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Returning Koch sparks Phoenixville in 40-14 win over Upper Perkiomen

RED HILL >> How much different would Phoenixville’s season have been if Owen Koch would have been available for all of it?

One could speculate on that point all day, all night and the next day and not come up with an ironclad answer. For those who look at the facts, it was obvious Friday how much impact the Phantom sophomore can exert on the team’s fortunes.

Koch contributed three touchdowns to Phoenixville’s 40-14 win over Upper Perkiomen. Rushing for more than 200 yards on 26 carries — some long gainers, others short bursts for hard yardage — Koch was key to a second-half surge the Phantoms mounted in this Pioneer Athletic Conference Frontier Division game.

“He injured his clavicle the first game,” head coach Don Grinstead recalled. “I thought we could give him some carries tonight. There’s something special in him … he’s a two-sport guy (wrestling), tough.

“It was nice to get one of our guys back.”

Upper Perkiomen was seeking to contribute a win to its Senior Night festivities on the occasion of its final home game of the season. The Indians (0-4, 1-7) started matching its guests in a 14-14 first half.

But then …

“It’s the same old story,” head coach Tom Hontz said. “The effort, their physicality, penalties … they looked fresh in the second half, and we appeared to be in slow motion.”

After starting the game by driving his offense on a nine-play, 72-yard opening possession, finishing it with a two-yard run up the middle less than six minutes in, Koch added scoring runs of three and 27 yards in the second half. Complementing his workmanlike performance was Anthony Stevenson, a running back/wide receiver who went 45 yards around his right end three minutes into the second half to give Phoenixville (2-2, 3-5) a 28-21 lead.

The Phantoms expanded their second-half surge with quarterback Jack Pizor scoring on a two-yard run sandwiched between Koch’s scores. Pizor also threw for a touchdown in the first half, connecting with Brady Aselton on an 11-yard play to erase the Tribe’s 14-6 lead one minute before the half.

“It was real easy to do the running game,” Pizor said. “We have three guys who can run the ball: Owen, Stevenson (four carries, 78 yards) and Tre Davis (two carries, seven yards).”

Not to be overlooked was the combined play of offensive linemen Daniel Gray, Max Muldrow, Liam McAdam, Nolan Martin and Solomon Ortiz. They cleared running lanes that enabled the backs to cover more than 350 yards of Phoenixville’s 420 yards total offense.

“The O-line was full in, making room for us,” Koch said. “They got the job done, not me. They work hard all the time.”

“Our offensive line was sound, tough,” Grinstead added. “It needed to be.”

With its own stable of running backs thinned by injury, Upper Perkiomen moved Malachi Duka from receiver to rusher. The junior responded with a 28-yard touchdown run up the middle that gave the Indians a 7-6 lead at the 4:55 mark in the first quarter.

The Tribe went to the air to score on its next possession. Quarterback Hunter Flack (6-for-14, 43 yards) hooked up with Brady Thompson on a two-yard throw after hitting Corey Jackson with a 16-yard toss two plays earlier.

“We tried to mix things up,” Hontz said of the move. “We had put him out at receiver. He was one of Hunter’s best targets.

“He and Hunter gave a lot out there.”

Ahead for the teams are meetings with Pottstown area schools. While the Phantoms host Pottsgrove next Friday, the Indians will be visiting Pottstown in their last chance to get in the Frontier win column.

The following week will be the league’s divisional-crossover schedule, with Liberty opponents yet to be determined.

“We have two weeks of competitive games left … I hope,” Hontz said.

NOTES >> In pregame activities, Upper Perk recognized the seniors and their parents from the football team, cheerleading squad, student trainers and marching band. … UP’s Andrew Carducci picked off Pizor on the final play of the first half, returning it to the Phoenixville 25 before being stopped.

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