LOWER POTTSGROVE >> They put the “special” in special teams Friday.
Bryce Caffrey and Amir Brunson, stalwarts in Pottsgrove’s offensive backfield this season, were even more stout as members of the Falcons’ kicking teams in their Homecoming game with Phoenixville. They contributed mightily to a 31-0 victory over the Phantoms on the first night of the Pioneer Athletic Conference’s divisional play.
Caffrey and Brunson scored touchdowns on the punt and kickoff return teams, respectively, in complement to their play on offense. It was all part of what head coach Bill Hawthorne described as “Pottsgrove football.”
“We put a big emphasis on special teams,” he said. “Those guys are playmakers. They want to get the opportunity to touch the ball. And they’ll be the first ones out there to block for each other.”
The opportunities both proved monumental. Caffrey’s 44-yard punt return at the 8:44 mark of the second quarter was the first return touchdown of his career, and Brunson’s 75-yard run with the second-half kickoff — his second kick return TD of the season — was special in its own right.
“I’ve done it before,” the Falcon senior said, “but this one was the longest.”
The up-front blocking did its part to set up the special-team scores.
“The field was open,” Caffrey noted. “I just took the ball and ran.”
“The front-line play was 100 percent,” Hawthorne added. “Coach (Josh) Ford (special teams) takes pride in the teams’ play.”
Caffrey later was on the receiving end of a 16-yard pass from Ryan Sisko that got Pottsgrove (3-1) its third score inside the final minute of the first half. Sisko got the Falcons’ roll started by pushing off-center one yard with 4:58 left in the first quarter.
Another special team accounted for Pottsgrove’s last score, Landon Shivak kicking a 19-yard field goal just before the end of the third quarter.
Defensively, the Falcons came out hitting hard and preventing Phoenixville (1-3) from reaching the end zone. While chalking up five sacks and one interception, they forced the Phantoms to surrender the ball on downs three times in the second half; the closest the visitors got to a score was the Pottsgrove eight-yard line early in the third quarter, when quarterback Ty Romance was dropped by Mark White for a seven-yard loss on fourth down,
“We’re not there yet,” Phoenixville head coach Anthony Ciarlello said. “We’ve got to put a whole game together.”
The Phantoms’ biggest offensive performances were those of Ty Romance and Owen Koch. Romance was 10-for-21 in a passing game that collected 145 yards, and Koch ran the ball 17 times for 97 yards.
But the visitors couldn’t prevent Pottsgrove from scoring on three of its five first-half possessions.
“To give up 21 points and try to come back … we can’t do that,” Ciarlello noted. “It was a mess — a bad night. We have to fix this because we have another good team (Pope John Paul II) next week. Tonight, we knew we were facing a great team.”
Pottsgrove’s defensive “sack attack” was headed by Shane Caffrey, who had one solo drop and another collaboration with Brunson. Cory Jubilee-Scott and White had solos while Riley Delp and Giovante Moriera combined for another sack.
Vinny Scarnato’s interception of a Romance pass in the first quarter set the stage for Sisko’s running touchdown at the 4:58 mark. And Max Neeson, selected as the school’s Homecoming king in halftime ceremonies, heard his name called for numerous tackles during the night.
“This was his best game of the year,” Hawthorne said of Neeson. “He’s a pounding fullback and the quarterback of our defense … a tough, smart kid.”
Though spare in quantity, the Falcons’ air game was hefty in quality. Sisko collected 77 yards on 2-for-3 passing, the longest a 61-yard toss to Tyler Kaufman that ultimately led to Shivak’s field goal.
“Our bread and butter is still the running game,” Hawthorne said. “But I can be happy with 3-for-5 passing if we’re hitting our play actions.
“I was eager to see how we responded to the loss last weekend (four-OT game vs. Boyertown).”
NOTES >> In addition to his field goal, Shivak added conversion kicks on Pottsgrove’s four tochdowns. … Phoenixville had its own big special-teams play, blocking a Pottsgrove punt attempt for minus-three yards inside the game’s three-minute mark. … Chelsea Wasdick was voted Pottsgrove’s Homecoming queen.