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Mercury Week 4 Football Review: PAC schools ready for conference play

Times certainly have changed if the middle of September means we’re discussing the halfway point of the high school football schedule. Yet after this coming Friday’s game, that’s exactly where thing will stand — five games into a ten-week regular season.

Week 5 will also mark the start of Pioneer Athletic Conference play – after four weeks of testing themselves against teams from around District 1 and beyond, area squads will take to the field and do battle with one another over the next six games. With that in mind, here’s a look at what the first four weeks have taught us, and what the next six games may hold in store.

Frontier Division is wide open >> It would be foolish to count out Pottsgrove (1-3), the battle-tested, three-time defending division champions, but losses to graduation have hit the Falcons harder than any team in the area. Christ the King (N.Y.) put up nearly 600 yards of total offense in a 52-14 win over the Falcons Friday night, the second team to amass such numbers in the early going (Class 5A Academy Park did likewise in a Week 2 victory).

However, with experience comes familiarity, and the Falcons certainly won’t be fazed by any offenses they see going forward after such an arduous non-league slate. Meanwhile, Joe Silvestri has gotten valuable reps against some very athletic defenses, and last year’s leading rusher Isaiah Taylor got loose in Week 3 against Boyertown with 255 yards and five scores in a 41-21 victory.

If any Frontier Division offense is likely to resemble what Pottsgrove’s seen thus far, it would be Pope John Paul II’s, where senior quarterback Kamal Gray has amassed a gaudy 14 touchdown passes against only two interceptions despite (somewhat) limited playing time.

After throwing for 430 yards and six TDs in an opening-week heartbreaking loss to Roman Catholic, Gray has watched the second half of two of the past three games from the sidelines after the Golden Panthers (3-1) ran out to huge leads against New Hope-Solebury and Schuylkill Valley.

Senior tight end Dylan Walker has added yet another dimension to the offense, while Andrew McDonald emerged as a threat in the backfield with 110 yards and two scores on only four carries last week. But a major part of the story has been the Golden Panthers defense, which has held opponents scoreless for the first three quarters in each of their past three games.

Joining PJP at 3-1 is Pottstown, where freshman quarterback Joneil Oister’s emergence has been the main story. Oister immediately demonstrated his mobility, averaging over 10 yards per carry in the early going, but his 8-of-9 showing for 126 yards passing and a TD last Friday in a 14-0 win over Methacton stands as proof of his development as a passer. Meanwhile, older brother Jon is averaging double-digit tackles per contest after the shutout over Methacton. It won’t take long to find whether the Trojans are for real, as they travel across town to battle Pottsgrove in the Falcons’ Homecoming game Friday night.

Upper Merion (2-2) has dropped consecutive contests to Liberty Division foes Methacton and Owen J. Roberts, but the Vikings display versatility in their offensive attack with arguably the league’s best 1-2 combo in the backfield, powerful fullback Anthony Swenda (averaging over six yards per carry and 100+ yards per game) and shifty Ty Lobban, who’s a threat each time he touches the ball.

Phoenixville and Upper Perkiomen continue to overcome early injuries while rounding their squads into shape after 1-3 starts.

2019 Mercury Area Rushing Leaders

RankPlayerTeamRush Att.Rush YdsRush TDRush Avg
1Isaiah TaylorPottsgrove1771064146.0
2Tanner VandersliceDaniel Boone12990487.0
3Anthony SwendaUpper Merion149824125.5
4Armante HaynesSpring-Ford10575997.2
5Jamie MocciaBoyertown9860366.2
6Jacob SturmPerkiomen Valley7759557.7
7Anthony StevensonPhoenixville10358555.7
8Joneil OisterPottstown8958296.5
9Josh JacksonOwen J. Roberts11255164.9
10Zion MaloneNorristown7747736.2
11Cooper ChamberlainOwen J. Roberts9646984.9
12Jon MocciaPerkiomen Valley7343756.0
13Logan SimmonUpper Perkiomen34410612.1
14Zach DavisBoyertown9340804.4
15Ezra FigueroaPottstown6939545.7
16Andrew McDonaldPope John Paul II4139459.6
17Kamal GrayPope John Paul II5337147.0
18Mike TorciniMethacton5436146.7
19Harry AdieyefehSpring-Ford4734627.4
20Daniel DardenPottstown5731625.5
21Justin CarfreyMethacton7731014.0
22Daylin GoodenPope John Paul II26286311.0
23Larry WilliamsDaniel Boone5628405.1
24Taiyan LobbanUpper Merion3326618.1
25Ryan EngroSpring-Ford6924873.6
26Mason MarinelloBoyertown7424633.3
27Owen KochPhoenixville2723738.8
28Justin DeMildDaniel Boone8623122.7
29Trey RobinsonUpper Perkiomen6122803.7
30Jack PizorPhoenixville6222453.6
31Chris BruderPope John Paul II2919826.8
32Steele DepetrilloPope John Paul II4418924.3
33Kayden WhitePottsgrove3317515.3
34Isiah TuckerNorristown3515314.4
35Jonathan MyersBoyertown3414914.4
36Aidan FoleyPhoenixville2514345.7
37Ben RenoDaniel Boone3613303.7
38Nicholas OlivieriMethacton4413203.0
39Dale ClaytonUpper Merion3913243.4
40Rasheem GraysonPerkiomen Valley1211219.3
41Thomas BellmonNorristown3010703.6
42Tre DavisPhoenixville299403.2
43Noah SegalBoyertown309403.1
44AJ HoferDaniel Boone139217.1
45Rashidi SantosNorristown229104.1
46Josh LittlePope John Paul II118918.1
47Ethan KohlerPerkiomen Valley538701.6
48Avrey GrimmOwen J. Roberts168605.4
49Amir BrunsonPottsgrove148406.0
50Malachi NeelyPottstown248403.5

It’s the usual suspects in the Liberty Division >> Owen J. Roberts (4-0) had to come from behind to maintain their undefeated mark at Upper Merion Friday, but may have discovered a valuable weapon in the process. On a night where the Wildcats struggled in the passing game, senior RB Josh Jackson displayed impressive vision and speed in racking up 135 yards and three scores on the ground in a 27-17 win. Cooper Chamberlain continued his do-it-all performance of the early season, shaking off the subpar passing night to run for 57 yards (including the clinching TD) and averaging over 42 yards per punt.

The Wildcats’ undefeated mark will immediately be put to arguably its toughest test when they visit Perkiomen Valley this Friday. Their 2-2 record may not overwhelm observers, but their two losses (to Downingtown East and Downingtown West) have been four-quarter battles, most recently against D-West. The Whippets, ranked No. 1 in the PIAA Class 6A District One power rankings, got their toughest test yet last weekend from the Vikings as a late touchdown led to a somewhat misleading 33-17 final score.

PV’s Ethan Kohler put up 298 yards passing against one of the area’s sternest defenses.
Perkiomen Valley and its supporters also earned a lot of respect off the field, too, while rallying around Downingtown West’s leukemia awareness night in support of the young sister of a Downingtown West player who was recently diagnosed with leukemia. Vikings fans were clad in their usual orange – the official color of leukemia awareness – but with a different purpose last Friday.

“Our students and coaching staff were honored to be a part of the game dedicated to Jaelynn,” said PV coach Rob Heist. “Our whole community’s thoughts and prayers are with her as she continues to fight childhood leukemia.”

2019 Mercury Area Receiving Leaders

RankPlayerTeamRecRec YdsRec. TDRec Avg
1Dante BonanniSpring-Ford42631415.0
2Randy WashingtonPerkiomen Valley25614724.6
3Justin KormosPope John Paul II21489623.3
4Dante DenardoOwen J. Roberts31462614.9
5Nicholas TeetsSpring-Ford30377312.6
6Jon HannevigOwen J. Roberts24376215.7
7Jahzeel WatsonPottstown20369618.5
8Larry DickersonMethacton19339417.8
9Steve SkarbekPope John Paul II28320711.4
10Andrew McDonaldPope John Paul II21319415.2
11BJ BeardSpring-Ford29291610.0
12Dylan WalkerPope John Paul II16285617.8
13Malachi DukaUpper Perkiomen22267112.1
14Blaize ScarcelleSpring-Ford16253215.8
15Taiyan LobbanUpper Merion22224010.2
16Isiah TuckerNorristown21224110.7
17Levi CarrollNorristown18207211.5
18Logan HollowayPerkiomen Valley14193213.8
19Jacob SturmPerkiomen Valley15193012.9
20Christian GrossiOwen J. Roberts13176313.5
21Zion MaloneNorristown11171115.5
22Kayden WhitePottsgrove9162018.0
23James AlbertSpring-Ford11161014.6
24Anthony StevensonPhoenixville12156113.0
25Marc ClaytonUpper Merion12155112.9
26Roman MarinelloBoyertown7153221.9
27Mike DoughertyPerkiomen Valley11152113.8
28Jon MocciaPerkiomen Valley15150210.0
29Dominic NaveDaniel Boone6143023.8
30Messiah SmythePottsgrove5133026.6
31Aaron AndersonUpper Merion8131116.4
32Justin MitalaPope John Paul II7125117.9
33Travis CummingsNorristown7117116.7
34Marcus MelleMethacton7111315.9
35Alex VassalloDaniel Boone1310337.9
36Justin GumiennyMethacton5102220.4
37Ron FondotsMethacton9100111.1
38Trey RobinsonUpper Perkiomen129818.2
39Andrew CarducciUpper Perkiomen119818.9
40Connor RohrbachBoyertown696216.0
41Matt CutroneOwen J. Roberts109609.6
42Chase McDonnellPhoenixville695015.8
43Matt JohnsonPhoenixville992210.2
44Daniel DardenPottstown128617.2
45Ethan McMonaglePottsgrove378226.0
46Anthony SwendaUpper Merion674012.3
47Chris BruderPope John Paul II372124.0
48Parker JanusekPottsgrove171071.0
49Brady AseltonPhoenixville87138.9
50Carter BeszUpper Merion266133.0

Back on the field, the three-time defending PAC champion Vikings have demonstrated their physicality in the early going, with the area’s most experienced offensive line protecting Kohler and opening holes for the running back tandem of Jacob Sturm and Jon Moccia.

It’s been quite an aerial display at Spring-Ford in the early season, where quarterback Ryan Engro and wide receiver Dante Bonanni have emerged as the area’s most prolific tandem amongst plenty of competition. Engro, averaging 309 passing yard per outing in the first four games, found Bonanni six more times in Friday night’s 24-7 win over Exeter. The tandem has connected 30 times thus far this year, averaging 16 yards per completion. It’s not just Bonanni either, as wide receivers Blaize Scarcelle, BJ Beard, and Nick Teets have each recorded double-digit receptions. Beard leads the Mercury area with five TD receptions.

It was hard to deny the impact of the loss of running back Michael Torcini on the Methacton offense in Friday’s loss to Pottstown. Justin Carfrey filled in ably at the tailback position with 115 yards on 17 carries, but as a team the Warriors managed only 114 total yards.

The Warriors (2-2) enjoyed a signature week 3 victory over Upper Merion and will try to get back on track this week against Boyertown (1-3), who struggled in a 49-14 loss to Berks Catholic. Since an opening victory over Upper Perkiomen, it’s been rough going for the Bears, allowing an average of 42 points per contest over the last three games.

2019 Mercury Area Interception Leaders

Norristown (0-4) hosted the school’s first night game in a decade Friday and showed early improvement in taking a 14-7 lead over Cheltenham. The Panthers dominated the second half, however, turning a 14-all tie into a 48-14 victory. Zion Malone ran for over 100 yards for the Eagles, who try again to break through this week at Spring-Ford.
A Look Ahead >> Each division features a marquee matchup to kick off conference season this weekend. Undefeated Owen J. Roberts tries to keep its mark intact against Liberty Division frontrunners Perkiomen Valley, while the Frontier slate is highlight by the Pottstown-Pottsgrove rivalry.

Meanwhile, Spring-Ford hosts Norristown while Methacton travels to Boyertown in the Liberty. Upper Perkiomen welcomes Pope John Paul II, while Upper Merion heads to Phoenixville.

Hill School (0-2) travels to play Episcopal Academy, and Daniel Boone (1-3) takes on Fleetwood.

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