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Pioneer Athletic Conference 2019 Preview and Team-by-Team Breakdowns

[tps_title]Upper Perkiomen Indians [/tps_title]

Upper Perkiomen’s Hunter Flack will get the nod at quarterback, taking over for the graduated Tyler Weber. (Thomas Nash – File Photo)

Upper Perk hopes strong finish feeds into strong start to ’19

A strong stretch run was the remarkable part of an otherwise lackluster 2018 season.

Tom Hontz would obviously like to see Upper Perkiomen pick up from where it left off last October, adding to the two-game win streak with which it closed out the campaign. He’s seen enough from his players in the recent off-season to figure that a possibility.

“It’s been a productive off-season working on weights and conditioning,” he said. “We’ll be young team, but more athletic and with more depth. There’s a little sense of optimism.”

A 21-20 win over a Pottstown unit that was runner-up in the District 1-4A playoffs, and a 35-8 triumph over Boyertown in their divisional crossover finale, gave the Indians (1-4 PAC Frontier Division, 3-7 overall) their memorable finish. The win over Boyertown was particularly significant, given how the Bears won the teams’ season opener, 37-12.

“We need to get off to a good start,” Hontz said. “The first game against Boyertown (Aug. 23) is important.”

“We need to start out where we were at the end of last year, upsetting Pottstown and beating Boyertown,” senior wide receiver Andrew Carducci added.

A more productive offense will be key to UP improving on 2018’s 3-7 overall record. The Indians were outscored by a six to one ratio in divisional games and shut out three times by 40 or more points.

At the center of any turnaround will be Hunter Flack, a junior taking over at quarterback for the graduated Tyler Weber. The athleticism that made Flack a standout pole-vaulter for the boys track team will be on display.

Much will also depend on what Tyrese Reid can consistently bring to the table. A track star in the same vein as Flack, the speedy, shifty senior had to contend with injury issues last year but was available to contribute to UP’s late-season success.

“One of the keys is keeping him healthy,” Hontz said.

The Indians’ offensive backfield will see senior Brady Thompson move to fullback from tight end. Malachi Duka, a junior, is back in the running game and Logan Simmon, a sophomore back at UP after playing a season at Perkiomen School.

Primary targets in the passing game look to be Carducci and Corey Jackson. Helping anchor the O-line will be senior Owen Reinhart.

“I definitely think we’re going to catch the ball better, and have better speed,” Hontz said.

“Our offensive line needs to come together,” Carducci added. “If it does, we’ll have a good team.

“We want to get faster. Our offense feels confident; making big hits is one of the things that we want to do.”

Defensively, UP appears to be thinner than it does on offense. Reinhart will be a factor at linebacker, and Riley Decker looks to make an impact at defensive end.

“We don’t have much depth,” Hontz noted. “All the players will be important. like Owen at linebacker. We might be able to spell people, but numbers are always an issue.”

After its early taste of PAC competition, Upper Perk will go out of the league for its next three games. The Tribe will hit the road to play Kutztown (Aug. 30), then return home for games against Upper Moreland (Sept. 6) and Fleetwood (Sept. 13) before opening its Frontier campaign at home against Pope John Paul II (Sept. 20).

OFFENSIVE PLAYER TO WATCH >> With one year to lead the team behind center, Hunter Flack will have to make an immediate impact. The senior signal-caller will have to offer a complement to the running-back talent the Indians have lining up.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER TO WATCH >> Owen Reinhart, working out of a linebacker position, will be the linchpin of a defensive unit that doesn’t have as much depth as the offensive side.

OUTLOOK >> Like other teams coming off down seasons, Upper Perkiomen finds itself in the proverbial position of having “nowhere to go but up.” With optimism fueled by a productive off-season’s work, the Indians are confident that’s exactly where they’re headed.

“We needed to stay together as a team, but we fell apart,” Reinhart said in assessment of the 2018 team. “We were selfish with our play. This group is having fun being together and sticking together.

“Our linemen are growing every day. We may be one of the most overlooked lines. But we’ve been working out, and it shows.”

By Jeff Stover; jstover@21st-centurymedia.com

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