WARRINGTON >> It was the kind of scenario Cole Maholtz and the rest of the Central Bucks South Titans had been preparing for.
In a blitz, visiting Plymouth Whitemarsh had turned a two-score deficit into a tie game, taking the jolt out of an energetic crowd and putting the Titans up to task. CB South doesn’t want to be overlooked this year, so it was time for the hosts to prove they shouldn’t be.
CB South regained the lead, then held it against a game effort from the Colonials to pick up a 35-27 win in the 2021 season opener for both squads Friday night.
“Being such a small team, we feel like everyone’s doubting us,” Maholtz, a senior who scored three rushing touchdowns, said. “We’re known for not having the biggest kids or the tallest kids, but we have a lot of fight. Those three touchdowns, they don’t happen without my dogs on the line, all the guys who played tonight, they killed it.”
It was very much an opening-week game for both teams, with players cramping up in the extra-humid heat, both sides not sharp in execution and between the two of them, they had as many turnovers as they did touchdowns (nine). Plymouth Whitemarsh, which made a couple changes in its offensive backfield during preseason, got off to a slow start but had plenty of determination to make up for it.
South took the opening kick and spurred by a few big pass plays from senior quarterback Patrick Maerz, got on the board with the first of Maholtz’s three touchdowns on the night. The Colonials sputtered on their opening drive, but the visitors were able to thank their defense for keeping them in the game both at the half and the entire contest.
PW forced three turnovers in the first quarter, created five turnovers overall and added a fourth-down stop for good measure.
“Our guys were flying around,” Plymouth Whitemarsh coach Dan Chang said. “We played everyone from our ones, twos, threes, even some cases our four guys. It’s something we really emphasize, especially with our numbers, everybody being ready to go.”
A fumble recovery set up a short field and this time, the veer offense found its footing with senior Chris McLaughlin putting the first Colonial points of the season on the board following an 11-yard run. The senior, who swapped from quarterback to tailback so he could focus on his role as the defensive leader playing safety, also had a key interception that spurred the third-quarter comeback.
“It just shows what our team can do,” McLaughlin said. “We have to go back to practice, keep working hard and get everything to click together. We knew if we didn’t do anything to help ourselves, we were never going to catch up and that’s not what this team is about. We wanted to come out with a pop and try our best.”
PW’s third turnover of the opening quarter, an interception, quelled a Titans drive but the hosts got payback when a botched snap on a punt gave South a five-yard field midway through the second frame. Wideout Matt Boyce scored on a sweep to put South up 14-6 and the Titans cashed in one more time just before the break.
Maerz, who threw for 141 first half yards, hit Tyler Robinson for a 46-yard gain to the one that Maholtz punched in on the next play.
“We played a sloppy, sloppy first half and were a couple plays away from being within a score and knew we were getting the ball back, so nobody was panicked,” Chang said. “We came out with a little bang there, got two quick scores and got our confidence back.”
The Colonials only needed two plays in the third quarter to get right back in the game. Nate Kern ripped off 15 yards to open the third, then Greg Feinberg emerged from the always-intricate backfield before hitting the sideline seam and going 64 yards for a TD with PW converting the following two-point try.
South started to put a drive together, but on a shot down the field, McLaughlin picked off Maerz and returned the pick all the way back to the Titans’ 15. A play later, it was Feinberg again powering in for the score to knot things up 21-21.
“We have a ton to learn from this,” Chang said. “I told our guys, this is a good barometer for us and a way to see how we stack up with the ‘big boys’ of Suburban One. I think this showed we can play with them and we can play with anybody, it was nice reassurance that we can do it.”
Less than two minutes into the second half, the Titans had to figure out if they could not only take a punch, but give one back. With junior Brett Szarko taking over at quarterback for the senior Maerz ahead of a crucial drive, Maholtz made sure his guys knew what was on the line.
“It came down to getting everyone fired up and reminding them the game wasn’t over and we still had a lot of football left to play,” Maholtz said.
Szarko came through too, hitting Owen Wheeler for a big gain on a third-and-nine at midfield that moved the sticks, kept the drive alive and put the Titans in position for Maholtz to carry them home. The senior running back did just that, gaining 27 of the next 29 yards with his legs capped with a six-yard scoring plunge that put the Titans back in front for good.
Maerz returned for the next drive and got a good finish to his night, hitting Tommy Donnelly on a four-yard score for what proved the eventual game-winning score. With a date against rival CB West on tap next week, the Titans can head into it a little more sure in what their makeup is as a team.
“We had a good game and it’s time to move on, but we also know there’s still a lot to be fixed,” Maholtz said. “West, East, those are the big rivals and you have to go win those. As a team, it’s good to have that first win, especially when we think we were looked down upon and even better when it’s against a good opponent like PW was.”
PW will seek its first win of the season in its home opener, with Methacton coming to visit next Friday.
“Overall, it’s a pretty good Week 1, definitely a couple things to fix but they’re very fixable,” McLaughlin said. “We have a lot to bounce back from, a lot to learn. We have some young guys out here who came to play, so it feels pretty good.”
CB South 7 14 14 0 – 35
Plymouth Whitemarsh 6 0 15 6 – 27
CBS – Cole Maholtz 2 run (kick good) 9:45
PW – Chris McLaughlin 11 run (kick fail) 6:44
CBS – Matt Boyce 5 run (kick good) 6:48
CBS – Cole Maholtz 1 run (kick good) 41.7
PW – Greg Feinberg 64 run (two-point run) 11:09
PW – Feinberg 15 run (kick good) 10:12
Cole Maholtz 6 run (kick good) 6:20
Patrick Maerz 4 pass to Tommy Donnelly (kick good) 4:19
PW – Aiden O’Brien 41 run (kick miss) 11:49
Rushes-Yards 39-104 49-268
Passing 12-20-1-2 2-4-0-0
Passing Yards 268 19
Total Yards 372 287
First Downs 15 14
Fumbles-Lost 4-3 6-3
Rushing: CBS – Sebastian Pacchione 1-1, Brett Szark0 1-2, Zak Fisher 3-19, Cole Maholtz 20-64, Patrick Maerz 5-(-3), Matt Boyce 4-23, Tommy Donnelly 2-(-1), Liam Goss 2-4; PW – Greg Feinberg 6-97, Aiden O’Brien 17-66, Chris McLaughlin 3-27, Nate Kern 8-55, Zion East 5-24, Dom Konieczka 5-9, Phil Taromina 1-5, Team 4-(-15)
Passing: CBS – Maerz 9-16-1-2-195, Szarko 3-4-0-0-28; PW – O’Brien 2-4-0-0-19
Receiving: CBS – Donnelly 3-53, Tyler Robinson 3-84, Jordan Becker 2-24, Goss 1-8, Fisher 1-3, Owen Wheeler 1-21, Maholtz 2-20; PW – Feinberg 1-4, Nick Scannapieco 1-15