BUCKTOWN — When Brad Kinckner and his Owen J. Roberts teammates got a look at Bernat Field Thursday morning, they could barely contain their excitement.
The Wildcats’ home turf was mostly still covered with several inches of snow from Wednesday’s winter storm, save for the vertical shoveled areas at each five-yard line.
“I was loving every second of it,’ said Kinckner, a senior two-way starter at wingback and defensive back. “This was like a dream come true, playing in the snow.’
“When I came down here and saw this, I thought it was crazy,’ said OJR junior quarterback/safety Mitch Bradford. “I didn’t know how we were going to be able to cut or break down to make tackles. But I thought it would be fun.’
Thanks to a strong defensive effort, Owen J. Roberts had plenty of fun in sledding its way to a 14-0 Pioneer Athletic Conference victory over Pottstown in the 56th edition of the Thanksgiving Day rivalry.
Bradford ripped off a 35-yard touchdown run in the first half, Kinckner returned an interception 41 yards for a TD in the second half and Bill Scherfel and Conor Mitchell each contributed seven tackles as the Wildcats (3-6 PAC-10, 3-9) held the Trojans (1-8, 2-9) to just 120 total yards over 53 plays.
“I think the snow hindered them more than us,’ said OJR coach Tom Barr, whose squad managed 136 total yards itself and also surrendered four fumbles. “A game like this, both teams are going to try to run the ball, and most times whoever has the big plays or most of them is going to win the game.’
The 5-foot-8, 165-pound Bradford delivered the first of those big plays 4:44 before halftime, when with OJR facing second and 10 from the Trojans 35 he broke containment and slalomed his way past several defenders into the end zone.
“When we took the lead, it boosted everyone’s morale, especially the defense,’ Bradford said.
Then Kinckner basically sealed the deal with a back-breaking Pick 6 with 1:29 left in the third quarter. On a third-and-five play, Pottstown QB Gary Wise’s pass attempt to the left side was tipped and Kinckner rose from the ground to make a juggling catch and took it back the other way — as an incredulous Trojans sideline argued he had picked it off with a knee on the ground.
“When I was bobbling it, my knee was on the ground,’ Kinckner explained. “But once I had security (of the ball), it was up.’
The two-score cushion was more than enough for the Wildcats defense, which got a sack and fumble recovery by Will Dawson; one sack each by Dawson Stuart, Dave Glanski, Mitchell and Scherfel; and an interception by Tony Thomas.
“I think the key was our up-front people coming off the ball so quickly, and our linebackers stunting, hitting holes and timing it just right,’ Barr said. “They did a good job messing up their (the Trojans’) timing in the backfield.’
“Just a great defensive game,’ said Bradford. “Shutting them out in the biggest game of the year was awesome.’
Pottstown got a game-high 63 rushing yards from Gary Wise, but was whistled for eight penalties for 62 yards.
“Offensively, every time we hit a (positive) play we had a penalty,’ Trojans coach Don Grinstead said. “It was frustrating. We couldn’t get any momentum going, and that hurt us. We set some things up and executed them early in drives, but penalties killed us.’
The goose egg overshadowed a strong defensive performance by the Trojans that included two sacks by Clayton Mitchell and fumble recoveries by Bryant Wise, Jimmi Zazzi, Alex Humma and Pete Marcheskie.
“Our defense played great,’ Grinstead said. “Unfortunately we just couldn’t build any offensive momentum when we needed it.’
Pottstown had three cracks at it with a short field in the final quarter, but Dawson recovered a fumble at the OJR 11 on the first one and the Wildcats forced a fourth-down incompletions on the other two (at the OJR 30, and 25, respectively).
“Eventually, we got the stops when we needed them,’ Kinckner said. “Everybody came together; our line played well and our linebackers played well, especially towards the end.’
“We wanted to contain their triple option,’ said Bradford. “That’s what we talked about all week, and I think we did a good job executing against it.’
And came away with a victory that helped the Wildcats seniors close out their careers on a winning note, while providing optimism for their returners.
“It was a once in a lifetime thing for a lot of our guys,’ said Scherfel, a junior linebacker/fullback. “We were all excited to play; we knew it would be a fun game.’
“A win like this, on Thanksgiving, will stick in their memories for the rest of their lives,’ Barr said. “They probably won’t remember the other 11 games, but they’ll remember this one. They had a lot of fun today.’
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