UPPER DUBLIN >> Upper Dublin had 20 minutes to think about its 3rd-and-16 play Friday night.
The Cardinals held an eight-point advantage over visiting Norristown with 2:31 left in the third quarter when the lights at Cardinal Stadium went out.
The first play after the delay was a 22-yard swing pass from Mike Slivka to Michael Wright to pick up the first down. Five plays later Slivka scored on a quarterback sneak and the defending District 1-5A champs were on their way to opening the 2019 season with a 28-13 non-league win.
“We were joking around because we came out here this week at 5:30 in the morning,” Slivka said. “We came out here in the dark and warmed up in the dark and then the lights came on. I guess that got us going and we came out and scored a couple times.”
“I was very happy with the way the kids responded after that,” Upper Dublin head coach Bret Stover said. “Sometimes you never know. It could swing the other way against you. The kids came out and handled that adversity really well.”
Everything went Upper Dublin’s way after the stoppage.
After Slivka’s score made it a 15-0 game, defensive back Brian McCarry grabbed an interception on Norristown’s next play from scrimmage. Five plays later, Slivka pounded it in again from one yard away to extend the lead to 22-0.
“This is the second time we’ve played and this happened here in the last 15 years,” Norristown head coach Jim Miligan said. “It definitely changed (the game). It gave them a little more time to rest. They were gassed. It definitely did help them. They had the ball the whole third quarter.”
The Cardinals, who out-snapped the Eagles 26-5 in the third, got a fourth down stop on the ensuing possession and the starters finished their night with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Slivka to Bazel Brady and a 28-0 lead.
Upper Dublin sophomore Khalif Kemp made his varsity debut against Norristown.
The 6-foot-2 180-pounder, who worked his way up the linebacker depth chart during training camp, made two big plays from his linebacker position in the first half. He intercepted a screen pass on 3rd-and-long and tackled Norristown’s quarterback for a six-yard loss on a fourth-down attempt.
“I was a little nervous at first,” Kemp said, “but then once I started getting some tackles the nerves went away and I just started balling out like I usually do.”
“He’s been nothing but a player since he’s gotten here,” Stover said. “As a sophomore being put out there with the ones — he’s lived up to everything. He’s football-smart. He comes from a little bit of a football background, his brother is a good football player, also. It was great to see him have a nice game out here. He still made a couple mistakes out there, but for the most part — very happy with his performance.”
The Cardinals starting defense kept Norristown off the scoreboard until they left the game with 4:48 remaining and a 28-0 lead.
They forced three turnovers — two interceptions and a fumble recovery — and made a pair of fourth-down stops.
“Our coach (Dave) Sowers watches a lot of film,” Kemp said. “He puts us in the best place to make the best plays.”
“It was a great shutout til the backups got in,” Stover said. “I wish we could have kept the shutout across the board, but very happy with the way our defense played. (Norristown has) some athletes on that side of the ball. We kept them in check, which is good.
“Very happy with the first outing from the defense. We just have to keep building on it, especially until the offense catches up.”
Norristown’s offense put together a couple touchdown drives in the final five minutes against Upper Dublin’s second team.
Quarterback Nick DiNolfi connected with Zion Malone on a 57-yard catch-and-run touchdown and a 37-yard heave to Levi Carroll, where the 6-foot-2 sophomore climbed the ladder to make the catch over a smaller defender and tight-roped his way into the end zone.
“We scored, hopefully get something going, kick-start it,” Miligan said. “We’re kind of young. All those guys that are playing receiver, this is their first year playing varsity receiver except for one. We have one guy returning and he’s been down for a little bit. We’re young there. We have to get that going.”
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