitting five straight completions to four different receivers while driving the Wildcats to their field goal, which came with 59.7 seconds left in the half.

There just wasn’t much consistent running room for OJR (4-3 PAC-10, 4-5 overall), and while the Wildcats got some good hard first-half running in spurts from senior back Stewart, on Senior Night it was clear that they miss the injured senior Mitch Bradford. He’s an elusive quarterback and team leader who also can excel at receiver.

Stuart has a bright future as the QB, it was just that a very talented and tough Pottsgrove team got its collective mind back in the present.

“Last week was the best practices we’ve had all year,” Porter said. “And in the second half, we always feel it’s our half. We break teams down.”

After Grant’s explosive kick return made it 17-3 just 14 seconds into the second half, Pottsgrove scored touchdowns on its next four possessions. Porter’s 20-yard run made it 37-7 early in the fourth quarter. Following Girafalco’s third pick, which he nearly took to the house, a 34-yard return, Barr scored for a 44-3 lead with 10:12 left. Bleakley boomed his 48-yarder with 3:42 remaining.

“We got back to playing our brand of football,” Pennypacker said. “We made some adjustments at halftime, and I’m really proud of our guys.”

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