Pope John Paul II keeps rolling with a 38-6 win at Pottstown

POTTSTOWN >> With two regular season games to play, it’s shaping up to be a special season for Boyd Skarbek and the Pope John Paul II Golden Panthers.

Then again, so was last season at this point.

The improvement and consistency PJP exhibited in Friday night’s 38-6 win over Pottstown at Grigg Memorial Field could be the difference in 2023.

The Golden Panthers had 314 yards of offense by halftime, scoring on five of seven first-half drives while limiting the Trojans to a single first down before the break.

“The job is to stay focused, week after week,” said Skarbek, the PAC’s leading rusher already over 1,200 yards for 2023 with two regular season games to go.

“We build confidence, we stay humble and then we focus on what’s ahead of us.”

Skarbek finished his brief Friday night appearance with 115 yards and two touchdowns, numbers that look outstanding but are largely in line with his 2023 season totals.

Not only is the senior running back leading the PAC in rushing as the proud owner of 1,225 yards, but he’s also added an eye-popping 19 touchdowns over the first eight games. These numbers are particularly astounding when considering he’s had multiple outings that have ended at or before halftime.

PJP opened Friday’s contest with consecutive rushing touchdowns from their star running back, one culminating a seven-play, 69-yard drive and the second a 41-yard sprint over left tackle, as the Golden Panthers gave their workhorse back a considerable running avenue.

On an offense with myriad weapons in the passing game, Skarbek’s running is the meat and potatoes of an attack averaging 39.1 points per game, just about even with Liberty Division-leading Spring-Ford for tops in the PAC.

“That’s my role,” Skarbek agreed, “but there’s more as well. Catching, blocking, being part of everything when I don’t have the ball.”

Junior quarterback Luke Terlesky had a flawless evening, going 11-for-11 in the passing game with 204 yards and three touchdowns, two of them coming to fellow junior Braden Reed (five catches, 129 yards) and the last to Brent Mitala (four grabs, 38 yards).

At the middle of the first half onslaught was the Golden Panthers’ dominant line play, a mixture of veterans and newcomers to the team this season led by Chase Frantz.

“It all started with our brotherhood we built in camp,” Frantz said. “The five of us came together and built something.

“Now we stay on assignment, take it one step at a time and we’re good.”

The second half was played with a running clock, as Jacob Lucci carried the PJP running attack while Ben Bosio closed out the victors’ scoring with a 21-yard field goal.

PJP didn’t need much encouragement to take Pottstown seriously. Now 4-4 (1-3 PAC Frontier), the Trojans’ resurgence has been the pleasant surprise of the PAC season after a one-win campaign in 2022.

Still, next week’s battle with Upper Merion and the ensuing crossover matchup in Week 10 loom as must wins if Pottstown wants to control its own destiny in potentially returning to the postseason for the first time since 2018.

“They (PJP) are where we want to be,” said Pottstown coach Levert Hughes. “We have a young team, and they’re getting valuable experience on nights like tonight.”

What, in Hughes’ mind, makes PJP so good?

“They capitalize on every mistake that you make,” he explained. “So you have to play mistake-free football, which of course is impossible. But you do have to overcome any mistake that you make.”

Nahzier Booker broke the shutout with a four-yard rushing score for Pottstown with 10:17 to play in the contest.

Now 8-0 (4-0 PAC Frontier) the Golden Panthers prepare for a showdown with 7-1 Phoenixville next Saturday to determine which team plays Spring-Ford for the PAC title on October 27.

PJP’s season-long mission has been to ensure history won’t repeat itself.

Last season, a 9-0 start turned into disappointment down the stretch when PJP dropped both the PAC title game to Perkiomen Valley, and the District 1-4A championship two weeks later on a rainy night at Interboro.

“Those games sting,” said Skarbek. “We worked all season for those games and couldn’t come out with wins. It made us hungrier in the off season and makes us a better team to have that motivation.”

PJP are all but assured the top seed in District 1-4A this season, meaning this year all challengers must go through the Golden Panthers at home.

Friday’s night score was indicative of how the first seven games of the 2023 season unfolded for PJP, winners by an average of 33 points per contest in building their 7-0 record going into Friday night.

But business is about to pick up, starting with Phoenixville’s visit next week. The next two games figure to be the toughest so far this season, and after that every week is an elimination game.

“Stay focused, practice hard, and stay within ourselves,” summarized Frantz. “We’ll be fine if we just keep everything within this group, within the team.”

NOTES: Pottstown celebrated its Senior Night before the game, honoring some 21 football players and cheerleaders representing the Class of 2024.

“It means a lot to be honored,” said Nahzier Booker, Pottstown’s leading rusher and one of the team’s 13 seniors. I’ve played in Pottstown my whole life. We were just reenacting my Little League picture right now.”

BOX SCORE

Pope John Paul II 38, Pottstown 6

Pope John Paul II —    28   7   3   6   —   38

Pottstown —   0    0   0   6   —   6

SCORING PLAYS

PJP — B. Skarbek 1 run (Bosio kick)
PJP — B. Skarbek 41 run (Bosio kick)
PJP — Reed 42 pass from Terlesky (Bosio kick)
PJP — Reed 3 pass from Terlesky (Bosio kick)
PJP — Mitala 14 pass from Terlesky (Bosio kick)
PJP — Bosio 21 FG
PT — Booker 4 run (kick failed)

TEAM STATISTICS

                                  PJP               PT
First Downs                20                  6

Rushing Yards           233                67

Passing Yards           204                 0

Total Yards                441                67

Passes C-A-I          11-11-0          0-10-0

Fumbles-Lost             2-1               3-1

Penalties-Yards        9-74              4-19

Punts-Avg.                  0               6-28.7

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

Rushing

Pope John Paul II – B. Skarbek 9-115; 2 TD, Lucci 8-53, Myers 3-35, Terlesky 3-(minus-6), Baldino 1-12, Mitala 1-7, Testa 1-6, Witter 1-6, Reed 1-5, DeAngelo 1-0.

Pottstown – Booker 9-12; TD, Mayes 5-42, Lyons 4-22, I’Samir Moreau 1-(minus-1), Fox 1-(minus-8).

Passing

Pope John Paul II – Terlesky 11-11, 204 yards, 3 TD.

Pottstown – Mayes 0-10.

Receiving

Pope John Paul II – Reed 5-129; 2 TD, Mitala 4-38; TD, Owens 1-29, Deangelo 1-8.

Pottstown – None.

Sacks: Pottstown – Lyons, Allen.

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