Mercury Football Preview: Daniel Boone gears up for new Section I rival Berks Catholic

With all the happenings around the 2020 offseason, the realignment of the Berks Football League could have fallen to the back of the mind.

As league play takes full hold this weekend, the realignment – and who it brings to the table – will be right in the forefront, especially for Daniel Boone.

That’s because Daniel Boone on Friday night visits Section I newcomer Berks Catholic, a perennial District 3 Class 4A power, who joins all already strong division led by Gov. Mifflin and Exeter.

It’s been an inspiring start to the 2020 campaign for Boone, with a thrilling last-second win over Twin Valley in Week 1 followed by a resilient 21-7 defeat of Muhlenberg in their home opener last Friday. This week, it’s back on the road for their sternest test yet – a visit to storied Berks Catholic.

A relatively young Blazers squad, with numerous juniors and sophomores in starring roles, has a chance to crash the party, so to speak, and announce themselves as bona fide contenders in the early going.

Junior quarterback/strong safety Carter Speyerer has enjoyed a mini breakout in the season’s first two games, currently leading the Mercury Area in passing yards, touchdowns, and interceptions (the good kind, on defense, not interceptions thrown). Speyerer got five games’ worth of experience under center last year due to injury.

“That experience has helped him a lot, and it allowed us to change some things around for him on offense going into this year,” said Daniel Boone head coach Rob Flowers. “But just the in-game experience he got all year on defense, that helped him as well. When he started playing quarterback, we took him off defense (last year), and those different experiences have been powerful early this season.”

He’s joined at the skill positions by a pair of junior classmates: thumping running back AJ Hofer, averaging close to six yards per carry as the Blazers’ workhorse in the backfield, and Alex Vassallo, who’s brought in 235 of Speyerer’s 287 passing yards thus far along with three of his four touchdown passes.

“Alex came on as a freshman, got a couple catches, and got a little more of a role last year,” added Flowers. “He’s a hard worker, and he really understands the game, which allows us to move him around in different spots. AJ’s just a tough guy, a hard runner who’s working diligently to get better every week.”

Up front, the Boone offense is powered by senior Jake Dwinchik, a two-time All-League performer playing right guard, and another junior at left tackle in Colin Leahy. “We’re able to run plays (to both sides) with the strength on our line,” said Flowers.

After an opening 43-42 shootout with Twin Valley, the Blazers’ defense stepped up last week, holding Muhlenberg scoreless after halftime last week.

“Our defensive line held up strong, we got contributions all over the field,” said Flowers. “It was a great team effort, and it’s great to see these guys working together.”

The Saints’ reputation speaks for itself, as Berks Catholic has competed in a county-record seven consecutive District 3 title games. Coach Rick Keeley’s squad comes in with something to prove this week, after a 35-34 loss to Cedar Cliff last Friday.

Does it give Flowers added confidence to see his squad back up a 43-42 game by grinding out a tough, defensive-oriented victory?

“What gives me confidence was to see the way we responded during that game,” he said. “It was 7-7 at halftime, and we challenged them at halftime – then they came out really strong in the second half. That gives me confidence that we’re getting to a point where we can put together a full-game effort.”

The Saints’ Wing-T offense is humming along at its customary pace, averaging nearly 350 yards per game thus far on the ground as Colby Newton, Justin Small, and Christian Cacchione make for a formidable triumvirate in the Saints backfield. Their less-frequent forays through the air have yielded about 20 yards per completion on the arm of junior quarterback Brad Hoffman, who’s added three rushing scores of his own.

But coach Flowers isn’t treating the contest as anything more than, as his mantra states, a chance to go 1-0 this week.

“What they do offensively is different than what we see – they run that Wing-T very well,” he said. “For us, it’s a great opportunity to put together a strong week of practice and turn that into winning a football game on Friday night.”

Owen J. Roberts (1-0) at Methacton (1-0) >> Not much was stopping the Wildcats in their opening win over Boyertown last week – not even a last-second change in starting quarterbacks, as sophomore Michael Reed stepped in for projected starter Matt Cutrone (shoulder injury, but played on defense and got a couple carries on offense). The ‘Cats still put up nearly 400 yards in total offense, highlighted by Avrey Grimm tallying 137 yards at almost 10 yards per carry and Christian Grossi’s first-play 45-yard TD run. Dante DeNardo had a 55-yard punt return TD negated by a penalty.

This week, the Wildcats face a Methacton offense that showed an ability to mix it up in their opening win against Upper Perkiomen. Justin Carfrey’s strong, consistent running gave quarterback Mike Merola room to operate through the air, throwing for both Warriors scores including a game-winner to Justin Gumienny with 35 seconds to play. This week, each defense will be challenged – Methacton’s by the plethora of looks OJR gives them, and OJR by the diversity of the Methacton attack.

Jude Wozniak, who tackled Upper Perk’s Logan Simmon three yards short of the goal line to preserve the victory last Friday, will be a key for Methacton, while OJR uses a number of their featured offensive players in roles on their back seven on defense. Cutrone, DeNardo and others will look to repeat their strong defensive performance from last Friday (holding Boyertown under 80 yards total offense) in Methacton’s home opener.
A 2-0 start would be a first in quite some time for both squads – for OJR, who hasn’t been 2-0 in the PAC since 2009, and for Methacton, looking for an overall 2-0 start for the first time since 2007.

Streaming: Methacton Warriors News YouTube page

Upper Perkiomen (0-1) at Perkiomen Valley (0-1) >> After an opening setback against Spring-Ford, the Vikings look to christen the brand-new turf at Thomas J. Keenan Stadium when they meet Upper Perkiomen for the first time since 2015. PV got their offense on track late in that game, as QB Ethan Kohler and sophomore RB Leo Hunsberger were able to make a couple of big plays to string together drives. Defensively, the Vikings look for another strong showing from senior DT Mason Liwinko, who was key to limiting Spring-Ford’s powerful running attack after some early chunk plays. Jeremy Brewer also stepped up in an inexperienced PV secondary.

Coach Rob Heist says he’ll be looking for improvement in many areas against a tough-nosed Upper Perk team. “They will battle us, play hard for four quarters,” said Heist. “We better be ready to strap up and play come Friday night.”

Upper Perk coach Tom Hontz was encouraged by the showing of linebackers Tommy Flud and JT Traynor and says another such performance will be paramount in countering PV’s athleticism. Logan Simmon and Malachi Duka will be counted upon heavily in the offensive game plan as top targets of QB Hunter Flack, who led the PAC in passing in week one. Hontz continued to emphasize the importance of keeping the Tribe’s core group healthy as they attempt to navigate a schedule filled with larger Liberty Division schools.

Streaming: Watch Friday’s game on Perkiomen Valley’s YouTube channel 

Spring-Ford (1-0) at Boyertown (0-1) >> Rams coach Chad Brubaker was pleased with the defensive performance in the win over Perkiomen Valley to the extent that he found it difficult to single out an outstanding performer. It may come as a surprise, therefore, that Spring-Ford was missing a few contributors, but figures to be closer to 100 percent when they visit Boyertown this week.

Brubaker is emphasizing the diversity of Boyertown’s offensive concepts, as opposed to focusing solely on stopping the triple option. “Defensively, our players will need to be very formation conscious,” the coach said.

For the Bears, TJ Miller says Spring-Ford will provide a stern test with their size and experience up front. He added that hey key to matching Spring-Ford, whom he called a ‘championship-caliber’ team, will be matching not only their effort but their ability as well. The lessons learned in week one against Owen J. Roberts figure to serve the Bears well, as they will hope for more of the explosiveness shown at times by running back Leo Egbe along with continued improvement from quarterback Roman Marinello.

Streaming: Boyertown home games will be featured on the NFHS Network.

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