BUCKTOWN >> Spring-Ford’s 2020 team slogan doubled as a promise to the team’s players and coaches through the longest offseason in memory.
“Fall is coming.”
The motto meant as an ominous reminder prefaced a potentially special season, as Spring-Ford (5-0) concluded its dominant run through the Pioneer Athletic Conference Friday night with a 28-0 win over Owen J. Roberts (2-3) at Henry J. Bernat Stadium to give the Rams their first back-to-back conference titles in 25 years.
The accolades were numerous: aside from the back-to-back titles, the final score meant the contest was the Rams’ third consecutive shutout, and kept the team at No. 1 in the PIAA District One Class 6A power rankings in a season where only four teams will qualify for playoffs.
Spring-Ford showed remarkable offensive balance, racking up 410 total yards of offense (235 rushing, 175 passing). The team had a 100-yard rusher (junior Harry Adieyefeh, with 112 yards on 17 carries), a 100-yard receiver (senior Nick Teets, nine catches for 149 yards and a pair of scores), and quarterback Ryan Freed set a career high with three scoring passes.
But they all had to accept second billing behind a defense that allowed only 34 yards of total offense, caused two turnovers and maintained a streak of not allowing a point in their last 13 quarters of football.
“We love to fly around out there, playing hard and fast,” said senior linebacker Zach Marinello, who led the Rams in tackles on the evening. “But playing smart is the biggest key.”
The Rams came in riding a two-game shutout streak, not allowing a single point since the third quarter of their game with Boyertown on October 2. Spring-Ford also kept its season-long first-half shutout streak alive, but they did it the hard way, turning away OJR twice after committing turnovers of their own deep in their own territory.
The contest started smoothly enough for Spring-Ford on offense, as Nick Teets took a quick slant pass from quarterback Ryan Freed for 62 yards on the Rams’ first possession. One play later, Andrew Yoon’s three-yard TD gave Spring-Ford a 7-0 lead less than three minutes into the contest.
But those would be the only points of the first half. Both defenses stiffened, the Rams in particular as they allowed only 23 yards of total offense before the break. They were flagged for 70 more yards, however, allowing OJR to sustain a drive that began with a recovered muffed punt midway through the second quarter.
“I was pretty disappointed with our offensive performance in the first half,” admitted Chad Brubaker, Spring-Ford’s head coach. “Offense, special teams – they didn’t put us in good positions, but hats off to our defense. They’re in the right spots and doing the right things.”
The Wildcats’ deepest drive of the first half reached the SF 5 after two defensive pass interference calls but ended in a missed field goal with seconds remaining until halftime.
Meanwhile, OJR’s defensive line was able to limit the Rams after Teets’ big play despite giving away considerable size in the trenches. SF went three and out twice before an Avrey Grimm interception ended another Rams’ drive. Spring-Ford’s offense gained some traction before half but ran out of time and took a 7-0 advantage to the break.
After the break, however, Spring-Ford was able to assert their offensive will on a nine-play, 75-yard drive that culminated in Teets converting a flare screen into a 10-yard TD pass from Ryan Freed for a 14-0 Rams lead. The drive ate up about half the quarter and established the Rams’ ability to move the ball at will on the ground.
The next drive was more of the same, with Adieyefeh surpassing 100 yards on the ground in eating up most of the 10-play, 74-yard drive before Freed found senior tight end Josh Hellauer for 11 yards and his second TD pass of the quarter, giving Spring-Ford a 21-0 advantage – a veritable stranglehold with the Rams’ defense.
“They’re fast, they hit hard, and they cover well,” said OJR head coach Rich Kolka. “It’s (Spring-Ford) one of the best defenses I’ve seen in awhile.
“We’re just not at that point yet. We need to work towards the ability to have a defense and an offense without two-way players.”
Teets and Freed would connect for another score, this one a 39-yarder halfway through the fourth quarter for the final margin.
For the 2-3 Wildcats, it was tough sledding all night, as the Rams held PAC leading rusher Avrey Grimm to negative-4 rushing yards on the evening, ending Grimm’s string of four consecutive 100-plus yard rushing games. Top receiver Dante DeNardo found the going equally tough, with two catches for 10 yards.
Reserve quarterback Will Whitlock moved the offense relatively well in the fourth quarter, picking up a couple first downs with shifty moves in the backfield.
“I’m happy for our players that we got to have a structured, uninterrupted season, with a chance to play for a league title,” said Kolka.
The Wildcats will look to end the 2020 season on a high note when they travel to Upper Merion next week.
But the night belonged to Spring-Ford and their history-making defense. The victory seals not only their second straight league title but ensures they’ll maintain the top spot in the power rankings when they’re officially updated Monday.
The top four teams as of November 1 will proceed to the district playoffs, with the No. 1 and No. 2 teams hosting first-round games on November 6. Of course, with a shortened season there’s little room for error, meaning Spring-Ford may need to win next week when they host Cumberland Valley of District 3 in order to make the playoffs at all.
“We have to figure things out before next week – we haven’t been strong on offense the past two weeks,” cautioned Brubaker.
“But the 1994-1995 teams (the last back-to-back champions at the school) were legendary. They’ve created quite a legacy; we just hope to add to it going forward.”
Spring-Ford 28, Owen J. Roberts 0
Spring-Ford — 7 0 14 7 — 28
Owen J. Roberts — 0 0 0 0 — 0
SF – Yoon 3 run (Nadeau kick)
SF – Teets 10 pass from Freed (Nadeau kick)
SF – Hellauer 11 pass from Freed (Nadeau kick)
SF – Teets 39 pass from Freed (Nadeau kick)
First Downs 20 5
Rushing Yards 235 4
Passing Yards 175 30
Total Yards 410 34
Passes C-A-I 15-23-1 8-13-1
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 2-1
Penalties-Yards 12-135 8-47
Punts-Avg. 3-34.7 7-35.6
Spring-Ford – Adieyefeh 17-112, Yoon 9-48; TD, Goldsmith 6-43, Freed 3-21, Teets 2-11.
Owen J. Roberts – Grimm 14-(minus-4), Rhoads 5-(minus-3), Whitlock 4-24, Reed 3-(minus-15), Grossi 1-2.
Spring-Ford – Freed 15-23, 175 yards, 3 TD, INT.
Owen J. Roberts – Reed 7-10, 21 yards, INT; Whitlock 0-2, 0 yards; Grossi 1-1, 9 yards.
Spring-Ford – Teets 9-149; 2 TD, Hellauer 1-11; TD, Kqira 1-8, Cagliola 1-6, Adieyefeh 1-2, Zollers 1-0, Yoon 1-(minus-1).
Owen J. Roberts – Grossi 3-12, DeNardo 2-10, Grimm 2-(minus-1), Shrum 1-9.
Sacks: Spring-Ford – Francis.
Interceptions: Spring-Ford – Stine.
Owen J. Roberts – Grimm.