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Mercury Football Preview: Plethora of 2020’s statistical stars return this season

Being a statistical leader always ranks high in football circles.

Even more so when accomplished during a season like the one local high-school programs faced in 2020: Fewer regular-season games, reduced opportunities for postseason qualification and the ever-looming specter of cancellations due to the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The graduation of the Pioneer Athletic Conference’s Class of 2021 opens things up for many players. At the same time, a number of statistical stars from the 2020 season are back looking not only to remain leaders, but to refine and showcase their skills in the course of a season that hopes to bear more resemblance to those from the pre-pandemic days.

Ethan Kohler headlines the group of top returners. As a junior last year, the Perkiomen Valley senior was the PAC’s passing leader with 62.9 percent accuracy (95-for-151) for 1,425 yards and a 126.4 rating. He also threw 16 touchdowns against just one interception in guiding the Vikes to a 4-1 record against league schools (6-2 overall).

As is generally the case with high-school QBs, Kohler directed praise to the runners and receivers who were on the other end of his plays.

“Pieces around me,” he said. “I had good weapons around me, senior receivers. We obviously want to have high standards.”

2020 Mercury Area Football Leaders

Kohler’s standard has been high since being thrust into the starting job late in his freshman year and helping the Vikings to the 2018 PAC title.

One understandable downside to PV’s season was being unable to qualify for the District 1 Class 6A playoffs. The pandemic’s impact on the postseason was to reduce the big-school field to just four teams, with fellow PAC rival Spring-Ford the circuit’s lone entry.

“Every year, it’s our goal to qualify for districts,” he said. “It was a bummer there were only four (teams).”

At the same time, Kohler was grateful for having the opportunity to play — even if the schedule wasn’t a done deal.

“Last year it was week to week. That’s our mentality, our motto, this year: Week to week.”

Spring-Ford quarterback Ryan Freed throws a pass against Perkiomen Valley. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

In the quarterback ranks, two other top 5 passers are back leading their teams this fall.

At Spring-Ford, Ryan Freed looks to upgrade an 88.9 quarterback rating and 60.2 (74-for-123) completion percentage while helping the Rams make another strong run in the PAC and District 1’s Class 6A ranks. The Ram signal-caller threw for 863 yards and nine touchdowns as Spring-Ford went 5-0 in league play and 6-1 overall, its lone loss to Souderton in the District 1 Class 6A playoffs’ semifinal round.

At Daniel Boone, senior Carter Speyerer finished second in the Mercury area in passing with 939 yards (77-for-171) with seven TDs, five interceptions and a 98.8 passer rating.

Michael Reed, a junior proclaimed by Owen J. Roberts head coach Rich Kolka as being “stronger and taller” earlier in the summer, is back leading the Wildcat offense. He was sixth in the PAC last year, completing 57.1 percent (36-for-63) of his passes for 386 yards. Reed had a 58.0 QB rating and three touchdown passes to his credit in 2020.

Owen J. also returns a top-flight running talent in senior Avrey Grimm. His junior season, Grimm had 97 carries for 661 yards (6.8 YPC) and six touchdowns as the ‘Cats went 3-3 in a pandemic-shortened schedule.

“My biggest gift is my vision,” Grimm said of his talents. “It’s something I’m blessed to have: The ability to make something out of nothing. It’s something nice to have.”

His rushing yardage was second to Methacton’s departed Justin Carfrey, who covered 712 yards on more carries (127). This fall, Grimm sees the Roberts offense having more versatility.

“We’ll be able to pass more this year,” he said. “Mike (Reed) was young, and we had only a month to prepare. If the run doesn’t work, we can pass.”

“Last year, the line was young. Almost everyone returns this year. We have a lot of depth … there’s someone to fill in if somebody is sick.”

Four other top 6 rushers from 2020 also return in Daniel Boone senior AJ Hofer (161 carries, 617 yards, 2 TDs), Spring-Ford senior Harry Adieyefeh (110 carries, 579 yards, TDs), Upper Perkiomen senior Logan Simmon (91 rushes, 578 yards, 6 TDs) and Phoenixville senior Owen Koch (65 rushes, 460 yards, 5 TDs).

Daniel Boone wide receiver Alex Vassallo led Berks and the Mercury area with 41 catches last season (for 481 yards and three touchdowns). He is the only top 10 receiver from 2020 returning.

Perkiomen Valley seniors Rasheem Grayson and Dawson Debebe rank among the top returners to the Vikings’ receiving game, which graduated Kohler’s top 3 targets from a year ago (Jason Posner, Kevin Beattie, Leo Hunsberger).

Grayson had 17 catches for 192 yards — an 11.3 yards per catch (YPC) — while Debebe collected 185 yards off eight Kohler tosses (23.0 YPC). Debebe scored touchdowns off three of his receptions.

“We have a bunch of guys who have the chemistry to understand what to do,” Kohler said. “We have a lot of returning starters this year. Last year, I was one of only returning starters. I was excited to see how that worked out.”

Owen J. Roberts’ Avrey Grimm (2) and Aston Shrum (6) celebrate Grimm’s touchdown run Friday against Boyertown. (Owen McCue – MediaNews Group)

In-between the 2020 receiving stats was Methacton’s Brian Dickey. He was key to the Warriors posting a 4-3 record two years removed from a 1-9 in 2018.

Dickey amassed 13 receptions, good for 192 yards (14.5 YPC). He was the team’s leading receiver in the PAC ranks.

On the defensive side, Matt Blakemore returns as an interceptions leader in the PAC. The senior safety’s three “picks” in 2020 were tied for second place with PV’s Dylan Crothers, and one behind Spring-Ford’s Naphtali Stine, both of whom have graduated.

He credit the coaching staff of former grid boss Dave Lotier for “putting me in the right position.” A key INT came in the Warriors’ 2020 finale with Council Rock South, which preserved a 13-0 victory and clinched the program’s first winning record (4-3) in several years.

“I had been a cornerback,” Blakemore noted, “but I was stronger tackling in the secondary.”

Like his teammates, Blakemore is buoyed by Methacton’s 2020 season and has one key goal for the coming campaign.

“We’d like to make the playoffs,” he said, “but to do that, we have to beat Spring-Ford. That will probably be our biggest game this year.”


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