Spring-Ford looking to break through, reach PAC title game
In last season’s de facto Liberty Division championship game, Spring-Ford played three excellent quarters in taking a 20-6 lead over Perkiomen Valley.
The final 12 minutes of that game are a primary source of motivation for this year’s squad.
“I don’t know what happened in that fourth quarter,” lamented coach Chad Brubaker, “but it’s easy to identify the key—playing all four quarters.”
The Rams surrendered the final 24 points of the game, falling 27-20 and watching as the archrival Vikings went on to their third consecutive PAC championship the following week. Spring-Ford would recover, making its fourth consecutive appearance in the Class 6A playoffs last season but bowed out against Downingtown East in the opening round.
Spring-Ford appears poised to make it five straight playoff appearances in 2019 with a prolific offense that returns eight starters, including first team all-area QB Ryan Engro (2,454 yards passing, 29 TD, 5 INT a year ago) and first team all-area WR Dante Bonanni (52 receptions, 816 yards, 10 TD). Blaize Scarcelle, Nick Teets, and BJ Beard give the Rams unmatched depth at WR, while James Albert figures to fill the tight end role that was often missing from the offense a year ago.
Armante Haynes and Andrew Yoon will each see time at running back behind a line returning four starters of their own from last season.
“I’m really excited about the way we’ve bonded as a team,” said Engro. “I feel like we’ll be able to play more as a team than we did the last couple of years.”
As far as personal goals, Engro said the idea of being recognized as an all-state performer motivates him. “It might be a longshot,” said the senior, “but I’d sure like to try. It probably means improving on last year’s numbers.”
On the defensive side of the ball, the Rams return six of their front seven, led by leading tackler Albert at LB and two-way starters Ryan Kolander and Blake Terrizzi on the line. The emphasis will be in the secondary, where only Yoon returns to his safety position. No one will be stepping into an entirely unfamiliar position, as all the contenders saw time last year, but the battle will likely go up until opening night.
“We’ve had a lot of reps this summer,” said Brubaker, “and we still don’t really have an idea who will be playing those other [secondary] positions.
“And it’s difficult now, with only one scrimmage, to make those decisions. You might have a kid who’s strong against the pass but not so much against the run—we really need to work on figuring out those spots.”
As usual, the Rams won’t ease into the season, as they open with Suburban One foes Central Bucks South and Harry S. Truman before battling District 3’s Wilson West Lawn and Exeter. It’s a slate that should leave the Rams more than prepared for the PAC battles to follow.
“If you come out of that schedule healthy, it’s very beneficial to your team going forward to play a strong nonleague slate,” said Brubaker. “But you have to be willing to play those strong teams.”
It’s been three years without a PAC title at Spring-Ford, a streak this year’s senior class is determined to snap.
“Ryan (Engro) and myself, the other receivers, we’re out there working on the field every weekend to get better. That work translates to the games, and as receivers we’re competing against one another as well,” said Scarcelle.
“Our first three years, we didn’t get there, and it took a toll on everything, even school spirit,” added Engro. “But after [the school] sees our first few games this year, that spirit will be right back up where it needs to be.”
Spring-Ford 2019 Schedule
Offensive Player to Watch >> With an accomplished group of weapons at his disposal and an experienced line in place, all the pieces are there for QB Ryan Engro to take the next step towards his stated goals—both team (a PAC title) and individual (all-state recognition).
Defensive Player to Watch >> Six of the front seven return for the Rams, but as the lone returning starter in the secondary, junior safety Andrew Yoon will be tasked with leading a group who’ll be tested early and often throughout the Rams’ challenging schedule.
OUTLOOK >> You can’t help but admire the drive of a team who’s routinely qualifying for and hosting District playoff games, yet feels they have something to prove. Snapping the skid against Perkiomen Valley remains a major source of motivation for a Rams team whose goals start—but don’t end—in league play.
Spring-Ford looks like a strong bet to return to the 6A playoffs this year. The development of some new starters on defense and sustained offensive production will determine whether they can do so as Liberty Division or PAC champions.
By Rob Senior; For MediaNews Group