LOWER GWYNEDD >> Upper Dublin will gladly put its secondary up against anyone else’s.
It’s easy to see why, with first team All-SOL selection DJ Cerisier at corner, senior Quincy Pauling covering plenty of ground and junior Chris Kohlbrenner having a resume of play-making going back to his freshman year. If there was one area, at least on paper, that looked like a question mark in the Cardinals’ defensive backfield it was sophomore safety Dominick Paone.
After Friday night, those questions are answered.
Paone had three interceptions, all in the first half, as UD dominated on both sides of the ball beating neighborhood rival Wissahickon 47-0.
“I was just in the right spot at the right time,” Paone, who also scored a rushing touchdown, said. “The first one Coleman (Zambrosky) and DJ both tipped it, they tipped it right to me and I caught it and ran it back a little.”
Paone’s touchdown and first interception came on back-to-back snaps. His second pick came with UD leading 21-0 and set up a short field that ended with Colin O’Sullivan finding Cerisier for a 22-yard touchdown and a four-score lead at the end of the first quarter.
While Cardinals defensive coordinator Dave Sowers jokingly chided Paone for a missed coverage that led to one of Wissahickon’s few big gains, it was a strong all-around showing for the safety. Paone already sounds like a vet, noting that with lockdown corners and a defensive line that was applying plenty of pressure, he has some freedom to make plays on the ball.
“The second one, I really had no clue,” Paone said. “Quincy blitzed off the edge, so he just threw it up and I was right there. The third one, my guy stayed in so I kept dropping, read the QB’s eyes and jumped it.”
Cardinals coach Bret Stover saw all he needed to a few weeks back. Perhaps lost in the madness that was the ending of UD’s come-from-behind win over North Penn was an assignment Paone had to pick up due to an offensive adjustment the Knights made moving Yazeed Haynes, their University of Georgia-bound senior, into the slot.
“He held his own, (Haynes) got in front of him but Dom was right there,” Stover said. “He didn’t get burnt for anything. He’s a sophomore and this guy’s a senior going to Georgia, so it was a good experience for him and I think that’s something that’s helping him the further we go into the season.”
Paone got his third interception at the middle of an unusual sequence that saw Wissahickon get a first-and-goal on a play where it appeared the receiver didn’t catch the ball, then UD forcing a fumble on the goal line only to fumble it back to the Trojans two plays later. After the sophomore got the hat trick of picks, the Cardinals drove only to again fumble, this time with the ball going into the endzone and Wiss recovering for a touchback.
By the time the starters exited the game at the end of the first half, they had held Wissahickon to 3-of-10 passing for 46 yards and of course, three interceptions.
“We feel like we have the best secondary in the league,” Paone said. “We all showed up and played tonight.”
Kyree Butler usually doesn’t get much of a break.
The senior, listed at 6-foot-1 and 315 pounds, is a road grating guard on offense who does as the butler does, keeping would-be ruffians out of Colin O’Sullivan’s pocket. On defense, he’s at the middle of UD’s defensive line, eating up blocks and smothering running backs unfortunate enough to find themselves in his path.
Friday, Butler, fellow two-way lineman Riley Hackett – who had a fumble recovery on defense – and all the Cardinals’ other offense-defense players got the second half off thanks to a 35-0 halftime lead. However, when does need to play every snap, Butler has made it a focus to be as sharp at the end as he is for the start.
“I thought that was my weakness in years past,” Butler said. “Over the summer, I pushed myself as hard as possible. My coaches helped, they pushed me and my friends, we all pushed each other so I’d be able to do what I need to do.”
With O’Sullivan at quarterback, the Cardinals have one of the most potent passing attacks in the area. On Friday, they wanted to prove they can run the ball too and offensive line coach Mark Schmidt aimed to set the tone on the ground by having the guys up front get a big push.
UD didn’t throw a single pass on its opening drive, covering the entire 55 yards on the ground with Paone following blocks from Butler and Hackett in on his five-yard score. Tawfiq Bartlett would do the same on his one-yard run to end the next drive and Nyfise McIntyre scored on a 10-yard pitch around the right side on the opening play of the second quarter.
“That was the goal for Coach Schmidt and Coach (Steve) Roberts, let’s get off the ball this week. We have confidence in what we’re doing, let’s now show we understand what we’re doing,” Stover said. “We’re hoping to keep getting better every day. The CB West and North Penn game, those guys played every snap so it’s been nice the last two weeks to get them out.”
Playing in the trenches isn’t a glamorous job and the guys up front don’t always get the props they deserve but every one of their teammates knows what they mean. If the running backs have lanes, if O’Sullivan has time to throw and if the opposition doesn’t have the same luxury on the other side, any skill position player will usually quickly point to the line’s play as the first factor in their own success.
“We were able to dominate from the first whistle,” Butler said. “We knew we were the older team, (Wissahickon) has a young team over there, so the first thing we had to do was dominate the line of scrimmage and that’s what we did. It was a battle at the line, if we won there, we knew we had them.
“We’re always in the weight room, we felt like we were able to overpower them. But we have a little speed on our team too, so we can get to the ball and make some hustle plays.”
Scott Montgomery doesn’t look like a varsity football player at first glance, but he sure runs like one.
The sophomore, listed at just 5-foot-4 and 130 pounds on Upper Dublin’s roster, ran hard and ran strong in the second half while scoring a pair of touchdowns that each brought a loud roar of approval from the sideline. Jake Evans, another sophomore about the same size as Montgomery and Jordan Fields, who isn’t much bigger, all got a chance to get some varsity carries and performed well.
“So happy for Scotty Montgomery, he does all our dirty work,” Stover said. “Him, Jake Evans, Jordan Fields, they do the dirty work on scout team so to see Scotty find the end zone twice, that was pretty awesome.
“He runs into Kyree and Riley all week in practice, that can be pretty frustrating so we wanted to get him some green grass to run on.”
UD picked up a couple injury knocks on Friday, the immediate severity unknown, but with a smaller roster than in some past seasons, getting game reps for the back-ups like the Cardinals have done the last two weeks could be invaluable.
“We practiced some things all week and we were not able to do it on the field, but be successful with it,” Stover said. “From the standpoint of game plan to transferring it on the field, I’m happy with that. We are getting better every week but we still have a ways to go, which is encouraging, because if we were at the top already that’s when I’d start to be a little nervous.”
Upper Dublin 47, Wissahickon 0
UPPER DUBLIN 28 7 6 6 – 47
WISSAHICKON 0 0 0 0 – 0
UD – Dominick Paone 5 run (Austin Pendleton kick) 7:31
UD – Tawfiq Bartlerr 1 run (Pendleton kick) 5:41
UD – Colin O’Sullivan 15 pass to DJ Cerisier (Pendleton kick) 3:22
UD – O’Sullivan 22 pass to Cerisier (Pendleton kick) 2:19
UD – Nyfise McIntyre 10 run (Pendleton kick) 11:43
UD – Scott Montgomery 30 run (kick miss) 17.1
UD – Montgomery 5 run (kick miss) 9:41
First Downs 17 4
Rushes-Yards 40-286 20-32
Passing 6-7-2-0 3-12-0-3
Passing Yards 150 46
Total Yards 436 78
Penalties-Yards 10-91 5-34
Fumbles-Lost 2-2 3-3
Punting Average 0-0 3-24.3
Rushing: UD – Nyfise McIntyre 12-129, Tawfiq Bartlett 3-17, Dominick Paone 1-5, Jacob Cornbluth 2-2, Ryan O’Sullivan 2-12, Scott Montgomery 7-58, Jordan Fields 7-65, Jake Evans 5-8; W -Ronnie Weldon 14-21, Dom Sheppard 1-0, Kareem Lee 2-5, Jason Murray Jr 2-6, Evan Tolmie 1-0
Passing: UD – Colin O’Sullivan 6-7-2-0-150; W – Julian Perkins 3-10-0-3-46, Nolan Pounds 0-0-0-0-0
Receiving: UD – Griffin Pensabene 2-56, DJ Cerisier 2-37, Coleman Zambrosky 2-57; W – Gavin Myers 2-41, Sheppard 1-5
Interceptions: UD – Dominick Paone 3