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.
2019 Mercury Area Passing Leaders
|2||Kamal Gray||Pope John Paul II||95||159||1562||25||5|
|3||Ethan Kohler||Perkiomen Valley||97||161||1501||15||5|
|4||Cooper Chamberlain||Owen J. Roberts||84||143||1211||12||5|
|5||Dale Clayton||Upper Merion||61||135||772||4||7|
|6||Hunter Flack||Upper Perkiomen||76||148||744||5||11|
|12||Justin DeMild||Daniel Boone||19||51||327||4||5|
|17||Carter Speyerer||Daniel Boone||11||29||83||2||1|
|19||Rocco DiRico||Pope John Paul II||3||3||65||0||0|
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
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
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.
2019 Mercury Area Kicking Leaders
|2||Brayden Basile||Perkiomen Valley||27||15||4|
|4||Nate Millard||Daniel Boone||21||15||2|
|6||Cooper Chamberlain||Owen J. Roberts||16||13||1|
|7||Hunter Flack||Upper Perkiomen||13||13||0|
|8||Kevin Beattie||Perkiomen Valley||11||11||0|
|9||Charlie Reinhardt||Upper Merion||10||10||0|
|13||Zach Szpindor||Pope John Paul II||7||7||0|
|15||Olivia Kqira||Owen J. Roberts||5||5||0|
|16||Jacob Snyder||Pope John Paul II||5||5||0|
|18||DJ Clarke||Pope John Paul II||2||2||0|
|20||Matt Cutrone||Owen J. Roberts||1||1||0|
|21||Joe McMichael||Upper Perkiomen||1||1||0|
/ 6 hours ago
The Pioneer Athletic Conference Girls Soccer Final Four commences Tuesday, 7 p.m. at Owen...
/ 17 hours ago
The Pioneer Athletic Conference Boys Soccer Final Four commences Tuesday, 5 p.m. at Owen...
/ 18 hours ago
HORSHAM >> All Jake Freedman was really trying to do was keep possession for...
/ 19 hours ago
Carly Hynd recorded the 100th point of her career with an assist on Kate...
/ 19 hours ago
SPRINGFIELD >> Maddie Yoder knew the Springfield-Montco field hockey team had the endurance to...
/ 19 hours ago
Samma Zahran’s outstanding first foray into high school varsity tennis just got a little...
/ 19 hours ago
Delaware County will have two golfers in the PIAA championships next week at Heritage...
/ 20 hours ago
The stage is set for a winner-take-all battle for the Central League title between...