Defense delivers Spring-Ford past Perkiomen Valley, 28-7, in marquee matchup

ROYERSFORD >> What’s scarier than an offense averaging over 43 points per contest?

How about pairing them with a defense that’s motivated, angry, and increasingly taking it out on each subsequent opponent?

Spring-Ford limited Perkiomen Valley to a single touchdown and 107 yards of offense in delivering an authoritative 28-7 win over their archrivals at Coach McNelly Stadium on Friday night.

The Rams registered four quarterback sacks and several additional tackles for loss, repeatedly frustrating the Vikings offense who found themselves behind the chains for much of the evening.

Spring-Ford’s Jordan Marsilio (9) pushes for additional yards after a reception against Perkiomen Valley on Oct. 6, 2023, at Spring-Ford. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)
Spring-Ford quarterback Matt Zollers rolls out of the pocket as Perkiomen Valley’s Sam Koehler can only get a grab of his towel during their game on Oct. 6, 2023 at Spring-Ford. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

Spring-Ford’s 3-0 start in PAC Liberty play might be headlined by their explosive offense, but the Rams have allowed only 16 points in league play – nine of those coming with a 49-0 lead at Boyertown two weeks ago.

But why the anger? Why would a 6-1 team have a chip on its shoulder?

An eye-opening 63-28 loss to District 3 power Manheim Township in Week 4 left Spring-Ford’s defense with something to prove. While Manheim is lighting up the scoreboard against all comers this season, the performance didn’t sit well with the competitive, senior-laden Rams defense.

“You give up that many points, that’s not much fun,” said linebacker and defensive captain Mike Bendowski. “So obviously defense was a heavy focus. The pressure was on us to do better, to be better. These past couple weeks, I think we’ve really shown that.”

The aforementioned explosive offense had a big role in Friday’s win as well, with a performance more workmanlike than spectacular.

Spring-Ford had a 100-yard rusher in junior Jamal Lewis (22 carries, 134 yards) and a 100-yard receiver in senior Belal Abdelrahman (eight receptions, 118 yards).

Post game interview with Spring-Ford QB @MattZollers after the Rams’ 28-7 victory over Perkiomen Valley in their annual rivalry game

— Austin Hertzog (@AustinHertzog) October 7, 2023

Spring-Ford quarterback Matt Zollers gestures to the Spring-Ford student section after throwing his second touchdown against Perkiomen Valley on Oct. 6 at Spring-Ford. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

At the helm was quarterback Matt Zollers with a 215-yard, three-touchdown performance through the air, adding a quarterback sneak for SF’s fourth touchdown.

For Abdelrahman in particular, it was a seesaw start to the contest. After muffing a punt in the first quarter, the wideout responded with touchdown receptions in each quarter of the opening half, mixing in several tough catches and broken tackles to extend drives along the way.

“I made a mistake, so I had to make up for it,” said Abdelrahman of his first score, a leaping reception for a 17-yard connection with Zollers. “Matt threw a great ball.”

Mason Scott, the other half of Spring-Ford’s devastating 1-2 punch at receiver, had a quiet-by-his-standards evening with three catches for 50 yards, but contributed a 28-yard reception in the third quarter to set up Zollers’ rushing touchdown.

“I think we’re hard to stop with everything we can do on offense,” said Abdelrahman.

Lewis typically splits carries with Bendowski in the Rams running game, so his 22 carries were easily a career high. Judging by his results on one of the biggest stages in the area’s preeminent rivalry, he might expect a bigger workload in the near future.

“I just play ball – block out the noise and do what I can do,” said Lewis.

Spring-Ford running back Jamal Lewis looks for a lane on a carry against Perkiomen Valley on Oct. 6 at Spring-Ford. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

Perkiomen Valley came out of halftime trailing 14-0 with their best drive of the evening. A nine-play, 65-yard journey was highlighted by Joey Keough’s 32-yard reception and culminated in Xavier Nunez’s nine-yard touchdown run.

But the Vikings couldn’t sustain the momentum, as Spring-Ford immediately responded with their own best drive of the evening, a similar nine-play journey featuring Scott’s 28-yard reception and Zollers’ QB sneak.

The Vikings lost junior quarterback Patrick MacDonald to an injury late in the third quarter.

“Their defense is excellent every year,” said Perkiomen Valley coach Rob Heist. “Their offense gets lots of attention, and rightfully so, but they’re so well coached on defense, and they make you earn every yard. Tonight was no different.”

The Vikings’ best drive of the opening half was their first, as they got a 21-yard run from Nunez into SF territory, then recovered a muffed punt after Spring-Ford forced a fourth down.

However, the theme of the first half was quickly established when Spring-Ford turned PV away on a fourth down at the Rams’ 29-yard line.

In all, Perkiomen Valley had seven first-half possessions. The Vikings punted four times — recovering two fumbles — but were turned away on downs on their other three opportunities.

“Their line was awesome, their linebackers were great, their secondary responded when called upon,” said Heist. “That drive out of halftime was great, but credit to Spring-Ford. They continued to execute.”

Perkiomen Valley’s Ty Hall looks for running room after making a reception against Spring-Ford during their PAC game on Oct. 6, 2023. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

Quarterback Zollers finished with nine carries for 17 yards as Carter Euker and Drew Kenworthy each registered a sack for PV. But the Vikings would’ve likely tripled that total against a less elusive passer.

The PV defensive front never displays the same look twice, and Spring-Ford’s protection improved as the game progressed. Early on, however, Zollers was forced to escape the pocket repeatedly as the stout Vikings linebacking corps closed in pursuit.

The result was a completion percentage below his typical standard (69 percent for the season coming into Friday, 15 of 30 for the game) but effusive praise from PV coach Heist.

“He’s a heck of a player,” said Heist. “We had him a couple times in the backfield, but he never seems to go down on the first tackle [attempt].”

Offensively, Spring-Ford’s early success came on the legs of Lewis.

After Zollers’ first completion to Jordan Marsilio kept the drive alive, Spring-Ford moved to the edge of the red zone where Zollers found Abdelrahman for the opening score.

Bryce Roberts and Brett Schulz registered sacks on the next drive to boot PV off the field again, leading to the second connection between Zollers and Abdelrahman, this one on a fourth down from 28 yards out to double the hosts’ lead to 14-0.

Spring-Ford’s front seven continued to turn the Vikings away despite favorable field position thanks to Brayden Perone’s two kickoff returns to midfield.

Bendowski brought down PV’s Nate Reedy at the SF 30 midway through the second, and Evan Strzeminski led the charge on a third-down stop that preceded a fourth-down incompletion on the Vikings’ final opportunity before halftime.

Schulz led Spring-Ford with two sacks, as Roberts and Owen Norman registered additional takedowns.

The Rams iced the victory in the fourth quarter when Zollers found Ian Pettica for a 23-yard touchdown with 6:26 to play.

Wheel route to Ian Peticca from Matt Zollers, 23 yard score on 2nd and 22 and Spring-Ford has gone up 28-7, 6:26 to play

Rams students chant “beat the traffic”

(Video if I say so myself)

— Austin Hertzog (@AustinHertzog) October 7, 2023

MacDonald finished with 80 yards passing on the evening, while Xavier Nunez led the PV rushing attack with 41 yards and the lone touchdown.

Next week, Perkiomen Valley heads to Norristown in hopes of getting back on track. At 5-2 (2-1 PAC Liberty) all the Vikings’ goals remain attainable.

Heist emphasized that the sting of the loss will only strengthen his program’s resolve for the stretch run.

“Nothing changes for us,” said Heist. “It should hurt because we’re competitors and we expect to win every game.

“But we learn from it in film tomorrow, then it’s on to Norristown.”

Spring-Ford’s Braden Welsh (7) celebrates after tackling Perkiomen Valley quarterback Patrick MacDonald for a loss during the first half of their game on Oct. 6, 2023, at Spring-Ford. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

The atmosphere for the Perkiomen Valley/Spring-Ford showdown was as charged as ever, each school represented by a robust student section plus thousands of family members, classmates, and additional well-wishers.

This year was the Rams’ turn to celebrate. After two straight losses at Perk Valley, the vast majority of Friday’s Spring-Ford players were playing the rivalry game at home for the first time.

“It was loud, it was electric,” said Abdelrahman. “After two straight losses there, it feels great to get this win for our fans, our crowd here tonight.”

Now 6-1 and alone atop the PAC Liberty at 3-0, Spring-Ford heads to Methacton next week with an opportunity to clinch a spot in the league title game on October 27.

Bendowski says a letdown won’t be in the cards.

“Tonight was an awesome atmosphere, something we may not experience again,” he said.

“But in the locker room just now, we were saying ‘Methacton, Methacton, Methacton.’ We’re on to the next one and focused on going 1-0 next week.”


Spring-Ford 28, Perkiomen Valley 7

Perkiomen Valley —    0   0   7   0   —   7

Spring-Ford —   7   7   7   7   —   28


SF — Abdelrahman 17 pass from Zollers (McGarvey kick)
SF — Abdelrahman 28 pass from Zollers (McGarvey kick)
PV — Nunez 9 run (Avery kick)
SF — Zollers 1 run (McGarvey kick)
SF — Peticca 23 pass from Zollers (McGarvey kick)


PV                 SF
First Downs                6                   22

Rushing Yards           27                154

Passing Yards           80                 215

Total Yards               107                369

Passes C-A-I          6-16-0          15-30-0

Fumbles-Lost            0-0                3-2

Penalties-Yards        5-40             5-43

Punts-Avg.              7-35.3           3-37.7



Perkiomen Valley – MacDonald 11-8, Reedy 9-(minus-3), Nunez 5-41; TD, Rodriguez 2-9, C. Struges 1-1, Team 2-(minus-29).

Spring-Ford – Lewis 22-134, Zollers 9-17; TD, Bendowski 1-3.


Perkiomen Valley – MacDonald 6-16, 80 yards.

Spring-Ford – Zollers 15-30, 215 yards, 3 TD.


Perkiomen Valley – Keough 1-32, R. Sturges 1-22, Reedy 1-10, Nunez 1-9, Hall 1-7, Tracanna 1-0.

Spring-Ford – Abdelrahman 8-118; 2 TD, Scott 3-50, Marsilio 2-25, Pettica 2-22; TD.

Sacks: Perkiomen Valley – Carter Euker, Kenworthy.

Spring-Ford – Schulz 2, Roberts, Norman.

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