LOWER GWYNEDD >> When injuries proliferate, growth and maturation often take the place of wins and losses on a level of importance.
Having to rely on its third-string quarterback, Upper Dublin made the necessary adjustments and executed enough to defeat Wissahickon 28-19 on Friday night.
“We started fast,” UD coach Bret Stover said. “We scored 21 points in the first quarter. That’s what (other teams have done) to us the last couple weeks. So, we know how that feels from our end.”
The Cardinals (4-3) were without both their first and second quarterback options, Mike Slivka and Tristan Cairnes. Bazel Brady, their leading pass-catcher, was also watching from the sideline.
“I think these guys have bought into the plan and they believe in each other,” Stover said. “We call it ‘Band of Brothers.’ I know it’s kind of cliché. But, they did it. They sucked it up. They came together for the common goal and we did what we needed to do. It wasn’t perfect but it was enough.”
The first two offensive possessions for Wissahickon resulted in favorable field position for Upper Dublin. The Cardinals blocked punt and a recovered a fumble on another punt attempt. Upper Dublin was able to capitalize off both. Running back John Kohlbrenner had two touchdowns before the pregame rush to the concession stand died down.
Stover said his team was able to shake off a difficult loss against Quakertown last week and flip the script.
“We had some chances last week,” Stover said. “We left points on the field. We preached all week that we can’t do that. We can’t allow points to be left on the field. They didn’t do it tonight. We got the points that we needed to get. Tonight, the moment was not too big for this team. Which, in a couple games right after the injuries, it was too big for us.”
Sophomore Nick Rodriguez started at quarterback for Upper Dublin and did what he was asked. Stover took a conservative offensive approach to maximize Rodriguez’s chances at success. Limiting the young quarterback’s exposure to potential turnovers was a focus.
“We didn’t turn the ball over,” Stover said. “That was what we were preaching. We had to win the turnover battle and we did.”
Wissahickon (1-7) is no stranger to injuries either. Trojans head coach Bruce Fleming has been without starting quarterback Nick Santo for a significant portion of the season. Tonight, their leader on the offensive line, Michael Fath, left the game in the third quarter with a lower body injury and never returned.
The Trojans have struggled with self-inflicting wounds this season. Miscues and penalties have often come in bunches. They committed seven personal fouls against Upper Moreland last week.
“It’s something we’ve been working on all season long is being able to play four quarters,” Fleming said. “Even though Upper Dublin is hit hard with injuries this year, they’re still a very good and well-coached team. We can’t spot a team 21 points in the first quarter and expect to win games”
Despite the early deficit, Wissahickon was able to climb their way back into the game thanks in large part to their defense.
“I’m proud of my guys for how they fought back,” Fleming said. “They could have easily folded and let this game get away. But to only surrender seven points after that 21 points, that shows a lot in my guys. Raejon Benjamin is always sideline to sideline. He’s our defensive MVP and our defensive leader. But I was proud to see some other guys really step up. DaMyron Harvey at the defensive end spot really worked hard this week and it really showed. We had a great rotation from our defensive line.”
On the offensive side, injuries have made way and provided a platform for freshman running back Kyle Lehman. He has emerged as their most explosive offensive weapon over the past several weeks.
“Starting the year off, I wasn’t expecting him to play a lot,” Fleming said. “But it’s a long season and injuries happen. He has stepped up to the plate and he understands the responsibility. He’s shown what type of football player he’s going to be in this league for the next three years.”
Upper Dublin 28, Wissahickon 19
Upper Dublin 21 0 7 0
Wissahickon 0 7 0 12
UD: Kohlbrenner 7-run (Extra point successful)
UD: Kohlbrenner 10-run (Extra point successful)
UD: Bootman 13-catch (Extra point successful)
Wiss: Baldwin 1-run (Extra point successful)
UD: Bootman 1-run (Extra point successful)
Wiss: Lehman 2 run (2-point conversion unsuccessful)
Wiss: Lehman 34-catch (2-point conversion unsuccessful)
UD: Rodriguez 5-9, 36 yards, 1 TD. Wiss: DeFeo 8-18, 152 yards, 1 TD.
UD: Bootman 5 rushes, 14 yards, 1 TD; Kohlbrenner 15 rushes, 76 yards, 2 TDs; Wright 2 rushes, 8 yards; Rossman 7 rushes, 39 yards. Wiss: Lehman 15 rushes, 115 yards, 1 TD; Baldwin 1 rush, 1 yard, 1 TD; Intrieri 4 rushes, 10 yards; DeFeo 3 rushes, 14 yards.
UD: McCarry 1 catch, 11 yards; Bootman 1 catch, 13 yards, 1 TD; Wright 1 catch, 3 yards; Kohlbrenner 1 catch, 2 yards; Kemp 1 catch, 7 yards; Wiss: Schreiner 1 catch, 8 yards; Dougherty 1 catch, 11 yards; Intrieri 4 catches, 95 yards; Lehman 2 catches, 38 yards, 1 TD.