Chemistry between Sturm, receivers lifting Perk Valley

GRATERFORD >> Their team was given the Monday off after an opening-round win in the District 1-AAAA playoffs.

That didn’t stop Perkiomen Valley’s Stephen Sturm and the skill position players from holding an impromptu practice after school.

They’re a loose bunch, the playful antics of senior wideout Aaron Morton taking center stage, but in watching the walkthrough, it didn’t take much to distinguish how tight-knit this group has become.

Chemistry is always important between a quarterback and his receivers. This group seems to have more than that, more like a brotherhood.

It was evidenced three days later when Sturm, a junior quarterback, junior wideout Sean Owens and junior wideout Justin Jaworski all sat down to discuss their impending matchup with Pennsbury Saturday night in the team’s first district home game in Graterford since a 2007 loss to Glen Mills in the opening round.

Not a minute went by that there wasn’t a cracked joke or a Snapchat story being filmed.

They were loose, a positive sign for a team that showed nerves in a District 1-AAAA opening round loss to Downingtown East last season and again in a loss to Spring-Ford in the PAC-10 championship two weeks ago.

“I thought last year we played tight and the way our team works, we play best when we’re loose,” Jaworski said. “I think you saw the same thing in the Spring-Ford game; we weren’t loose. We perform the best when we’re loose and having fun, and that’s what we’re trying to be entering Saturday.”

“We didn’t make it as big as a situation as it had to be,” Sturm said. “Last year I was really nervous and I made the situation a lot bigger than it had to be and it got under my skin and I wasn’t playing as I should have been. Experience really helped me, just being in a big game I knew that it was just another team, it wasn’t anything special really. I took that approach, I didn’t try to hit the long ball or go for big plays, I just ran our offense.”

And it’s no secret, the Vikings offense can be downright lethal – an up-tempo attack that utilizes five skill position players in running backs David Williams and Ronnie Arch, and receivers Jaworski, Owens and Morton almost seamlessly.

It has guided the Vikings to a 10-1 record, a PAC-best 484 points scored and has seen Sturm (2,814 yards and 30 touchdowns) and Jaworski (1,049 yards receiving) break single-season passing and receiving records – a testament to the chemistry the two have built all while elevating their game to new heights in 2015.

“Playing with him (Jaworski) the past year and this entire season has definitely built chemistry,” Sturm said. “I think me and him think similar on the field as far as coverages and what to do and when to do it. There’s certain routes that I know that no one is going to guard him on it. I know in my brain before I throw the ball that he’s going to be open and probably nine out of 10 times he is.

“I think basketball helps him a lot with his cuts and I think that transitions well on the football field. His footwork really helps in break off routes and he leaves kids running in circles basically trying to figure out where he is.”

Jaworski started to speak on the relationship he’s had with Sturm, only to be held up as the junior signal caller pulled out his iPhone and pulled up Snapchat. He wanted this recorded.

“It’s all chemistry and all timing, but he makes it easy on me,” Jaworski said, Sturm grinning as he recorded. “I know that if I get a yard past my defender that he can make the throw in the tight window. That helps me a lot and a lot of the routes that we run, a lot of the underneath stuff I run, I can get open.”

And while Sturm and Jaworski get much of the credit for the dynamic season both have had, it would be lost without the performances of Owens and Morton at wideout, and Arch (29 receptions) and Williams (51 receptions) in the backfield.

Owens, who saw zero time on varsity last season, has stepped up to be a security blanket for Sturm when he needs it most. Owens made his presence felt with six receptions in a win over Pottsgrove before hauling in another five in last week’s win against Haverford. He sits behind Arch in receptions, hauling in 27 for 408 yards in 2015.

Not a bad debut season for the junior.

“We worked out a lot in the offseason, waking up early before school and stuff like that,” Owens said. “Even going by ourselves after school and to the fields during the summer when we’re off. We worked on our rhythm and the timing of our routes and just tried to nail everything down. Coming in, it wasn’t as long as you think to develop chemistry with him (Sturm), about a couple of months. We kept throwing last year and after a bit, it just started to click.”

Morton, meanwhile, has done a valiant job in stepping in the position of the graduated Taiyir Wilson and has become a viable deep threat for Sturm. He has 23 receptions for 449 yards and seven touchdowns entering Saturday’s tilt.

“The real question mark was who was going to take over for Taiyir as a deep threat this year,” Sturm said. “I knew Aaron could do it but it was all about him getting into the offense, learning it and building a chemistry with us. He did a real nice job.

“Aaron seems to be there when we need him most. He’s a freakish athlete, probably the best athlete on the team. I feel like he has a lot of potential, and as the years go on, you’ll hear about him more because he could do a lot of things in college if he gets a bit thicker.”

Yet, despite all of the stats, wins and points this group has scored, they face their toughest test in Pennsbury, a 35-28 OT winner over No. 2 Downingtown West in the first round.

Led by what the team’s website describes as “ground and pound,” the Tigers have done just that, boasting 1,000-yard rusher in Chris Rupprecht (1,009 yards, 11 touchdowns) and dual threat quarterback Mike Alley, who’s rushed for 994 yards and 11 touchdowns. Daulton Hose also has rushed for 762 yards, ranking 11th in the Suburban One Conference … he’d be sixth in the PAC-10.

“I think our offense can put up points, but defensively it will be a real gut check,” said Jaworski, who also plays safety. “Our weakest point is our run defense and that’s all they do. We have to step up and stop them because they’re just going to run at us the whole game and they’re not going to stop unless we stop them.”

“We have to play our best game,” Owens said. “Pennsbury is a physical team, the most physical that we’ve seen all year. It’ll be all hands on deck to win this game. It’s great getting a home game, but we want to win it. We’re trying to keep this run going.”

With this group, there’s no reason they can’t.

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