News from 2019 Season

Blair, Haverford run over Spring-Ford for program’s first district playoff win

by Rob Senior

November 1, 2019

ROYERSFORD >> They knew what was coming, but they were powerless to stop it.

Asked earlier this week what most concerned him about first-round playoff opponent Haverford, Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker didn’t mince words.

“Trey Blair,” he answered.

On Friday night, Brubaker’s fears were realized as Blair, a do-everything superstar listed simply as “Athlete” on 12th-seeded Haverford’s roster, rushed for 311 yards and accounted for five total touchdowns in the Fords’ comprehensive 49-14 defeat of 5th-seeded Spring-Ford at Coach McNelly Stadium.

It’s the first district playoff victory in program history for the Fords, who finished second to No. 3 seed Garnet Valley (also victorious Friday night) in the Central League this season.

Haverford wide receiver Justin Burgess (5) is hoisted by teammate John Cunningham after catching a touchdown pass from Trey Blair against Spring-Ford. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

But the big story was Blair, a University of Buffalo commit, who came into the contest with 1,266 yards on the ground plus 17 touchdowns in 2019, at an average of more than 11 yards per carry.

Those numbers certainly didn’t suffer on Friday, as Blair scored on runs of 73, 43, 63, and 88 yards, adding a 61-yard touchdown pass to Justin Burgess for good measure as the Fords raced out to a 35-0 halftime lead.

“Obviously, it’s a special night,” Blair said after the game. “In practice this week, we’ve had a mentality that this would be the year we got that first playoff victory.”

The fact that it is the school’s first-ever playoff victory comes as something of a surprise to anyone who’s watched the Haverford program over coach Joe Gallagher’s 28-year tenure, but the 2019 team will always hold that special distinction.

“Honestly? It’s kind of shocking to me too, that this is the first playoff win,” admitted Blair. “We’ve had some great teams over the years, and (Gallagher’s) a tremendous coach.

“As a community, we’ve been waiting for this for a while, and it’s a really special night.”

It isn’t that Blair is a one-man show for the Fords – far from it. Tailback Chasen Wint added 123 rushing yards on 11 carries and scored twice, while the Central League’s top defense (second in District 1 Class 6A during the regular season behind Owen J. Roberts) kept explosive Spring-Ford off the board until midway through the third quarter.

What was most amazing was the different ways in which Blair was able to affect the game. His fingerprints were on each and every element of the historic victory.

Blair was back to return the opening kickoff, but only made it as far as his own 27-yard line. That meant he’d have to wait for the first offensive snap to make an impression, carrying off left tackle on the game’s first play for 73 yards, outrunning the entire defense for a 7-0 lead just twenty seconds into the contest. He would add a 43-yard scoring run just two minutes later, giving Haverford an early 14-0 advantage.

When the Spring-Ford defense was able to kick Haverford off the field on a three-and-out, it was Blair who’d drop back to punt, delivering the first of his three punts on the evening for an average of 25 yards per boot.

Ryan Engro and Nick Teets provided a good piece of Spring-Ford’s early offense, moving the ball via quick screen and hitches, but Spring-Ford’s first chunk play came on a 4th-down Engro scramble that gave Joe Brogan time to get open along the sideline and take the reception to the 10-yard line.
The drive stalled out, and the Rams attempted to get on the board via a short Grant Sillyman field goal – but the attempt was batted away by a fast-converging Ford off the right side of the line. You guessed it – Trey Blair.

“I’ll play anywhere – I know there are different ways I can help the team, and I like contributing in different areas,” the senior said.

Three plays later, Blair found Justin Burgess down the right sideline for a 61-yard score and a 21-0 Haverford lead.

Blair capped off his monstrous half with an 88-yard sprint for his third rushing TD of the half. Just before halftime, Haverford tailback Wint carried 63 yards for a score and a 35-0 lead, sending the second half into running-clock territory.

Spring-Ford’s first bright spot came at the start of the second half, when Dante Bonanni’s leaping grab against Blair – playing corner for the Fords’ defense – gave the Rams a first down in the red zone. From there, Engro would take a keeper over from five yards out to put the Rams on the scoreboard at 35-7.

But Blair would respond with yet another long TD run and punctuate his evening with an interception and return of about 60 yards inside the Spring-Ford 5 near the end of the third quarter. Wint finished the drive with his second rushing score.

Engro found Josh Hellauer for a nine-yard score late in the fourth quarter to make the final margin 49-14.

“I haven’t seen many players who do more for their team than Blair,” said Spring-Ford coach Brubaker. “But they were stronger – we got manhandled. It’s a struggle, getting to this point each year and running into stronger teams. We’re tired of this happening; the kids are sick of it. That’s why we’ve made a commitment to hiring a strength coach, getting a new weight room.”

The Rams’ Pioneer Athletic Conference championship season comes to an end at a mark of 8-3. It’s not the ending Brubaker and his group wanted, but only one 6A team in the state will get the ending they truly desire.

“This is a successful season,” said Brubaker. “Liberty Division champions, PAC champions … every one of these kids is a credit to this school district and to their families. I’ll coach kids like this any day.”

Engro closed his high school career with 183 yards passing, and another 46 on the ground, scoring one Spring-Ford touchdown and passing for the other. Bonanni had six receptions to finish with 54 on the year, expanding his school records in several receiving departments, while Armante Haynes carried 13 times for 36 yards. Blake Terrizzi added a sack on defense.

The Fords (9-2) will advance to next week’s quarterfinals against the winner of Saturday night’s Downingtown East/Perkiomen Valley contest. But Haverford won’t be content with simply being the first team in school history to win a district game.

“Every game from here on out, we’re the underdogs,” said Chasen Wint. “We know what we can do, and we have this guy (nodding to Blair) on our side.”

The Fords made it clear on Friday they’re much more than the 12th-best team in the district – but where will they ultimately end the season?

“Any team we play from here on out is going to be tremendous,” said Blair. “But I honestly don’t think it matters who we play – we’re just going to go hard, do our thing. Hopefully, we keep playing like tonight.”

Spring-Ford looks to make splash against Haverford High in District 1 Class 6A football playoffs

by Tom Ignudo, Updated: October 31, 2019- 4:52 PM

 

Ryan Engro and his teammates on Spring-Ford’s football team have seen their last two seasons end in disappointment.

In 2017, the Rams finished the season 6-5 with a 42-21 loss to Neshaminy in the first round of the District 1 Class 6A playoffs.

Last season, Spring-Ford allowed Perkiomen Valley to score the last 24 points of the game to win the Pioneer Athletic Conference Liberty Division title, then fell to Downingtown East in the district playoffs.

“This whole season has been driven by the fact that we haven’t done anything as a class,” said Engro, a senior quarterback. “That’s our number one motivator.”

Spring-Ford, the No. 5 seed, will have a chance to change that on Friday against Haverford High, the 12th seed, in the District 1 Class 5A playoffs.

The Rams finished the season 8-2 overall and 5-0 against conference opponents, including a victory last week over Pope John Paul II for the PAC championship.

“Spring-Ford hasn’t won a district game since 2016,” Engro said. “So we’re trying to change that trend.”

Spring-Ford’s defense, which had some starters return from injuries in senior linebacker James Albert, senior linebacker Blaize Scarcelle and junior defensive tackle Donnie Nicoline, will be tasked with stopping Haverford senior quarterback Trey Blair.

Blair has led the Fords (8-2, 7-1 Central League) on an eight-game winning streak after back-to-back losses against Archbishop Carroll and Garnet Valley.

Blair poses a threat to opposing defenses with his arm and legs. He has rushed for 1,266 yards and 17 touchdowns and passed for 840 yards and six scores.

“They do a good job of running different things where he’s featured,” Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker said. “They’ll run a similar look where they hand it off to someone else, so he’s so athletic and fast, and we’re going to have to really be assignment-aware to defend him.”

Haverford’s offense has averaged 35.8 points per game this season, but Engro said he’s more than confident in the Rams offense if the game turns into a shootout.

Like Blair, Engro is a dual-threat quarterback. He has thrown for 2,113 yards for 21 touchdowns and rushed for 476 yards for 11 scores on 81 carries.

Engro is bolstered by three receivers -- senior Dante Bonanni, junior Nick Teets, and senior BJ Beard -- who have each caught at least 30 passes.

But one of the keys to beating Haverford, Engro said, is making sure tailback Armante Haynes is effective running the ball. The senior had 1,018 rushing yards for 14 touchdowns and 151 carries and became the 23rd Rams player to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season.

“The games that he has big games are the games we do well in,” Engro said. “He’s a huge component to our offense. If I had to single a person out, it would definitely be Armante.”

Engro said his team is ready to achieve something it hasn’t done in four years.

“This is the moment that we’ve been waiting for,” Engro said. “We want an opportunity to make a splash in districts and to be able to show what Spring-Ford can do.”

Posted: October 31, 2019 - 4:52 PM

Spring-Ford wins PAC championship, 38-21 over Pope John Paul II

by  Rob Senior
October 26, 2019

ROYERSFORD >> It wasn’t a virtuoso performance by any means.

But it ended in victory nonetheless, and that above all tells the story of the 2019 Pioneer Athletic Conference champion Spring-Ford Rams.

Armante Haynes bounced back from two first-half fumbles to rush for 167 yards and two touchdowns, the second of which gave the Rams a lead they’d never relinquish in a 38-21 victory over Pope John Paul II in the PAC championship game at Coach McNelly Stadium on Friday night.

The win gives the Rams the PAC title for the first time since 2015, ending Perkiomen Valley’s three-year reign since the league went to a two-division format.

 

The way the Rams got there tells the real story of their season-long journey.

Spring-Ford turned the ball over three times before halftime, allowed a few big plays and missed some early scoring opportunities. In past years, such mistakes have snowballed at times for Spring-Ford, leading to some late-game collapses, most notably last year against Perkiomen Valley with a trip to the title game on the line.

But this year, Spring-Ford bounced back to control the second half, holding the Golden Panthers scoreless after the break and allowing only 78 total second-half yards.

 

The defense was energized by the returns of senior linebacker James Albert and defensive tackle Donnie Nicoline from injury as well as safety Nick Teets returning from a one-game suspension. Blake Terrizzi and Ryan Kolander were their usual disruptive selves along the line, frustrating the Golden Panthers offense following a 21-point second-quarter explosion that turned a 14-0 Rams lead into a 21-all tie at the break

“I felt good going into my doctor’s appointment (that I’d be cleared),” said Albert. “I was confident, and I knew I’d be ready to go.”

Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker challenged a few of his players at halftime.

“I thought we were a bit passive,” he said. “Rather than hearing ‘we need to take back control of this game,’ I was overhearing things like ‘I can’t believe that (second quarter) happened.’ You might say I was a little vociferous about being proactive and taking control.

“We need to do a better job, when we have a team on the ropes, of staying on them.”

It worked, according to Terrizzi.

“We told ourselves we needed to step up,” he said. “We couldn’t let this opportunity get away as seniors. It’s the only time we’ll ever play for the PAC championship.”

“That’s what makes it special – it’s been a little while,” agreed Brubaker. “We’ve come up short in some big games the past few years. But we came through those trials.”

Perhaps no one overcame trying times on Friday night quite like running back Haynes, whose two first-half fumbles along with PJP’s Rocco DiRico intercepting Ryan Engro set up the Golden Panthers’ second-quarter rally. After Spring-Ford jumped to a 14-0 lead on two short-field drives punctuated by Engro TD runs, PJP quarterback Kamal Gray got the Golden Panthers on the board with an eight-yard TD run early in the second.

Haynes responded with a bruising 30-yard score to make it 21-6, but his second fumble allowed the Golden Panthers to cash in with Gray finding an open Andrew McDonald in the flat to cut the lead to 21-14. The DiRico interception culminated in a seven-play drive that finished with a three-yard touchdown pass on a brilliant misdirection play to tight end Dylan Walker to pull the game even at halftime.

“The turnovers were killing us,” said Engro. “But we got back to running the ball with great success after halftime.”
 

Brubaker didn’t hesitate to put the game in the hands of his two seniors, Engro and Haynes. Although the quarterback only attempted six passes after halftime, he completed four of them including a late touchdown to BJ Beard. Meanwhile, Haynes continued churning out the tough yards on the ground, capping an eight-play, 69-yard drive with an 11-yard touchdown run – his second of the game – to give the Rams back the lead at 28-21 late in the third quarter.

“(Haynes) was moping a little bit, and I got on him about it,” Brubaker laughed. “But that’s a great lesson. Mistakes happen – I know I made a few of them tonight. I just told him to get back out there.”

“(My teammates) were trying to lift me up,” said Haynes. “Those are the guys who make it all worth it.”

Another long drive (13 plays) that spanned much of the final quarter appeared to end in a third Haynes touchdown, but the referees conferred and ruled him down about half a yard short. Alex Nadeau, filling in for Grant Sillyman, kicked a 25-yard field goal with 3:08 to play to give Spring-Ford a two-score advantage. After a turnover on downs, Engro hit Beard for a 30-yard score with 1:58 left, and the celebration was on at McNelly Stadium.

“It was emotional,” allowed Engro. “I’ve never even made it to a PAC championship in my first three years. We battled through a tough first half, came out on top – now it’s time to make a district run.”

 

While district playoff seedings and pairings won’t be official until Sunday afternoon, preliminary power rankings show Spring-Ford and Pope John Paul II (both 8-2) poised to host opening-round matchups at home in the Class 6A and Class 3A brackets, respectively.

For the Golden Panthers, it was the fourth straight year dropping a crossover matchup against the Rams, but by far the most competitive of the encounters. Kamal Gray finished 17-for-30 for 191 yards and a pair of scores, connecting on a few highlight-reel plays with junior wide receiver Justin Kormos (four catches, 87 yards). Steve Skarbek had six receptions for 65 yards, while Justin Mitala led a gritty defense with about a dozen tackles in his first PAC championship game.

“Our guys competed their tails off tonight,” said PJP coach Rory Graver. “They should be proud of themselves – hats off and congratulations to Spring-Ford.”

Graver says his team is past the point of taking much of a moral victory out of hanging tough with a 6A team. “If we execute better, maybe we’d have had a shot at the end there,” he said. “But that doesn’t take away from the pride I feel in our guys.”

The night would belong to the Rams and in particular, their 18 seniors honored before the game. They’ll go down as the team who brought Spring-Ford back to the top.

“You’re working with 70 kids between ages 16 and 18, trying to get them all on the same page is not always easy,” said Brubaker. “But you look at them in the locker room now – they’re laughing, having a great time. We get on them, but at the same time we tell them to have fun. This is the best time of their lives, and it makes this one really special.”

Battle for Royersford means a little more this year

by  Owen McCue

October 24, 2019
 

You could call it an accidental rivalry, or a battle for bragging rights in Royersford. But this year, the game takes on a greater meaning.

Back in 2016, when the Pioneer Athletic Conference split into two divisions, Spring-Ford and Pope John Paul II were separated, despite the schools’ proximity that seemingly made them natural rivals.

Yet the two schools have continued to meet annually during the PAC’s Crossover Week, where schools from the Liberty Division play their counterparts from the Frontier Division. For four years in a row, SF and PJP have finished in the same spots in their divisions, meaning a week 10 encounter, with Spring-Ford winning on all three occasions.

This time, however, there’s more than bragging rights at stake when the Golden Panthers make the short trip to Spring-Ford for the Pioneer Athletic Conference championship game at 7 p.m. Friday. The winner will become only the second PAC champion in those four years, after Spring-Ford ended Perkiomen Valley’s three-year reign with last week’s 40-35 victory.

“Proximity can create rivals,” said Chad Brubaker, head coach of Spring-Ford. “Clearly, Perkiomen Valley is our rival, but we do share a town, and that can create a rivalry.”

Pope John Paul II head coach Rory Graver’s answer was even simpler. “When you’re in the same town, obviously that can start a rivalry.

“But to be a rivalry, you have to be able to beat one another. We haven’t been able to do that yet.”

Even before the divisional split, Pope John Paul II was unable to break through in their head-to-head encounters with the Rams. There would be no better time to break the ice than Friday night.

A closer look at the matchup:

When Pope John Paul II has the ball >> The two squads’ offensive profiles look similar – talented, second-year starters at quarterback, with an array of pass-catching weapons and experienced offensive lines. PJP’s Kamal Gray (62 percent completions, 1,800 yards passing, 28 TD, 6 INT) adds to his passing talents with 388 rushing yards on the season, a profile that resembles his Spring-Ford counterpart Ryan Engro.

“I think a lot of people want to see this game, but I don’t see it as a showdown,” said Gray. “I’ve met Ryan through the league, through some camps – we’re friends. But we’re just two kids playing football.”

And playing it quite well, as Gray has led the Golden Panthers’ offense throughout their eight-game winning streak with the help of an array of running backs, including senior Andrew McDonald and Daylin Gooden, junior Chris Bruder, and sophomore Steele DePetrillo. In the preseason, Graver discussed his desire to operate a more balanced offense, and he’s certainly accomplished it with the help of an experienced offensive line powered by Ambrose Colliluori, Sean Anderson, Jacob Foley, Julian Paskel, and Matt Dobrowlowski.

“When you get to late October, early November, running the football becomes the key,” said Graver. “We’re fortunate to have five different guys who can run the ball and keep (our opponent) honest.”

When the Golden Panthers do go to the air, Gray has a variety of targets. It’s difficult to identify a No. 1 receiver between senior Steve Skarbek and junior Justin Kormos, with their similar statistical profiles, but tight end Dylan Walker (20 catches, 338 yards, 7 TD), at 6-foot-4, could present matchup issues in the red zone.

They’ll be up against a Spring-Ford defense that, while still not at full strength, gets tackle Donnie Nicoline and safety Nick Teets back this week. Linebacker James Albert’s status is still up in the air, but the Rams will have Blaize Scarcelle at cornerback. Scarcelle returned for the PV game just one day after having pins removed from a broken thumb last week.

“My range of motion wasn’t much,” admitted Scarcelle, “but with the last chance to play against PV, I just gave it my all. Hopefully it gave my teammates a lift.”

Scarcelle believes he will return to his wide receiver spot on the offense this season, but perhaps not this week.

Through the injuries and setbacks, the stabilizing force for Spring-Ford’s defense has been defensive linemen Ryan Kolander and Blake Terrizzi. With nine sacks on the season, Terrizzi’s statistical profile is plenty strong, but with Albert out of the lineup he’s taken on the added challenge of making defensive calls from the line.

“They’ve been the staples of our defense,” said Spring-Ford defensive coordinator Jim Mich Jr. “Their assignments are sound, they’ve been setting the defense – that doesn’t happen much (as a lineman), but that shows how smart they are as football players.”

“When James went down, my role definitely grew,” said Terrizzi. “I have the experience out there to focus on the whole defense, help make sure everyone’s lined up in the right places.

“Ryan (Kolander), plus Sean Brogan and Ryan Beppel have really stepped up as well.”

Terrizzi’s confident the Rams can make it difficult for the Golden Panthers to go on long drives against the defense, but his main concern is limiting their big-play abilities.

“They run a lot of screens that make it important for us to contain the outside,” he said. “We need to stop any big plays or long runs.”

When Spring-Ford has the ball >> Quarterback Ryan Engro (62 percent completions, 1,967 passing yards, 20 TD, 6 INT) became a true dual threat last week, running 13 times for 101 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the win against Perkiomen Valley. Coupled with a big day for Armante Haynes, the Rams again ran for close to 250 yards, completing their evolution into a ground-and-pound offense.   

The problem for opposing defenses? The passing game that made Engro the PAC’s leading passer to this point hasn’t gone anywhere. He’s still got Dante Bonanni, leading the PAC with 43 receptions at 14 yards per catch, red-zone specialist BJ Beard, who’s seen almost a quarter of his 29 receptions go for touchdowns, and this week gets Nicholas Teets and his 376 receiving yards back in the lineup. While Scarcelle is doubtful to see time on offense, Zach High filled in ably one week ago against PV (three catches, 49 yards).

“At this point, I’d like to think it’s a multi-faceted offense,” said Brubaker. “It’s a matter of taking what they give you. I don’t know what will happen Friday night, but we see their tendencies on film, and we’ll watch the first drive of the game and see what’s available.”

Odds are that the offensive line of Brogan, Terrizzi, Kolander, Kyle Kennedy, and Ian Harvie will make sure the Rams have a plethora of options. Brubaker shared that three of the five offensive linemen scored an 80 percent or higher when the staff graded the PV film. The grading, performed by assistant coach Chad Strickler, is a combination of assignment and execution.

“And that’s not like getting a B in school,” the coach said. “Coach Strickler is not an easy grader either. For a lineman, that’s just tremendous. Anytime a lineman is over 70 percent, that’s a really good game. To have three guys do that is very impressive.”

With Nick Teets returning to the secondary, Bonanni figures to return to an offense-only role, where he’ll likely draw one of Skarbek or Kormos at CB. Dobrowlowski, Walker, and others feature on both sides for PJP, a defense that started the season dropping a 47-46 shootout to Roman Catholic but has since responded to allow only 43 points in the ensuing eight games.

“We’ve had a mindset of ‘if they don’t score, they won’t win,’” said Justin Mitala, a linebacker and the leader of the PJP defense.

Mitala, who will likely draw many Engro-related assignments Friday night, is focused on stopping Spring-Ford’s offense, which shows a lot more diversity that the run-heavy approaches of most of the Frontier Division.

“They run a lot of RPOs… Ryan will be reading me a lot,” he said. “So I’m watching a lot of film this week, trying to understand their tendencies. We’ll be ready.”

Special Teams >> Spring-Ford’s Grant Sillyman handles placekicking and punting duties, though Engro has been known to sneak in a quick kick from time to time. Jacob Snyder has taken the kicking reigns at PJP, with Gray and Dylan Walker splitting punting duties.

Spring-Ford’s Kolten Kqira got the Rams off to a fast start with a long kickoff return against Perkiomen Valley.

Details and Prediction >> Asked how the team can continue rising to the occasion, Chad Brubaker’s answer was simple. “Each week, it becomes a matter of ‘if we don’t take care of business this week, next week won’t matter as much,’” he explained.

Even if this weren’t a championship game, the Rams don’t have the look of a team ready to ‘let down’ from last week’s victory. Maybe the Perkiomen Valley win will always be their 2019 highlight, but it rings a little hollow if they don’t finish the job this week.

For the Golden Panthers, a victory would strike quite the resounding blow for the ‘small-school’ Frontier Division, and a win over 6A Spring-Ford would announce the Golden Panthers as a force to be reckoned with in the upcoming District 1 Class 3A District tournament – and perhaps beyond.

But Kamal Gray says the Golden Panthers aren’t thinking of anything other than who’s across the field on Friday night. “One play at a time,” he said. “It’s another game, so we need to take care of the little things. Our students are excited, and the game’s close by so we’ll need them there.” 

The temptation to create a ‘David vs. Goliath’ story about the Liberty and Frontier divisions does a disservice to just how good Pope John Paul II is, but it’s hard to see the Golden Panthers as anything but the underdog Friday night. Spring-Ford maintains the same offensive explosiveness that’s been a program trademark for a while, but last week’s victory shows a focus and resolve that’s been missing in the past, and that is usually the hallmark of a championship season. … Spring-Ford 37, Pope John Paul II 21.

Haynes emerges from difficult journey to lift Spring-Ford to PAC Liberty crown

by  Rob Senior 
October 21, 2019

 

Over the course of Friday night’s Pioneer Athletic Conference Liberty Division-clinching victory over Perkiomen Valley, the evolution of the Rams’ 2019 offense became apparent.

While early-season games saw quarterback Ryan Engro attempt 40-plus passes in consecutive weeks, the Rams put up 40 points Friday on a tough Perk Valley defense despite Engro attempting only 11 passes.

The reason? The emergence of running back Armante Haynes, averaging almost 130 rushing yards per contest in conference play. Haynes led SF’s offense Friday night with an 18-carry, 118-yard performance that also featured a pair of touchdowns in a program-defining 40-35 win over Perkiomen Valley for the PAC Liberty Division title. In his ‘spare time,’ Haynes featured prominently as an outside linebacker on the undermanned Rams’ defense, contributing nine tackles in the victory.

“We have been waiting three years,” Brubaker said last week, “to see this from Armante.”

Indeed, Haynes took an unconventional path to Friday’s night’s on-field heroics – his talent always apparent, but his commitment to football the question.

Those questions need not be asked any longer. Haynes’ trajectory through high school has taken him away from and later back to football in trying times, ultimately delivering the senior running back/linebacker back to his athletic origins, emerging as an indispensable part of Spring-Ford’s first Liberty Division championship squad.

“He’s had it tough in life, but he’s a great kid with an enormous heart,” said Brubaker after Friday’s victory, his affection for the senior running back apparent. “Honestly? I think we wore him down over time… we just kept trying to love him. He did a complete 180 in terms of accountability this offseason. He deserves everything he’s getting (in praise Friday night).”

 

* * *

It wasn’t an easy start to life for Haynes, who lost his mother when he was only 9 and only recently resumed contact with his father. Armante’s grandmother and siblings – including his brother Brandyn Smith, a sophomore defensive lineman for Spring-Ford – remain a strong presence in his life, but in tough times, he often turns to his ‘football family.’

“Ryan (Engro) and I have been friends for a long time. We were very close when we were younger, and his father (Mike) looked after me a lot,” said Haynes. “And (Spring-Ford WR/CB) Blaize Scarcelle, he’s been there as a friend even before football. His father (Mike) used to take me along to camps, tournaments … anytime I needed them.”

After a successful ninth-grade season on the field, loss struck Armante once more when his close friend and Spring-Ford classmate Julia Morath took her life in April 2017.

“She was a very close friend to me,” said Armante, “and I guess I just took a break from football.”

That break took Armante through a year-long journey of self-discovery. Family considerations meant a brief transfer out of district before he would return to Spring-Ford near the end of his sophomore year and decide to resume his football career. But in Brubaker’s program, it isn’t as simple as signing up and collecting a uniform.

“I fear for the future of sports, when all that will matter is how good you are on the field,” the coach lamented. “We see it now, there are examples all over (professional sports). We will try to continue working with kids, holding them accountable for things that go beyond athletic ability. Armante always had ability, but at the time he was a little entitled because people always wanted him on their team.

“His football friends never stopped trying to pull him back, though. We just needed more reliability, more accountability from Armante.”

Physically, the time away cost Haynes as well as he was noticeably smaller and slower.

“It took me some time to get all the way back,” Haynes allowed.

But the memory of his friend Julia pushed Haynes to keep fighting.

“Instead of getting away from football,” he explained, “I decided I wanted to make her proud through football. I decided to trust my coaches and apply myself because Julia would want that.”

 

Haynes’ primary role was at linebacker his junior season, when he was credited with 36 tackles. But he received only 14 carries, falling as low as fourth on the Spring-Ford depth chart. The season ended with a playoff loss to Downingtown East, but for Armante Haynes it was just the beginning.

“He played well,” said Brubaker, “but after the season, he did a complete 180. His grades went up, he was always here on time. I know it’s a cliché, when we say someone is ‘the last guy in the weight room,’ but Armante IS the last guy in the weight room. Sometimes he works out by himself because very few people can keep up with him.”

Haynes says the light went on after a pair of conversations this past summer. The first was with quarterback Engro and his father Mike.

“This year was something my teammates have wanted since we were in eighth grade,” said Haynes. “Ryan was telling me all the things he and I could accomplish together, and then Mr. Engro said that we were the team that could beat Perkiomen Valley.”

“Ryan and I have been friends for so long,” he continued, “and (Mike) Engro said he looked at me as a son. I respect both of them so much, and I consider (Mike) like a father figure. They have always been there for me, even when I wasn’t ready to be a part of the team.”

The second conversation was via text message with Coach Brubaker.

“All he said was, ‘We want you on the team, we want you to trust us and be a part of this thing.’ I read it, and I felt … I would just say it woke me up,” said an emotional Haynes.

* * *

The rest is quickly becoming Spring-Ford football history. A breakout game at Norristown saw Haynes rumble for 226 yards on only 16 carries as the Rams opened PAC play, and the next week Haynes played in front of his father for the first time as the Rams shut out Methacton. But it all led to Friday night at Perkiomen Valley, where Haynes and the rest of the Rams cemented their spot as the team that ended the drought against Perkiomen Valley.

For the Spring-Ford program, the theme may have been ‘victory’ or even ‘redemption,’ but for Armante Haynes it was all about gratitude.

“So many people… coach (Jim) Mich looks after me, makes sure I’m doing OK, makes sure I know the game plan,” Haynes said. “Coach [linebackers coach Steve] Schein, we got closer when I started playing linebacker, and he wrote me a letter before our Father’s Day brunch this year.”
Haynes chose to keep the contents of Schein’s letter private, but it clearly impacted him.

“We’ve gotten much closer,” he said of his position coach. “I look up to him as a role model.”

“I just let him know I was proud of him,” Schein said. “Over the past two years, Armante’s really committed himself to become a great football player and even more importantly, a great person.”

For all the gratitude Haynes shows towards the Spring-Ford football community, its members say they are equally fortunate to have Haynes in their lives.

“I’ve been playing football with Armante since we were 10 years old,” said Ryan Engro. “Having someone like him in the backfield beside me is huge – I trust him 100 percent, and that chemistry we build is paying dividends, especially as we try to make a championship run.”

“I’ve told Armante that life can deal you some pretty tough hands – but those don’t have to define you,” added Mike Engro. “You can’t help but love a kid like that, especially when he lets you see his personality.

“I got to hug him after that PV game, and I told him, ‘When you were 10 years old, I told you this day would come!’”

The Engros and the Spring-Ford coaches never gave up on Armante Haynes, but Haynes’ inspiration still comes from the memory of his late friend.

“After (Julia’s passing), it took a while, but I realized if I put every drop of everything I’ve got into everything I do, I’ve got no reason to worry,” Haynes said. “Set my mind to something, stay focused. She’s the one who helped me realize that.”

Haynes admits he wasn’t always the most diligent student, but thinks his mother would be proudest of his vastly improved GPA since sophomore year.

After graduation, Haynes hopes to continue playing football in college. He’s had conversations with several schools, but wherever he goes next, you can bet it won’t be too far.

“I will never forget where I’ve come from,” said Haynes, “And wherever I go, I’ll always want to come back home to Spring-Ford.”

Spring-Ford ends Perkiomen Valley’s PAC reign in 40-35 thriller

by Rob Senior

October 19, 2019
 

GRATERFORD >> As Perkiomen Valley took possession late in Friday’s game, trailing by five, déjà vu struck Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker.

This time last year, Brubaker watched as Perkiomen Valley stormed back from a 17-point deficit to shock Spring-Ford and claim the Pioneer Athletic Conference’s Liberty Division title.

“We just needed one stop,” said Brubaker, leaving it up to interpretation whether he meant Friday night or in 2018.

This time, the Rams made the stop. Sophomore linebacker Johnny Pergine tackled PV’s Jacob Sturm about three yards short of the sticks on fourth down, and the Rams held on for a thrilling 40-35 victory that put them into the PAC Championship game for the first time since the league went to two divisions in 2016.

 

Spring-Ford’s Blake Terrizzi (52) and Ian Harvie (54) race toward their sideline after defeating Perkiomen Valley Friday night. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

The Liberty Division champion Rams (7-2) will take on Frontier Division champion Pope John Paul II (8-1) in the title matchup next week at Spring-Ford’s Coach McNelly Stadium.

On a night with too many heroes to count, it was Pergine’s tackle that finally ended three years of suffering for his senior teammates at the hands of the Vikings. The past four seasons have seen Spring-Ford drop only four PAC contests, but three of them were to Perkiomen Valley.

For Brubaker, the deciding moments were almost too much to handle.

“I was trying to listen in on the defensive headsets on that final drive,” he admitted, “but I couldn’t handle that. Too much chaos.”

Chaos would be an apt description of not only Friday’s contest, but this entire decade of Spring-Ford/Perkiomen Valley football contests. Expected to be an offensive contest, the Rams threw a wrinkle into most expectations when they came out with a run-heavy game plan that saw PAC-leading passer Ryan Engro attempt only 11 passes on the night.

That’s not to say it was a quiet night for the All-Area senior, however, who also carried 12 times for 102 yards and two scores, including a 25-yarder that gave the Rams their final points of the evening and underscored Brubaker and staff’s work in reshaping the Spring-Ford offense during the 2019 season.

Facing third-and-10 from the PV 31 and leading 34-28 midway through the fourth quarter, the Rams got a six-yard carry from Armante Haynes (20 carries, 123 yards, 2 TDs) before Engro kept on a read play and ran up the middle for the 25-yard score that would provide the decisive points. For a team that routinely attempted 30, even 40 passes per game in recent years and even earlier this season, the heavy reliance on the run game in a critical moment spoke volumes.


Haynes’ 20 carries were predominantly charges through the middle, as he challenged the PV front seven repeatedly, finally staying on the ground for a bit after what would be his final carry, spent from playing both ways for the undermanned Rams.

The Rams burst out of the gate at the opening kickoff, with Kolten Kqira’s return reaching the PV 38. Three plays later, Engro kept on a mesh with Haynes and plowed into the end zone from 16 yards away to give the visitors a 7-0 lead less than a minute into the game.

After a quick three-and-out, the Rams took over at their own 28 and gave the Vikings a healthy dose of Haynes, running the senior back five times in a row before Engro pulled the ball on a second down play at the PV 14 and found an open BJ Beard for a quick 14-0 SF lead less than halfway through the first quarter.

But despite the losing effort, some of Friday’s heroes wore brown and orange as well. At the start of the second period, sophomore quarterback Ethan Kohler was able to utilize all his weapons, finding four different receivers on an 89-yard drive. The last of the four pass catchers was Randy Washington, who carried the reception over to put the Vikings on the board with 5:51 to play until halftime.

It was the beginning of a huge night for Washington, whose speed and versatility were apparent on a five-catch, 117-yard night that saw him hit pay dirt three times on connections with Kohler.

Jacob Sturm added 161 total yards and a rushing touchdown.

Spring-Ford responded quickly with a five-yard scoring run from Haynes to re-open the two-score lead, but PV’s ensuing drive took only 57 seconds to go 64 yards in seven plays, with Jon Moccia’s one-yard score coming just one second before halftime, cutting the visitors’ lead to seven at 21-14 and with PV getting the ball out of the break, seemingly flipping the momentum going into the break.

But the Rams’ defense would render the point moot.

Brubaker admitted coaches tend to overuse the expression “team effort,” but he could be forgiven for falling back on the phrase Friday. Missing five starters from their beginning-of-2019 defense, including leading tackler James Albert, Spring-Ford found not only replacements but contributors from all spots on their roster.

There was Blaize Scarcelle, back only one day after having screws removed from a broken thumb, battling Washington, Mike Dougherty and other PV receivers at one corner.

There were Ryan Kolander and Blake Terrizzi, senior mainstays on the line getting the best of PV’s impressive blockers on several occasions and chasing Kohler repeatedly from the pocket.

 

There was Dante Bonanni, the PAC’s leading receiver who would catch only one ball all night as the Rams focused on the run, but who filled in for the suspended Nick Teets at safety and tipped away what would have been another sure TD reception for PV’s Washington late in the game.

And there were linebackers Pergine and JSeth Owens, the former leading the team in tackles and the latter taking advantage of an underthrown pass and zig-zag 44 yards for an SF score, re-opening the two-TD lead once more.

In a game that featured 75 total points, such discussion of defense may seem out of place, but it was that unit that told the story of Spring-Ford’s resolve and determination to break their recent run of bad luck against the Vikings.

“The coaches challenged me this week,” said Bonanni. “They told me I’d need to step in at safety without Nick (suspended player Nick Teets) playing, and I just try to fill those shoes as best I can.”

For all his prolific numbers on offense, Bonanni wasn’t taken aback or put off in the slightest by the run-heavy approach.

“When you’ve got this guy running the ball? Come on,” said Bonanni, with a nod in the direction of Armante Haynes. “We had to feed this guy, the way he was running, and we’ll need him the rest of the way.”

“He believed in me,” Haynes said of Coach Brubaker. “I listened to him, and he made me a better running back, but above all I trusted him.”

 

Spring-Ford’s Kyle Kennedy hoists running back Armante Haynes after Haynes’ touchdown in the second quarter against Perkiomen Valley Friday. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

Perkiomen Valley (6-3) will host Pottsgrove next Friday in a battle of divisional second-place finishers.

“Our kids are hurting,” said Heist. “We played a great team, it came down to the wire as it usually does. This time it didn’t turn out our way, but we’ll be ready to go again next week.

“Spring-Ford played outstanding. That’s a great team, and a great program, and we knew we would get their best. We were right there – a couple plays, this thing goes the other way.”

After three long years of frustration, those deciding plays finally went the Rams’ way Friday.

Perkiomen Valley, Spring-Ford meet again for Liberty title

by Rob Senior

October 17, 2019


It’s nothing new at this point, but it’s no less special.

Basketball, lacrosse, softball – name a sport, and it’s likely seen at least one memorable Spring-Ford vs. Perkiomen Valley tilt with PAC supremacy on the line over the past few years.

But even though it’s only for a divisional title, the past few Octobers have brought the annual highlight of the two schools’ sporting calendar – a Friday night football matchup in front of thousands of spectators.

This year’s meeting takes place at Perkiomen Valley’s Thomas J. Keenan Stadium, home of the three-time defending PAC champions and not so coincidentally, winners of three straight in this rivalry.

For Perkiomen Valley’s seniors, who’ll play in their final Homecoming game, maintaining the recent string of victories is the emphasis.

“The success that we’ve had has lent itself to kids waiting their turn, and when their turn comes, they don’t want to disappoint the players from the past who played their position,” said Perkiomen Valley head coach Rob Heist. “It’s one of the stronger elements of our team right now.”

But for their soon-to-graduate Spring-Ford counterparts, the prospect of going 0-for against the Vikings in their high school careers is too much to stomach.

“The loss to PV hurt my sophomore year. Last year was even worse,” said Ryan Engro, Spring-Ford’s quarterback and the PAC’s leading passer. “To finally break through as seniors, on their turf… that would be a big step to completing my high school career.”

When Spring-Ford has the ball: Approaching 2,000 passing yards for the second consecutive season, the story of the Rams’ offense starts with Engro and his favorite target, PAC-leading receiver Dante Bonanni (42 catches at an average of 15 yards per reception, four TDs.) The pair linked up for a couple of second-half scores in Spring-Ford’s come-from-behind win over Owen J. Roberts, 35-21, last Saturday, and will need to be equally prolific Friday against the Vikings.

“We’re not just going to go there, show up and win,” said Bonanni. “We have to play our most complete game – their crowd will be rocking, just like they were two years ago. We’ve got to start out focused and lock in all game.”

Putting together that full, 48-minute effort has been a sticking point for the Rams and coach Chad Brubaker this season. Many would describe the Rams as a second-half team, but the flip side is that label also indicates some slow starts. At the very least, in the past two games the Rams have looked vastly superior after halftime than they did in the first 24 minutes.

Part of the reason for that is a rejuvenated running game, led by the top Liberty Division rusher, senior Armante Haynes (105 carries at 7.2 yards a pop, nine TDs). Haynes punished OJR last week to the tune of 123 yards on just 14 carries, while sophomore Harry Adieyefeh gives the Rams a bit of a change-of-pace look. Adieyefeh has come on in the past two weeks, averaging over 100 yards per contest.

“We’ve seen this ability in Armante for three years,” summarized Brubaker, “and now, he’s putting it all together.”

Engro’s increased role in the running game has paid dividends as well, forcing defenses to commit a man to him, opening lanes for Haynes and Adieyefeh.

“As the games get bigger, Ryan’s role in the running game increases,” Brubaker explained. “We held back at times on having him run the ball because without him our offense just isn’t the same.”

Which bring us to the missing pieces of the Rams’ offense. WR Blaize Scarcelle and TE/LB James Albert will miss Friday’s contest with injuries, and the Rams will also be without the services of WR/S Nick Teets, serving a one-game suspension for last week’s ejection vs. OJR that’s been discussed at length this week. Initially disqualified for ‘helmet-to-helmet’ contact, the ejection report was modified to read that Teets was flagged for “flagrant contact that placed opponent in danger.”

Video of the play in question would seem to indicate otherwise, but that’s not a consideration in the PIAA appeals process.

Engro identified Zach High as a player he expects to step up in a big way in the absence of Scarcelle and Teets, while BJ Beard (29 catches, 291 yards, 6 TDs) will likely enjoy an increased role as well.

They’ll be trying to make it happen against a Perkiomen Valley defense that’s recovered admirably from losing eight starters from last year’s unit. The Vikings have done so by building around one stalwart senior at each level of the defense – tackle Jake Sterling, outside linebacker Matt Brock, and corner Randy Washington.

“Everyone knows what we run at this point,” said Heist. “We have that stacked core, pretty much the same coverages.”

A self-admitted offensive-minded head coach, Heist says the work of defensive coordinator Matt Young has been a key to the program’s emergence not only in the PAC, but as one of District One’s perennial contenders come playoff time.

“The strength of our staff is that they are teachers first,” said Heist. “Regardless of who the individual players are, they do a great job of teaching our kids, putting them in position to be successful in our scheme. An example is we graduated Austin Rowley, one of the best safeties we’ve had, and in comes Mike Dougherty, who’s never played the position, and does a terrific job.”

 

When PV has the ball: Before the season, Perkiomen Valley’s senior-laden offensive line was touted as the PAC’s strongest position group. They’ve done nothing to lose that title, but the final exams will come this week against Spring-Ford and, should they prevail, next week in the PAC championship game against the stingy Pope John Paul II defense.

Gavin Euker, Taylor Hartner, Will Marotta, Kyle Rittenhouse, Matt Wilhelm and Eli Johnston pave the way for a multi-faceted offense with no real weaknesses. Jacob Sturm (595 yards rushing at 7.7 yards per carry, 5 TDs) and Jon Moccia (437 yards rushing at 6.0 per carry, 5 TDs) provide the consistency that allows room for the big-play capabilities of sophomore QB Ethan Kohler (second only to Engro in the Liberty with 1,505 yards passing, 15 TDs, 5 INT) and Washington, whose all-league play at corner is perhaps equaled by the threat he provides on offense (25 catches at a gaudy 24.6 yards per reception, 7 TDs.)

“Randy was voted team captain overwhelmingly – he just does everything right on either side of the ball,” said Heist.

“Our strengths play off one another,” said Moccia. “He’s a powerful runner, I have more of a speed and agility style. It’s hard to set up one defense that will stop both of us.”

Mike Dougherty and Logan Holloway are reliable chain-moving targets for Kohler, while both Sturm and Moccia are into double digits for receptions on the season. There’s truly no one weapon for Spring-Ford to isolate, though limiting Washington’s big-play ability will likely be a focus for a Rams secondary led by Mason Brill and his four interceptions but needing to replace juniors Teets and Andrew Yoon.

Kohler provides a different skill set than last year’s Perkiomen Valley QB Cole Peterlin, but a 60+ percent completion percentage for a sophomore underscores his poise and knack for the big moment. It was Kohler, after all, who led PV’s comeback from a 17-point second-half deficit to pull off an improbable 27-20 victory at Spring-Ford last season en route to that third consecutive PAC title.

“Ethan’s maturity is something we (seniors) all recognize,” said Dougherty, “and the work he put in during the offseason helped us build chemistry and trust.”

“He’s done everything the coaches have asked,” added Washington. “It allows the rest of the offense to just play our games.”

“As an offensive coach, a quarterback coach, Ethan is everything you could ask for,” said Heist. “Since January, he’s been here at 6 a.m. to work out or study film. We’ve looked at every play of every game last year, going through reads and identifying coverages.”

The defensive side of the ball is where the injuries have really mounted for the Rams, as they stand to be down several starters from the beginning of the season. Sophomore Johnny Pergine has started every game this season, while Jseth Owens will see an increased role in the absence of All-Area performer James Albert at linebacker. Blake Terrizzi has submitted a season-long performance on the line that has him in contention for major postseason awards, and Ryan Kolander is another constant force along the front.

The question becomes how quickly can Brubaker and his staff prepare the first-year starters for the multiplicity of PV’s offense? Can the excitement of this one game overcome inexperience?

“Emotion can only take you so far,” admitted Brubaker. “We play different fronts, different coverages, and during the week in practice we’ll see how much these kids can digest. Their ability to focus in practice will go a long way to determining how extensive our game plan will be on defense Friday night.”

Special Teams: Spring-Ford’s Grant Sillyman, new to the school this year after moving from out of state, is the PAC’s most prolific kicker with 47 points on the year and a long field goal of 42 yards. Brayden Basile has equaled Sillyman with four successful field goals.

Joe Brogan handles return duties for the Rams, with Rasheem Grayson and Washington on the task for Perkiomen Valley.

Details and Prediction: Perkiomen Valley has homefield advantage, recent history, and health on its side. So what does that leave for Spring-Ford? Resolve forged by a senior class that wants desperately to avoid another loss to their archrivals. The suspension of Teets may leave the Rams short on the field but has furthered the unification of the players into an ‘us-against-the-world’-type mentality going into Friday.

“Nobody,” stressed Brubaker, “is going to feel sorry for us.”

He’s right, but nobody is going to take them lightly either. It’ll be a long time before Rob Heist coaches a team that looks past any opponent, least of all their archrivals on Homecoming.

“We prepare as if they will be at full strength,” Heist confirmed. “I don’t worry who is or is not on the field.

“I think it’s unfortunate what happened with [Nick Teets],” the PV coach added. “You never want to see that happen with any kid. We work so hard, all of us, all year long, for only 10 guaranteed football games. To miss even one game? I feel badly for him personally and as a player.”

In the end, there are too many playmakers on both sides to predict a defensive-oriented contest, and Brubaker and Heist both have offensive-oriented backgrounds. It’s safe to say defensive coordinators and coaches have their hands full in this rivalry – since 2013, the winning side has put up at least 20 points in each head-to-head contest. 

The call here is that both sides will do so on Friday. The emergence of Haynes and Adieyefeh allows Spring-Ford to grind it out if they must, and Kohler’s accuracy and valuable experience from last year provides Perkiomen Valley the ability to keep up in the passing game. Perkiomen Valley has the advantage in intangibles, as covered above. But on the field, the gap between the two squads is so small that one mistake, one bounce, or one critical call can provide the necessary margin.

But to predict a difference? Let’s go with the experience of the PV offensive line winning out, over 48 minutes, against a bruised Spring-Ford defense.

Perkiomen Valley 26, Spring-Ford 21.

Spring-Ford comes back to beat Owen J. Roberts, set stage for next week

by Jeff Stover

October 12, 2019
 

ROYERSFORD >> Strong finishes are the goal of any sports team … particularly those that lead to wins.

Spring-Ford has been no exception to this precept in another solid run through the Pioneer Athletic Conference’s Liberty Division. All the same, Chad Brubaker would like to see his team set a game’s tone by putting together strong starts.

For at least the second week in a row, the Rams spotted an opponent an early lead Saturday. And once again, they were able to overcome the early deficit to handle Owen J. Roberts, 35-21, for a happy conclusion to the school’s Homecoming festivities.

Down by 13 points in the first minute of the second quarter, Spring-Ford (4-0 PAC, 6-2 overall) erased the deficit and emerged victorious. Scoring on three successive fourth-quarter possessions, the Rams offset a final Owen J. touchdown to stay even with Perkiomen Valley in the Liberty standings. Spring-Ford plays at PV in a winner-take-all game next week for the division.
 

“We have to start better,” Brubaker said. “You can’t start out that way against some teams. I don’t know what the missing formula is, but we’re going to keep working to find it.”

 

Owen J’s early surge was engineered by quarterback Cooper Chamberlain, who was in on all the visitors’ scoring. Chamberlain opened the game by hooking up with Dante Denardo on an electrifying 73-yard toss four plays into the game, then ran five yards through left tackle — that after making a seven-yard blast through the same hole one play earlier — to put Roberts up by 13.

After the Rams rallied for a 21-14 lead in the first minute of the fourth, the ‘Cats pulled even when Chamberlain (17-for-26, 250 yards) and Aston Shrum (two catches, 34 yards) collaborated on a 24-yard scoring play at the 8:41 mark in the third. The 21-all tie was broken up less than two minutes later, SF signal-caller Ryan Engro (14-for-20, 105 yards) making TD tosses to Dante Bonanni and Josh Hellauer.

“They (SF) made a nice adjustment on defense, with their cover-2 today,” OJR head coach Rich Kolka noted. “I thought we’d be able to run better … I knew we could throw against them.”

“We’ve had chances to win big games in the fourth quarter.”

Owen J. saw one of those chances shape up in the final minutes, getting the ball back after Spring-Ford’s final TD. Throwing from his 28, Chamberlain targeted Denardo with a pass; the ball was instead intercepted by Nate Capers in the wake of a collision that sent Denardo to the sideline for medical treatment.

The Rams were subsequently flagged for 25 yards on a pair of penalties, but they retained possession at their 38 — a point Kolka debated with the officials without success. From there, a Harry Adieyefeh run and two “kneels” by Engro ran out the clock.

“With a short field and a quick score, we could have gotten momentum,” Kolka said, contending the penalties should have negated the interception and change of possession.

 

Spring-Ford’s Nate Capers (8) tackles Owen J. Roberts’ Jon Hannevig (3) on Saturday. (Owen McCue – MediaNews Group)

In-between its final two scores, the Spring-Ford defense held Owen J. to a three-and-out on the way to getting the ball back at its 47. Joshua Jackson was dropped for losses by Blake Terrizzi and Ryan Kolander before a Chamberlain pass fell incomplete.

“We’ve been working to come out fast, to get off to a fast start,” Terrizzi said. “The team’s stayed focus. We just try to stay calm.”

Armante Haynes, who racked up 164 yards on 26 carries to key the Rams’ ground game, also offered a defensive spark. His interception of a Chamberlain pass to start the fourth quarter set the stage for Engro’s scoring pass to Bonanni.

“The kids don’t give up,” Brubaker said. “We’re young and missing a lot of guys. But it’s a credit they keep playing.”

The victory sets Spring-Ford up for a winner-take-all game with Perkiomen Valley (4-0) next weekend. The winning team will then play for the PAC’s overall championship in the following week’s divisional-crossover schedule.

“It’s a big one next week,” Brubaker said.

“We’re very excited about it,” Terrizzi added. “With guys out, we still have mental toughness. It’s been a ‘next man up’ mindset, and it’s worked effectively.”

 

Spring-Ford’s Armante Haynes (6) runs as Ryan Engro (7) and Ian Harvie (54) block for him. (Owen McCue – MediaNews Group)

NOTES >> Matthew Cutrone and Thomas McLean intercepted Engro in the first quarter. Cutrone’s “pick” came in the Roberts end zone, halting Spring-Ford’s drive on its first possession. … Denardo and Jon Hannevig finished as OJR’s top receivers, Denardo with seven catches and Hannevig with five. … Katie Crossan was crowned Spring-Ford’s Homecoming queen during the halftime ceremonies. Liam McFadden was named king.

Mercury Football Preview: Crunch time for PAC championship hopefuls

By Rob Senior

October 10, 2019

 

Along with three-time defending champion Perkiomen Valley, Spring-Ford and Owen J. Roberts have spent the past few weeks of football separating themselves from the pack in the Pioneer Athletic Conference Liberty Division.

The only time the top three squads have met to date is Perk Valley’s narrow 16-9 victory over OJR in a Week 5 showdown

With the undercard complete, the heavyweight battles resume Saturday afternoon when 6-1 Owen J. Roberts visits 5-2 Spring-Ford at Coach McNelly Stadium at 2 p.m. The Wildcats are looking to keep their Liberty Division title hopes alive, while Spring-Ford looks to set up a potential winner-take-all showdown with Perkiomen Valley next Friday.

“Our players are awfully excited to have the opportunity to compete in a game of this magnitude,” said OJR coach Rich Kolka.

Both defenses have compiled some gaudy numbers, over the full season in OJR’s case and in the past several weeks for Spring-Ford. The Wildcats are allowing only eight points per game over their first seven contests. Spring-Ford has followed a specific pattern to victory during conference play — a too-close-for-comfort first half, followed by pulling away late for lopsided victories.

While this week’s encounter is expected to be anything but lopsided, coach Chad Brubaker hopes he’s found a critical part of the recipe to turn his squad into a four-quarter team.

The Rams have allowed only seven points after halftime in their three conference games combined. While the defense certainly deserves credit for the lack of points allowed, the truth is the development of a punishing and diverse running game has allowed SF to keep opposing offenses helpless on the sideline while they widen their leads and run the clock.

A fully healthy Ryan Engro, the Rams’ senior quarterback, has shown the willingness and ability to increase his share of the run game over the season, while Liberty Division-leading rusher Armante Haynes (6.7 yards per carry, nine rushing TDs in 2019) was ably complemented last week by sophomore Harry Adieyefeh (7.1 yards per carry, two TDs this season). Adieyefeh’s breakout game against Boyertown saw him make the most of 10 carries, breaking loose for 158 yards and his two scores.

“We’ve encouraged Ryan [Engro] to keep the ball when he sees an opportunity,” said Brubaker. “[Against Boyertown], that meant more designed QB runs.”

The defense is another story, where the Rams have lost key contributors at each level. Donnie Nicoline has become a fixture on the defensive line next to Blake Terrizzi, the division’s leader in sacks, while Mason Brill leads a secondary that’s had to cover for the absence of Andrew Yoon. But last week Spring-Ford lost defensive leader James Albert, a middle linebacker who stood poised to break the school record for tackles. Brubaker didn’t rule Albert out for Saturday but allowed that he was highly doubtful to play.

Zach Marinello and Jseth Owens will be asked to step in at linebacker in a time-sharing situation against OJR’s option-heavy run game.
The game marks Spring-Ford’s Homecoming, and the pregame meal will be a brunch where players are accompanied by their mothers. Brubaker says traditionally, each senior says a few words to the group about his relationship with his mother. “It can be a very emotional event,” he said.

With 18 seniors on this year’s roster, the Rams hope the emotion carries into the afternoon’s contest.

 

For the visiting Wildcats, the sour taste of the tight loss to Perkiomen Valley won’t be completely erased unless they can go on the road in an equally big game and come out on top. The path to the division title for OJR is a little murky with their one conference loss, but a win Saturday is an absolute imperative. If they can make it happen, they’d immediately become Spring-Ford’s biggest fans next week at Perkiomen Valley. In the meantime, they’ll focus on keeping their conference-leading defense up to the task against one of the area’s most prolific attacks.

Jon Hannevig (leading the area with five interceptions), Mason Cutrone, Dante DeNardo, and the rest of the secondary will be tasked with holding down Spring-Ford prolific receiver corps, led by Dante Bonanni (37 catches, 577 yards, two TDs). The Rams will be without Blaize Scarcelle, meaning Zach High and BJ Beard will see increased roles alongside Bonanni and Nicholas Teets.

Ian Sordilla and Boston Follis lead a productive group of OJR linebackers that will have their hands full with Engro’s dual-threat capabilities. With such an accomplished secondary behind them, the linebackers will be tasked with slowing the SF running game and attempting to make the Rams’ offense one-dimensional.

When the Wildcats have the ball, do-it-all QB Cooper Chamberlain will lead an attack that features speedy RB Josh Jackson, plus a growing group of pass-catching targets that include leading receiver DeNardo, plus Hannevig and Christian Grossi.

Since the Perk Valley game, the Wildcats have submitted consecutive breakout offensive performances, averaging 41 points in wins against Boyertown and Norristown. But Chamberlain knows better than to get carried away.

“Not to downplay anything our offense has done,” he said, “we’re really clicking right now But the real test comes against those teams like Spring-Ford.”

Spring-Ford turns it on in 2nd half, tears by Boyertown 55-20

by Jeff Stover
October 5, 2019
 

BOYERTOWN >> From back-and-forth to blowout.

That was the story of the two halves that were Friday’s Boyertown/Spring-Ford game. A tit-for-tat first half gave way to a second that saw the Rams dominate their hosts on the way to a 55-20 victory in a pairing of Pioneer Athletic Conference Liberty Division teams.

The Bears (1-2 PAC, 2-5 overall) went one-up on Spring-Ford three times in the early going, only to see the visitors (3-0, 5-2) answer in kind. But Boyertown had no answer for SF in the second half, its Homecoming contest ultimately coming out as a running-clock affair over the final five minutes.

“We felt our offense had to be more aggressive,” Ram quarterback Ryan Engro, who ran for a pair of touchdowns and threw for another pair, said. “We ran the ball more. Running the ball was the key to the game.”

The first half took on foot-race characteristics literally from the opening kickoff. Jamie Moccia, Boyertown’s leading rusher with 100 yards on 17 carries, got the home crowd electrified by fielding the ball at his five-yard line and roaring the distance to the Spring-Ford end zone with just 19 seconds elapsed.

“We blew the kick,” Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubaker noted. “We didn’t want it to go to Moccia.”

The Bears kept the momentum in their favor when they recovered the fumbled kickoff and drove to the Ram 19. But they fumbled in turn, Spring-Ford recovered at its own 18 and went 82 yards in seven plays, Armante Haynes bulling his way up the middle for the final two and a 7-7 tie.

That sequence repeated itself two more times in the opening half, Moccia adding a 40-yard TD run and quarterback Mason Marinello hooking up with Connor Rohrbach on a 22-yard scoring pass. Spring-Ford responded with Nick Teets pulling in Engro passes of 26 and 28 yards to help the Rams go into the locker room at the half up 21-20.

The Rams’ breakout second half started out with Engro (nine carries, 107 yards) going 14 yards around his right end at the 9:27 mark. He capped the late surge with a five-yard scoring burst through his left tackle with 5:15 left to play, the last of Grant Sillyman’s seven conversion kicks staking SF to its ultimate 35-point lead and a running clock for the duration.

In between, the Rams got another TD run from Haynes (seven yards, 11:38 fourth) and two from Harry Adieyefeh. The sophomore, coming into the game late in the third quarter, chalked up a team-best 144 yards with help from runs of 42 and 53 yards from scrimmage.

“Armante was going both ways, so we figured he was getting gassed,” Engro said. “Harry gives us a different look.”

The Rams’ committee approach to its offense was necessitated to a degree by an injury to James Albert. After pulling in a pass from Engro, Albert went 23 yards to the SF two before a tackle left him out of action with a protective cast on his left arm.

“We played our heart out for Albert,” Engro said.

And while injuries have taken a toll all season, Spring-Ford has found players to pick up slack and fill spots.

“We’ve had people step up,” Engro said. “We’ve gotten big contributions.”

“That’s what we’ve got to do,” Brubaker said. “We’ve had a run of injuries. Somebody has to figure it out.”

Turnovers also worked to Spring-Ford’s advantage. Haynes and Mason Brill picked off Marinello (7-for-14, 43 yards) — Brill’s interception set the stage for Adieyefeh’s first TD at 10;25 — and Johnny Pergine recovered a fumble at the Boyertown one, from where Adieyefeh scored little more than two minutes later.

“Playing a shorter field helps,” Brubaker said, “and we took a lot of time off the clock.”

Engro put together a complementary passing game in which he seven of 16 throws for 143 yards. Teets was his favorite target, catching four for 83 yards.

Along with Albert, Zach High (21 yards) and Dante Bonanni (15) had other big receptions for the Rams.

On the Boyertown side, Marinello was 7-for-16 in the air for 43 yards. Rohrbach had 41 of them off three catches.

NOTES > Moccia’s kickoff-return touchdown was the fourth of his scholastic career. … Along with Homecoming, Boyertown showed its support for battling breast cancer by decking out the stadium in pink.

Methodical Spring-Ford shuts out Methacton, 35-0

by Dennis Weller

September 28, 2019

FAIRVIEW VILLAGE >> Spring-Ford used a methodical offense and a stifling defense Friday night in a 35-0 Pioneer Athletic Conference Liberty Division win at Methacton.

Ryan Engro completed 15 of 17 pass attempts for the Rams (2-0 PAC, 4-2 overall) for 174 yards and two touchdowns and Armante Haynes ran for 94 yards. The Spring-Ford defense held the Warriors (0-2, 2-4) to 65 total yards.

“The good thing about tonight is we were a little more methodical,” said Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker. “We did a better job of letting the game come to us.”

The Rams accumulated 318 total yards on the night, but only two running plays and seven passing plays gained 10 or more yards.

“We came into the game knowing we’ve got to get better than the slow start we had last week,” said Engro. “We did a good job managing drives. The linemen opened up a ton for the running game. For the most part, we did a good job blocking for short passes, getting 10 yards on swing passes.”

The Rams scored on two of their three possessions in the opening quarter, with Engro running into the end zone from seven yards out and then five yards with a 54-yard run by Haynes setting up the second score. Then the defense stopped a Methacton fake punt play at the Warrior 18 yard line and Haynes scored on a 1-yard run shortly afterwards to make it 21-0 early in the second period.

Engro connected with Dante Bonanni on the Rams’ longest play of the night, a 43-yard touchdown pass, for a 28-0 advantage late in the first half and a 24-yard completion from Engro to B.J. Beard set up a 1-run TD pass to Josh Hellauer to complete the scoring midway through the third quarter.
The Ram defense held the hosts to 41 yards on 10-for-21 passing and 24 yards on 30 running attempts.

“They’re playing great right now,” Engro said concerning the Spring-Ford defenders. “They’ve stepped it up a ton.”

“As many yards as our offense has put up, defensively, they’ve been playing well,” said Brubaker. “The defense has really been the ones who have helped us get through some of the lulls that we’ve had.”

Methacton had no turnovers and only two penalties all night, but had trouble executing its offensive plays and was unable to sustain drives while being forced to punt six times.

“We can’t beat a good team when we have self-inflicted wounds,” said Warrior coach Dave Lotier. “I thought we improved as far as playing a little more physical, but our execution wasn’t there. We told them they (the Rams) are going to execute and they have good players and we have to execute too.”

The Warriors have already improved on last year’s 1-9 record, but have struggled at times this season due to injuries and youth.

“We’re playing some young guys,” said Lotier. “They’re learning on the fly. Once we figure it out, we’ll be just fine. I thought our team played hard. We’re going to get some players back from injury the next couple weeks. We’re going to do just fine.”

Things won’t get any easier for the Warriors next week when they visit three-time defending division and PAC champion Perkiomen Valley. Spring-Ford will try to do the same things it did on Friday when it travels to Boyertown.

“We’ll just keep at it,” said Brubaker. “Worry about ourselves and make sure we do the little things.

Midseason review on the Mercury area’s surprises, stars and headline-makers

by Austin HertzogSeptember 23, 2019

The beginning of league play this past weekend meant a new start for some area teams, and an opportunity to build on the success of non-league play for others.

But with five weeks in the books of a 10-game season, we have enough information to build an idea of where this season is heading. In the standings, the usual suspects seem primed to battle it out for PAC supremacy, with an upstart challenger here and there to keep things interesting.

So this week, we investigate the statistics and game logs to honor a few standout performers from the first half:

Surprising starters >> Owen J. Roberts and Pottstown took two different paths to early winning records. The Wildcats recovered from a disappointing finish to 2018 to start 4-0 before this past week’s heartbreaking 16-9 loss to Perkiomen Valley. Despite the defeat, with a 4-1 record the Wildcats stand poised to make a return to the District One Class 6A playoff field if they can take care of business in their remaining contests. An 8-2 record would make them virtual locks, and even a mark of 7-3 should have OJR on the right side of the bubble.

As for the Trojans, new coach Jeff Delaney has picked up right where predecessor Mark Fischer left off, leading Pottstown to a 3-2 start that has them right in the thick of the Class 4A playoff picture. With upcoming contests against Pope John Paul II, Phoenixville, and Upper Merion looming, the Trojans have limited margin for error in the coming weeks.

Offensive Standouts >> Say what you will about strength of schedule, but there’s no denying the numbers submitted by Pope John Paul II’s quarterback Kamal Gray in the early going. The senior has completed 65 percent of his passes (62-of-96) for 1,058 yards passing and a gaudy 19 TD passes to only two interceptions. True, the Golden Panthers’ past several games haven’t required Gray’s services past halftime, but in a season-opening 47-46 loss to Roman Catholic, the QB went the distance, finishing with 430 passing yards and six scores (more on that below). He’ll get plenty of tests starting this week, as PJP – the lone 3A school in the PAC – battles Frontier division champion Pottsgrove on Saturday.

Dante Bonanni spent the first few weeks of the season rewriting the receiving record book at Spring-Ford. A pair of double-digit reception outings in nonleague play gave Bonanni the marks for catches in a game, catches in a career, and receiving yards in a career. With QB Ryan Engro continuing to fire away (59 percent completions, 1,404 pass yards, 12 TD/3 INT), odds are the prolific Spring-Ford duo isn’t finished making school history.

Defensive Standouts >> Spring-Ford’s Blake Terrizzi has been a consistent presence in opposing backfields early this season, racking up eight quarterback sacks in the first five contests. Terrizzi was particularly dominant in a week 4 win against Exeter, with four sacks and multiple QB hurries.

All questions about the youth of Perkiomen Valley’s defense were answered definitively Friday, as the Vikings held Owen J. Roberts under 200 total yards and forced a game-ending turnover at the goal line with under two minutes to play in a 16-9 victory. Nico Holder and Jacob Sterling caused the fumble, capping a dominant night up front, while Matt Brock and Randy Washington respectively lead an active group of linebackers and a secondary that repeatedly closed quickly, limiting yards-after-catch opportunities for the Wildcats. The Vikings’ defense made its bones during an arduous nonleague schedule, holding Downingtown East and Downingtown West to season lows in scoring.

Special Teams Standouts >> Two of the more versatile players in the area, Owen J. Roberts’ Cooper Chamberlain and Boyertown’s Jamie Moccia, make their presences felt not only on offense but in the special teams game. Chamberlain handles the place-kicking and punting duties at OJR and averaged over 40 yards per boot in a week 4 win over Upper Merion. Moccia recently extended a school record with his third career kickoff return of 90 yards or greater.

Top Newcomers >> Upper Perkiomen sophomore RB Logan Simmon was poised to take top honors in this category after racking up 421 rushing yards and six scores in the Indians’ first two contests. A Week 3 injury, however, interrupted his breakout campaign. The Indians’ running game understandably hasn’t been the same without Simmon, held to only 67 yards in Friday’s loss to Pope John Paul II.

Pottstown freshman QB Joneil Oister has proven a quick study, leading the Trojans to their fast start. The highlight was his late score and two-point conversion to send Pottstown to a 14-13 win over Octorara in week one. Oister’s speed and athleticism were apparent immediately (7.4 yards per carry, 4 TDs) but his development in the passing game (52 percent completions, 355 yards, 4 TD/5 INT) has allowed Jeff Delaney to gradually expand the playbook each week.

Best Game >> Despite the outcome, there was no denying the excitement of Pope John Paul II’s season-opening 47-46 loss to Roman Catholic. The Golden Panthers roared to a 26-0 lead and appeared poised to withstand a late Roman charge before Cahillites QB Jayden Pope ran for a late 30-yard score and connected with Nadir McLeod for the decisive 46-yard score with under a minute to play.

The defeat seems to have lit a fire under the Golden Panthers’ defense, which hasn’t allowed a single point before the fourth quarter in their ensuing four contests.

Around the Area >> After an early season dominated by passing/receiving headlines, the area’s top ballcarriers made their presences known this past Friday. Boyertown’s Moccia, Pottsgrove’s Isaiah Taylor, Spring-Ford’s Armante Haynes, and Daniel Boone’s Tanner Vanderslice all eclipsed the 200-yard mark Friday. Haynes needed only 16 carries to reach 221 yards, while Moccia and Taylor put the ball into the end zone a combined seven times for their squads (Moccia four, Taylor three.)

Led by Moccia’s 220-yard night, Boyertown’s offense enjoyed an overall breakout, rushing for over a quarter mile of offense (447 yards) in a 40-6 win over Methacton. Quarterback Mason Marinello contributed 128 yards rushing and two scores of his own, while the Bears’ defense intercepted Methacton quarterbacks four times.

Upper Merion’s Anthony Swenda remained the picture of consistency, going over 100 yards for the fourth consecutive contest as the Vikings topped Phoenixville, 21-14. Swenda has hammered his way to 542 rushing yards so far this year (second only to Pottsgrove’s Taylor in the PAC) and stands tied with the Pottsgrove back for the league lead with nine touchdowns.

 

Perkiomen Valley’s duo of Jacob Sturm and Jon Moccia accounted for 241 total yards rushing and receiving as the Vikings survived the challenge from Owen J. Roberts. Each back was complimentary towards his sidekick after the game.

“With these big guys doing the work up front, it’s been about myself and Jon (Moccia) building the stamina to keep rolling, play after play,” said Sturm. “My opinion is that we haven’t reached our potential offensively.”

“I think Jon’s one of the best backs in the league, and it helps that defenses can’t completely focus on either of us.”

A Look Ahead >> Area fans will have to wait until Saturday for the highlight of this week’s slate, when Pottsgrove and Pope John Paul II meet in a Frontier Division showdown in Royersford. The victor will stand as the unofficial front-runner in the early division race. In three-plus years of the PAC’s divisional structure, Pottsgrove’s only loss in the Frontier came in 2016 when they fell to PJP II, 18-12.
 

Upper Merion will try to keep pace with Saturday’s winner in hosting Upper Perkiomen Friday night. Phoenixville and Pottstown meet at Grigg Memorial Field to round out the Frontier slate.

Owen J. Roberts celebrates its Homecoming and tries to bounce back against a resurgent Boyertown squad, while Spring-Ford and Perkiomen Valley each hit the road, traveling to Methacton and Norristown, respectively.

Daniel Boone and Reading High will meet at Albright College, while the Hill School heads to Chestnut Hill to battle Springside.

Spring-Ford uses Haynes’ career night to power past Norristown

by  Owen McCue
September 21, 2019

 

ROYERSFORD >> The prowess of Spring-Ford’s aerial attack has been well-documented.

Quarterback Ryan Engro, who set the school record for passing yards earlier this season, came into Friday night’s game against Norristown leading the area with more than 1,200 passing yards in four games, while four of his pass targets were among the area’s top 10 in yards receiving.

The Rams’ offense displayed another dimension Friday night against the Eagles with senior running back Armante Haynes leading a ground attack.

Haynes rushed for 230 yards and added two touchdown runs of 60-or-more yards in the second half to help his team pull away for a 40-14 win over Norristown in a Pioneer Athletic Conference Liberty Division contest that was much closer than the final score indicated.

“Blockers were flying around, meeting the holes,” Haynes said of the keys to his big night. “Lineman did their job, focused, and QB made good calls.”

Haynes describes himself as a power back, seeking out contact from defenders who take the brunt of the hit. He showed that off on several runs in the first half, when he carried six times for 47 yards as the Rams passed the ball 17 times.

In the second half, Haynes showed off his speed, running 10 times for 183 yards, including 102 yards in the fourth quarter. He busted off a 63-yard touchdown run to turn a three-point Spring-Ford (3-2, 1-0 Liberty) lead into a 24-14 advantage with 7:15 left in the third quarter. Then, he put the game away with a 67-yard touchdown run with 3:56 left to cap 23 unanswered Rams’ point.

Haynes has become a much bigger part of the offense after last season, when he toted the ball 24 times for 80 yards and a touchdown in 2018. Still, his yardage output Friday night nearly matched his season total, as he came into Friday’s contest as the Rams’ leading rusher with 232 yards and four touchdowns.

“It was nice to see,” Rams’ senior James Albert said of Haynes’ night. “We know his potential.”

Norristown (0-5, 0-1 PAC Liberty) trailed 17-7 at halftime after a pair of Engro touchdowns and a 42-yard field goal by Rams’ kicker Grant Sillyman.

Spring-Ford defensive back Nathan Capers intercepted a pass from Norristown quarterback Nick DiNolfi on the Eagles’ first drive of the second half, but the Eagles’ defense, aided by a pair of Spring-Ford penalties, made a stand near its own goal line to force a missed field goal attempt and get the ball back.

Immediately following the missed field goal, Norristown senior Isiah Tucker reversed fields for an 80-yard touchdown to make it a 17-14 game with 7:35 left in the third quarter. Haynes broke off his 63-yard touchdown run on Spring-Ford’s next play from scrimmage to put the Rams up 24-14 just twenty seconds later.

A safety by Spring-Ford gave the Rams a 26-14 lead heading into the fourth quarter, where a 33-yard touchdown pass from Engro to BJ Beard and a 67-yard touchdown run by Haynes finished off the game’s scoring.

 

“We had them at certain times, and it was still a ball game going into the fourth quarter,” Norristown second-year coach Joe Milligan said. “This week, we just kind of turned ourselves over and shot ourselves in the foot. It was all big plays.”

Norristown started PAC Liberty Division play with a 36-6 loss to Spring-Ford last year. The Eagles followed with a 14-7 loss to eventual league champion Perkiomen Valley in their next contest before winning two of their final four games in 2018.

The Eagles have enough offensive talent for another second-half turnaround this year with the likes of Tucker, who led Norristown with 76 yards rushing and 46 yards receiving, and Zion Malone, who had the team’s other score on a 40-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. Junior quarterback Nick DiNolfi looked sharp early before finishing 11-of-27 for 136 yards passing.

While playing nine first-time starters on defense, the Eagles showed some potential, holding a potent Spring-Ford offense silent for nearly 18 minutes from the end of the first quarter to midway through the third.

“We’ll keep growing,” Milligan said. “The more sound we play the better. It’s getting these kids to understand that. Most teams already, they’ve been doing it together. This being our second year, getting them to realize that, I think we’ll be alright.”

Though Haynes headlined the offense for Spring-Ford, Engro finished the game 18-of-27 for 190 yards and three touchdowns, even finding a new pass target in Rams’ offensive and defensive lineman Ryan Kolander, who caught a 16-yard touchdown for Spring-Ford’s first score of the game. He also found Beard, and Nick Teets for scores.

Beard, Albert, Teets and Dante Bonanni all had three or more catches for Spring-Ford, with Beard, Teets and Bonanni sharing the team lead at 41 yards receiving. Engro added 25 yards on the ground along with 17 yards from sophomore Harry Adieyefeh Jr. to round out the Rams’ offensive leaders.

Spring-Ford’s top rusher last year was Stephen Brill, who finished the season with 432 yards and six touchdowns. After Friday night’s game, Haynes has already surpassed those totals through the Rams’ first five games with 462 yards on the ground.

Haynes’ season-high coming into Friday night was a 102-yard outing against Harry S. Truman in the second week of the season. He also had an 80-yard performance in the team’s opening loss to Central Bucks South before rushing for 25 yards in Weeks 3 and 4.

What could the Rams’ offense look like if he can put more performances together like Friday night’s?

“It could be very dangerous,” Haynes said. “It will spread out the defense, and it will create more opportunities for all of us.”

“It’s exciting,” he added, “and I look to improve on it.”

Spring-Ford 24, Exeter 7
 

EXETER >> Spring-Ford senior quarterback Ryan Engro threw for 302 yards and two touchdowns as the Rams rolled past the Eagles in non-league play Friday at Exeter’s Don Thomas Stadium.
 

Engro, who was 23-for-39 passing, shredded a defense that had only given up 32 passing yards and 20 points all season before Friday.
 

Engro connected with James Albert on a fourth-and-8 for a 19-yard completion, setting up an Armante Haynes 1-yard punch-in that put the Rams up 7-0 late in the first quarter.
 

That drive was set up by Exeter’s first big mistake, a fumble on a punt return that gave Spring-Ford the ball back at the Exeter 25.
 

The Eagles (2-2) were on the verge of tying it up midway through the second after driving to the Spring-Ford 10, but a grounding call on Gavin McCusker pushed the Eagles back to the 33. A Josh Cupitt 49-yard field goal try fell just short.

Spring-Ford (2-2) answered with a field goal of its own to move ahead 10-0, then took over at the Exeter 29 with 95 seconds left in the half after an errant Eagles punt. Three plays later, Engro found B.J. Beard for a 10-yard touchdown pass.
 

On the ensuing kickoff, Devon Scott brought Exeter back to life, albeit briefly. He initially dropped the ball, but picked it up in time to race through the Rams coverage for a 97-yard return touchdown that brought Exeter’s deficit back to 10.
 

But with 1:09 still remaining in the half, Engro needed just three plays – a pass interference call and completions of 29 and 28 yards – to get the Rams back into the end zone.
 

The Rams’ defense allowed little in the second half, keeping the Eagles off the board for a 17-point win.

Spring-Ford opens Pioneer Athletic Conference play next week with a visit from Norristown.

Defense, special teams send Wilson past Spring-Ford, 42-23​

by  Rob Senior

September 7, 2019
 

ROYERSFORD >> Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker admitted he was concerned about the size and strength advantage that District 3’s Wilson Bulldogs possessed coming into Friday night’s game at Coach McNelly Stadium.

But while the Rams’ defense held up admirably for the first half against Wilson’s diverse, powerful offensive attack, it was the Bulldogs’ quickness on defense and special teams that made the difference in their 42-23 win over Spring-Ford.
 

Leading 7-3 late in the second quarter, Wilson’s Ethan Capitano took advantage of a high snap on a punt to block Grant Sillyman’s effort. The Bulldogs pounced on the loose ball at the SF 26.
 

Four plays later, Wilson QB Kaleb Brown found Mason Lenart on a perfectly designed shovel pass for a 22-yard touchdown and a 14-3 Wilson lead.
 

It was the second blocked punt of the season for Capitano, who had a scoop-and-score against Central Dauphin in week one.
 

“I almost got (an earlier punt in the game),” Capitano lamented, “so on the block, I decided to cut inside and surprise my man.”
 

On the Rams’ next drive, Wilson’s AJ Futrick hit Ryan Engro from the blind side, forcing a fumble and setting up another short Wilson TD drive. With 1:58 to play in the first half, Wilson led 21-3 after trailing 3-0 for much of the first half.
 

“We were terrible offensively in the first half,” said Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker. “And we got better matchups than we expected with straight man coverage. But overall, we didn’t play well enough, or coach well enough, to have any right to win this game.”
 

The opening quarter-and-a-half couldn’t have gone better for Spring-Ford defensively. Mason Brill’s interception at the SF 10-yard line ended Wilson’s best first quarter threat, while a defensive line led by Ryan Kolander (two tackles for loss) helped limit Brown, running back Avanti Lockhart and the rest of Wilson’s ground game. Sillyman connected from 29 yards for the game’s first points.
 

It was the passing attack that got the Bulldogs going in the middle of the second quarter, as Brown and Troy Corson connected four times on one drive, the last an eight-yard scoring strike to give Wilson a 7-3 lead with 6:04 to play before half.
 

Four minutes later, the big plays by Capitano and Futrick helped grow Wilson’s lead to 21-3 at the half.

The offensive frustration continued for the Rams after the break, as they twice penetrated deep into Wilson territory only to be undone by penalties and various mistakes, turning the ball over on downs. Spring-Ford finally broke through after a long pass from Engro to Dante Bonanni set up a one-yard TD run by Armanti Haynes, but Lenart would take the air out of the stadium with a 95-yard return on the ensuing kickoff to re-extend the lead to 28-10 late in the third quarter.
 

The Rams never seriously threatened again.
 

“I saw a huge hole on the right side, and just ran for the sideline,” said Lenart. “I can’t take much credit, I just followed the blocking.”
 

Lockhart put the icing on the cake with an authoritative 36-yard TD run on the opening play of the fourth quarter. Brown would add a 67-yard scoring scamper later in the stanza, as Wilson began to assert their will on a waning Spring-Ford defense. For the evening, Wilson averaged 7.5 yards per carry, an average that increased substantially in the fourth quarter thanks to the touchdown runs by Lockhart and Brown, and the impressive showing from sophomore Jadyn Jones (seven rushes, 58 yards) to run out the clock late. Lockhart (115 yards) and Brown (109 yards) each eclipsed the century mark, with Brown adding 161 yards through the air.
 

The efficiency of Wilson was the difference, as Spring-Ford actually outgained the Bulldogs 435-427. But the Rams were held to barely over one yard per carry, meaning the entire offensive load was shouldered by the passing attack.
 

Engro kept the score respectable with a pair of late touchdown passes to wide receiver BJ Beard on what was a record-setting night for multiple Rams players. Engro set a single-game passing record with 408 yards, while Dante Bonanni (10 receptions, 174 yards) moved into the all-time lead for receiving yards in school history.
 

But the senior QB was under pressure all night, absorbing three sacks and numerous other hard hits from an aggressive Wilson defense.
 

“None of those (individual records) mean anything if you don’t win,” said Brubaker, “and those guys (Engro and Bonanni) would tell you the same thing.”
 

Next week the Rams encounter another District 3 foe when they travel to take on Exeter, while 3-0 Wilson hosts Warwick.

Wilson braces for an air assault in tough test against Spring-Ford


Ryan Engro set a school record with 29 TD passes as a junior, including a couple - to go with 224 passing yards - in West Lawn.

WRITTEN BY MIKE DRAGO

Doug Dahms calls his Wilson defensive secondary young and untested.

He won't be able to say that by season's end.

By then the Bulldogs will have faced All-State quarterback Evan Simon of Manheim Central, all-league quarterback Harrison Kirk of Manheim Township and Warwick's Joey McCracken, who was all-world a season ago when he threw for a staggering 530 yards against Wilson.

"So, we better grow up fast," said Dahms.

That growth continues tonight with a visit to Spring-Ford and a rematch against Ryan Engro, who set a school record with 29 TD passes as a junior, including a couple - to go with 224 passing yards - in West Lawn.

"We'll see 40 passes Friday night," Dahms said.

He calls the challenge a "huge concern" because of Engro's ability, the deep corps of receivers he has at his disposal, and because of the Bulldogs' secondary situation.

They lost safety Matt Fry to a preseason injury and prefer limited usage of their best cover corner, Kaleb Brown, because he's the starting quarterback now. That leaves second-team all-league safety Troy Corson with a pair of first-year corners, Eli Rotenberg and Mason Lenart.

"Physically, we can play there," Dahms said. "It's the mental, the technical (side that has to improve). When you're a defensive back (and) you make mistakes you're toast."

The Bulldogs (2-0) are one of five remaining unbeatens in Berks.

For the Bulldogs to stay unbeaten they'll need to sit on the football when they have it and speed up Engro when they don't. They're certainly capable of both because of their strength along each line.

"He's very good when he's not pressured," Dahms said of Engro, who threw for 2,454 yards last season and 293 last week. "When you get him out of the pocket, he's not as accurate."

Given time, Engro will pile up the yardage. He has experienced receivers in Dante Bonanni, who had 11 catches for 144 yards a week ago, and Blaize Scarcelle.

"When we don't try to force the issue, we're very difficult to defend," said Chad Brubaker, the former Wilson offensive coordinator now in his 10th season as head coach of the Rams (1-1). "We can stretch the field horizontally and vertically."

Brubaker has yet to knock off his former team, but he's come close. Three years ago it lost 41-40 in double-overtime at West Lawn when a two-point conversion was stopped inches shy on the game's final play.

This could be Brubaker's last chance for a while.

The teams are not scheduled to play in the next cycle. Dahms feels uncomfortable about continuing the series while Brubaker's son Gannon, a sophomore quarterback, is in the Wilson program.

"It's an awkward situation for the son," Dahms said. "He shouldn't have to deal with that."


Chad Brubaker is disappointed with that decision.  "We would love to continue playing Wilson," he said.

That raises the stakes just a little higher for tonight.

Dahms knows the Rams will put up some stats in their passing game; the Bulldogs, he says, will have to find ways to disrupt that.

He's counting on his offense, which has shown the ability to control the ball on the ground, to limit Engro's time on the field.

"They're gonna make some plays, and we're gonna stop 'em," Dahms said. "Any time your offense can be on the field and have nice long, scorching drives, that wears them down and gives them less time to make big plays."

 

Contact Mike Drago: 610-371-5061 or mdrago@readingeagle.com.

6 ABC Philly's Report of Truman Game

RCTV's Game Time w/ Bill Kulp

Central Bucks South turns tables on Spring-Ford

by Rob Senior
August 23, 2019
 

ROYERSFORD >> Earlier this week, Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker admitted that his senior-laden squad had a few spots that were still up for grabs through preseason camp – specifically on the defensive side.

Friday night marked a baptism by fire for those new starters in the form of Central Bucks South’s quarterback-wide receiver duo Josh Consoletti and Sean Smith.

Consoletti threw for 268 yards and a career-high five TDs, 208 of those yards and four of the scores going to Smith as Central Bucks South surprised Spring-Ford in a 34-24 opening night win.

For the Titans, the victory was sweet revenge for a setback suffered almost a year ago to the day, when the Rams traveled to face the Titans and walked away with their own mild upset in a 21-0 victory to open the 2018 season.

“We got embarrassed at home last year,” surmised Sean Smith. “We definitely wanted to get them back.

“I knew they were going to play me man-to-man, so I was looking forward to having some opportunities.”

Smith gave CB South the lead for good with 8:13 to play on a 10-yard strike from Consoletti, but perhaps his biggest play of the night came on the ensuing Rams’ possession, when the senior picked off Spring-Ford QB Ryan Engro (24-for-38, 294 yards, 2 TD, INT) with about seven minutes to play.

“One of our assistant coaches… he came up to me, and he told me we needed a pick and he needed me to get it for him,” said Smith. “I’m glad I was able to make it happen.”

The next biggest play came when Spring-Ford, which was ranked No. 13 in the PaPrepLive.com preseason Top 20, muffed a punt inside their own 25, leading to a CB South recovery. Three plays later, Smith was in the end zone again, courtesy of a dart over the middle by Consoletti. The Titans had their two-score lead and wouldn’t look back.

“It’s not about (the five touchdowns) or any individual accomplishments,” Consoletti added. “We need playmakers to make plays.”

The senior QB was certainly that on Friday, adding 93 yards rushing to his stat line, 25 of them coming on third-and-long play where he slipped away from SF’s Blake Terrizzi (2.5 sacks on the evening) and converted into a first-and-goal at the Spring-Ford 10. On the next play, Consoletti found Smith for the decisive score. 

“What I’ll remember about that play was my linemen blocking the whole time, my receivers continuing on their routes, drawing the defenders away,” said Consoletti. “Once I got out of the pocket, I knew I’d have some room.”

Spring-Ford’s inexperienced secondary suffered another blow when the Rams were forced to sideline Andrew Yoon – their lone returning starter in the unit – with an injury. 

“We definitely missed him,” Brubaker allowed, but [Consoletti] killed us. We weren’t containing him, when we did get our hands on him, he’d slip out of the tackles. He’s a heck of a player, and we didn’t help ourselves at all.

“We’re very inexperienced in the secondary, and we made some really basic, elementary mistakes. We have to continue to work, and once we look at the film I’m sure we’ll be kicking ourselves.”

Both offenses came out flying in the first half, Consoletti finding Smith and Cole Andrewlevich for early scores and a 13-3 lead before Spring-Ford’s own offense got going midway through the second quarter. Engro converted third-down passes to Blaize Scarcelle and Dante Bonanni, setting up Armante Haynes’ one-yard TD plunge to bring the Rams within three.

SF took its first lead with 1:41 to play before halftime when Engro bought himself time, stepped up in the pocket and hit Scarcelle for a 28-yard TD on a 4th and 12 play. The lead was short lived, however, as Consoletti drove the Titans 67 yards in eight quick plays, culminating in his second TD pass to Smith and a 20-17 halftime lead for the visitors. Both teams cracked 200 total yards of offense before the break.

Both defenses settled in during the third quarter, particularly Spring-Ford’s, who allowed only nine total yards in the stanza. The lone offensive highlight was a doozy, as Bonanni made a twisting grab in the right corner of the end zone, putting the Rams back in front of the seesaw contest, 24-20.

The Titans saved their best for last, however, dominating the fourth quarter with the Consoletti/Smith connection and hard running to drain the clock by Matt Cohen and Joe McSweeney.

“They’re good players,” Brubaker reiterated. “It was a tough first varsity experience for some of our guys.”

Haynes accumulated 80 yards on the ground for Spring-Ford, while three different receivers eclipsed the 60-yard mark (Bonanni, Scarcelle, and BJ Beard), led by Bonanni with 145 yards and a score. Terrizzi’s 2.5 sacks paced a defense that took down Consoletti behind the line four times in all.


Spring-Ford (0-1) will attempt to right the ship against another Suburban One foe when they travel to Harry S. Truman next week, while the Titans welcome Downingtown West for their home opener.

Last year, a disappointing season for the Titans began with a lopsided home loss to Spring-Ford. Will they use the opening road victory as a springboard to bigger things in 2019?

“We’ve got a good core of guys,” said Smith. “I can already see that this is going to be an amazing season.”

2019 Slogan Film - Get Back 4/01/2019

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