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

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Boyertown Bears 

Boyertown’s Jamie Moccia (7) hits the end zone for a touchdown as teammate Dylan Robertson signals for the score against Upper Perkiomen during last year’s Week 1 contest. The rosy start to the season was short-lived, as Boyertown dropped its next nine contests to finish the 2018 season 1-9. (Thomas Nash – File Photo)

Boyertown’s success in 2019 hinges on Terra’s revamped defense

Following a season where defensive struggles and repeated injuries led to a 1-9 finish, it’s back to basics for the Boyertown Bears.

“If you’re going to miss tackles, you’re going to lose football games,” simplified coach T.J. Miller, who enters his third season at the helm. “We spent a lot of time this spring relearning how to tackle.”

Miller also promoted assistant Joe Terra to the position of defensive coordinator, where Terra is expected to bring a slightly new approach, but more importantly, to create an excitement for the players about being part of the unit that turns things around for the Bears’ program.

Miller spoke in particular about the secondary and the need to limit big plays in the passing game—an obvious point of emphasis in a division whose top contending teams return experienced playmakers at the quarterback and wide receiver positions. He’ll count on senior safety Aaron Tidd and junior corner Connor Rohrbach to head up a unit that went through significant growing pains in 2018, but figures to take a step forward under Terra’s tutelage this season.

The emphasis is heavy on defense because the pieces are in place for a potentially explosive Bears offense this year. It starts with senior running back Jamison Moccia, a second team All-Area performer a season ago who led the PAC’s Liberty Division with 5.8 yards per carry. Moccia, one of the top sprinters in the state during track and field season, is a threat to break a big play every time he touches the ball—which he does in the rushing, passing and return games as often as possible.

“As we develop as a team, everybody learns their roles,” said Moccia. “Winning gives you confidence, but it’s only possible when every player does his job.” 

Noah Segal gained valuable experience under center last year when now-graduated starter Ayden Mathias went down with an injury for several weeks. Miller expects Segal to be pushed at QB by improved depth at the position—“the most depth we’ve had at quarterback since I’ve been here”—but ultimately, the smart money is on the junior to begin the year in charge of the offense.

He’ll be protected by an offensive line led by experienced seniors Jeremy Hetrick and Anthony Bauer on the interior, and with impressive size at the tackle spots in junior Joe Slowik and senior Rob Wood. Boyertown’s option attack doesn’t typically lend itself to a lot of downfield passing, but Miller expects to open things up a bit this year with a group of receivers led by Rohrbach.

The kicking and return game should be in good hands with Moccia in the latter role, and senior Declan Coyle handling both the punting and placekicking duties for the Bears. Coyle started playing football as a sophomore and provided one of the signature wins of the past few years for the Bears with a late field goal to top Owen J. Roberts in 2017. 

“I’m only on the field maybe 12-15 times a game,” said Coyle. “So I know how important it is to make the most of those opportunities… the rest of the time, I just want to be a positive influence on the younger guys and my senior classmates.”

Offensive Player(s) to Watch >> With Moccia’s explosiveness and Segal’s relative experience under center, the onus will be on a senior-laden offensive line, led by Hetrick and second-team All-PAC center Bauer, to give the Bears’ skill players time and space to make plays.

Defensive Player to Watch >> Senior safety Aaron Tidd is the cornerstone of a secondary looking for marked improvement from a challenging 2018 season.

OUTLOOK >> The Bears finished last season on a nine-game losing streak, the season bookended by contests against Upper Perkiomen. The opener was a 37-12 Bears victory, the finale an equally lopsided 37-8 setback that underscored how things deteriorated over the course of 2018.

This season, Boyertown again opens with the Tribe before continuing on an arduous nonleague slate that includes Frontier Division champion Pottsgrove plus District 3 heavyweights Exeter and Berks Catholic. It won’t take long to see the extent of progress made by Terra’s retooled defensive unit.

 

By Rob Senior; For MediaNews Group

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Boyertown Bears 

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