GRATERFORD >> Last fall, Cole Peterlin paced up and down the Perkiomen Valley sideline.
While there, he observed and he learned.
Throughout the season, he soaked in the lessons of senior quarterback Stephen Sturm, one of the area’s all-time best, as the senior racked up record-setting numbers while leading the Vikings to a Pioneer Athletic Conference title as well as to a District 1 Class 6A playoff run.
Now, the ball is in Peterlin’s hands.
And by the looks of it, Perkiomen Valley finds itself in good hands once again.
After a slow start, junior quarterback Peterlin and the Vikings marched up and down the field on their way to a 38-0 win over Downingtown West at Thomas J. Keenan Stadium.
“I was nervous at first, but a few series in and I felt like I belonged out there,” said Peterlin, who, like Sturm, is a left-hander. “It’s a lot to live up to, being behind a guy like Sturm. He helped me learn how to run this offense a lot better than I used to know.”
With the win, Perkiomen Valley — ranked No. 9 in Pa. Prep Live’s season-opening Top 20 rankings — picks up an opening-week win for the third straight year.
Downingtown West drops its second straight season-opener after falling to the Vikings 42-41 last year. It’s the first time the Whippets lost their openers in back-to-back years since the 2004 and 2005 seasons.
Peterlin was picked off twice during the first quarter but from there got plenty comfortable. He finished the night with 161 yards passing while completing 10 of his 16 passing attempts. He also racked up 151 yards rushing on 17 carries, bolstered by a 51-yard keeper for a score midway through the second quarter to make it 14-0.
“He handled the pressure of his first start and this situation with a lot of poise,” said second-year head coach Perk Valley head coach Rob Heist of his quarterback. “We’ve been talking about that for months — when the lights are on and there are people in the seats, it’s a lot different than doing it on the practice field.”
All around, Perk Valley’s backfield shone brightly throughout the night. PV’s backs tallied 264 yards on the ground, nearly surpassing Downingtown West’s total yard output (273) for the night.
Senior running back Brendan Schimpf was elusive any time he touched the ball — racking up 55 yards on six carries to go along with 25 yards on two receptions. Sophomore Jon Moccia had 21 yards on seven carries, punching it in from 1- and 4 yards out for touchdowns. Ryan Cerula came up with the game’s opening score — a 3-yard carry five minutes into the second quarter — along with the game’s final score — a thrilling 102-yard interception return for a touchdown with 30 seconds left to preserve the shutout.
On the night, Downingtown West simply couldn’t generate any sort of rhythm offensively. The Whippets punted away their first six possessions, then turned it over on downs their next three possessions.
“We knew we had a lot of question marks coming into this one,” said West head coach Mike Milano. “We’ve got nine 10th-graders on the field, but that’s no excuse. We’re better than this.”
Sophomore quarterback Will Howard showed poise under center. He finished with 202 yards passing, but certainly could have had more. Howard had a handful of throws deep that just missed the outstretched fingertips of his streaking wide receivers.
“That’s a pretty good football team,” said Milano of Perk Valley. “They had a kid on defense, No. 5 (senior lineman Alec Jackson), that we couldn’t handle. He dominated play for 48 minutes. He knocked every tackle down, he batted three or four balls, we couldn’t block him.”
After graduating perhaps one of the most lethal quarterback-wide receiver combos in Sturm and Justin Jaworski from last year’s team along with plenty others, Heist was plenty with his team’s poise to start out the season.
“Our kids played really, really hard on both sides of the ball,” said Heist, who has known nothing but success as head coach of the Vikings. “After the way we played tonight, I feel good, feel confident. I think the kids buy in. They like the way this program is rolling and they work hard all offseason. It’s next man up.”
NOTES >> Mike Weir was 5-for-5 on extra-point attempts to go along with a 35-yard field goal as the first half expired.