News from 2020 Season

Sturdy Souderton stands in way of Spring-Ford in District 1-6A playoffs

by  Rob Senior

November 5, 2020

This year’s shortened schedule inadvertently created the simplest of playoff criteria for District 1 teams in Class 6A – make it through your schedule undefeated, and you’re in.

When No. 2 Spring-Ford hosts No. 3 Souderton on Friday night at Coach McNelly Stadium, the survivor will be one of only two teams to reach the second week of November unblemished. The other will be their opponent in next week’s District 1-6A title game, the winner of No. 1 Pennridge and No. 4 Coatesville.

In the Big Red, Spring-Ford figures to see a squad that doesn’t closely resemble any of their Pioneer Athletic Conference opponents in that they prefer a run-heavy, Wing-T approach to the offensive attack.

“(Souderton) is pretty big up front – we’re not as big, that’s a concern,” said Rams head coach Chad Brubaker. “But it’s tough to compare different opponents this year with the discrepancies in practice times, the lack of common opponents. I really think we need to throw all those comparisons out the window this year.”

 

Last week’s Spring-Ford opponent, Cumberland Valley of District 3, may bear the closest resemblance to the Big Red on the Rams’ schedule.

Cumberland Valley battled Spring-Ford, forcing the Rams into their toughest contest this season in a 20-14 victory. The win pushed Pioneer Athletic Conference champion Spring-Ford to 6-0, the lone District 1 team to achieve the mark due to the PAC starting a week earlier.

“A lot of the Suburban One League teams run I-form, downhill styles,” said Brubaker. “Cumberland Valley does a little bit of everything, and it’s why we scheduled them. They play in a strong league, they play strong teams, one of the best schedules out there.”

Souderton has run for 276 yards per contest in their five games behind their big offensive line, going over 10 yards per carry in their last two games (wins over Hatboro-Horsham and Bensalem). Junior Jalen White leads the Big Red with 101 yards per game and 10 rushing touchdowns, while Brayden Porter and quarterback Evan Kutzler round out Souderton’s main offensive weapons. Coach Ed Gallagher believes the speed of the Spring-Ford defense will be Souderton’s biggest challenge on Friday night, as they attempt to navigate a stingy defense allowing less than seven points per contest through the season’s first half-dozen games.

That Rams defense is led in the secondary by senior Naphtali Stine, whose area-leading four interceptions may dissuade Souderton even further from going to the air. The Big Red ground game will likely depend upon their size advantage in countering a Spring-Ford front seven enjoying a breakout season from junior linebacker Ryan Horvath.

“Ryan had a broken leg last year,” said Brubaker, “and even then, he was hobbling around at practice until he got it checked out. This year, he’s become a prototypical high school football player – multi-sport athlete, knows what he’s supposed to do, and is as good as anyone we’ve had at linebacker.”

Freshman Mike Bendowski, who ultimately projects to linebacker in the future, filled in admirably for Spring-Ford on the defensive line against Cumberland Valley and has likely earned himself further playing time this week.

Offensively, the Rams’ evolution into a collection of skill players who can be difficult to distinguish by skill sets continues with the expansion of Andrew Yoon’s role. The senior has had an injury-plagued high school career but looks determined to make the most of his final games in the blue and gold.

“When Andrew got back into the lineup in week 2,” recalled Brubaker, “we could see he wasn’t going to leave the field very often. He’s smart – he didn’t have to learn much when we switched him out to wide receiver. He also makes the plays that don’t show up on the stat sheet.”

Yoon (321 yards, 4 TDs) is joined in the Spring-Ford backfield by Harry Adieyefeh (518 yards, 5 TDs) and quarterback Ryan Freed (65-for-100, 755 yards, 8 TDs, 3 INTs). Versatile senior Nick Teets led the PAC in receiving with 28 receptions for 412 yards (three touchdowns).

Kolten Kqira had a big game against Cumberland Valley, and could feature in an increased role in the Rams’ offense Friday.

In what sets up to be a slugfest between two teams who take different path to similar outcomes, special teams could play a role, and Brubaker said punt returner Joe Brogan’s consistency could be a factor in Spring-Ford’s favor.

“It’s underappreciated, but he calls for fair catches and makes them,” the coach pointed out. “Last year, he made 15 fair catches. When you play on turf, that can be the difference between a 20-yard kick and a 30, 35-yard kick. It’s overlooked, but his decision-making puts our offense in better positions throughout the game.”

Spring-Ford stays unbeaten, staves off Cumberland Valley, 20-14

by  Barry Sankey

October 31, 2020

 

ROYERSFORD >> Josh Hellauer does a little bit of everything for the unbeaten Spring-Ford Rams football team.

He is a defensive end, tight end and also handles the kickoff and punting chores for the back-to-back Pioneer Athletic Conference champion Rams.

Hellauer, a 5-10, 195-pound senior, showed his ability in all phases of the game Friday night as Spring-Ford defeated Cumberland Valley, a traditional District 3 powerhouse, 20-14, at Coach McNelly Stadium.

Spring-Ford improved its record to 6-0, sealing up its spot in the four team District 1-6A playoff field, while Cumberland Valley dropped to a misleading 1-5.

Cumberland Valley took a 7-0 lead at the end of the first period. They were the first points scored against the Rams in the first half this season and marked the first time all season Spring-Ford trailed in a game.

But then the Rams’ defense, which has been so solid all year, kept the visitors off the scoreboard until the fourth quarter.

Along with Hellauer, Spring-Ford got some big defensive plays from senior linebacker Zach Marinello, senior linebacker Mason Brill, senior defensive back Nathan Capers, senior defensive lineman DJ Francis, junior defensive end Gavin Shafer and freshman linebacker Mike Bendowski.

“Our defense has been solid,” said Hellauer. “We take a lot of pride in our defense.

“We knew coming into the game, they would be tough. But we settled in after a couple snaps and knew we could play with them. We played them hard.”

Hellauer and the rest of the Rams applied pressure on Cumberland Valley sophomore quarterback Isaac Sines all evening. Even when he completed passes, the scrambling left-hander was under a heavy rush. Hellauer and the rest of his group batted down passes up front.

Junior linebacker Ryan Horvath and senior defensive back Nick Teets made key interceptions for the Rams as a result of that heavy pursuit up front.

Andrew Yoon scored on a 12-yard touchdown run on an end around to put the Rams on the scoreboard with 11:19 remaining in the second period to knot the score at 7-7.

Then junior quarterback Ryan Freed scored on a 1-yard keeper to put Spring-Ford on top 14-7 with 4:57 left in the first half. Alex Nadeau booted the extra points following both touchdowns.

Harry Adieyefeh added a 6-yard TD run with 2:38 left in the third quarter to give the hosts a 20-7 lead. Adieyefeh found the end zone on a run wide to the right side, advancing over the goal line just inside the pylon.

The Eagles made it close when sophomore running back/linebacker J.D. Hunter caught a 15-yard scoring toss from Sines in the fourth quarter.

“They (Eagles) play in a tremendous league,” said Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubaker.

“Cumberland Valley has won 13 titles in District 3 and one state title.”

With that type of tradition, Spring-Ford knew it was going to have its hands full with the Eagles.

Cumberland Valley is from Mechanicsburg and plays in the Mid-Penn Conference-Commonwealth. The head coach is Josh Oswalt.

The Eagles’ losses have been to the likes of Altoona, State College and Bishop McDevitt of Harrisburg.

The Eagles were hurt by some costly penalties at key stages of the game. But they still hung tough. Some of their main players are also on the young side. Sophomore lineman Ridge Crispino had a sack. Junior linebacker Max Wilken made an interception. Freshman linebacker Alex Sauve made some big contributions.

And along with those youngsters was some solid play by senior wide receiver/defensive back Gavin Conklin and senior running back/defensive back Kellan Walker, and senior linebacker Derik Sauve.

“They are different from teams we play in the PAC,” said Brubaker. “They play a different game. We knew what we needed to try to prepare for. That will help prepare us for teams we are going to see in the playoffs.”

Brubaker noted Hellauer’s importance in Friday’s win and the Rams’ special season thus far.

“Josh does a great job for us,” said Brubaker. “He is the type of player you want. He does everything we ask him to do, and he’s smart. You tell him once, and everything is good. He knows what to do. He is a special player.”

The Rams had a 51-yard TD pass from Freed to Teets nullified due to a penalty during the third quarter.

Hellauer and senior linebacker Nasir Cooke combined on a tackle for loss after a Sines scramble in the second period that forced the Eagles to punt.

Spring-Ford also blocked a field goal try in the first quarter.

NOTES >> Kolten Kqira, Joe Brogan, Yoon, Hellauer, Teets and Zach Zollers were on the receiving end of Freed passes.

Remaining slate and what’s on the line

by  Rob Senior

October 26, 2020

First things first: kudos to the Pioneer Athletic Conference and more accurately, each athletic department within the conference.

The league’s football season began on Sept. 25, with an even split of six teams participating, while another six squads either opted out or didn’t begin their season until October. A conference season required fifteen football games – three games every Friday night for five consecutive weeks. As of this week, the conference officially concluded that slate on time and without interruption.

Each game was played at its originally scheduled time, and having attended games at four of the six schools this fall (plus another at Pottsgrove), it’s fair to say the diligence of district employees and others at stadium entrances played an important role in allowing the timely playing of the conference season.

2020 Mercury Area Football Leaders

Better still, the schedule allows for a pseudo-Crossover Week this coming Friday, as four schools representing the Liberty (big-school) Division will take on four schools from the Frontier (small-school) Division, in an attempt at continuing the tradition that began with the two-division split in 2016.

Straight off clinching a second straight league title, Spring-Ford hosts Cumberland Valley, a District 3 school from the Mid-Penn Conference this coming Friday. The Eagles stand at 1-4 on the season but have accumulated the record against an impressive array of opponents including Altoona, State College, and Bishop McDevitt (Harrisburg). Chad Brubaker’s team will need the win in this non-conference tilt to maintain their No. 1 seeding for the four-team PIAA District 1 Class 6A playoffs, scheduled to begin Nov. 6. This game was originally scheduled for late August but was cancelled (at the time) due to the COVID-19 delay.

Around the Area >> Spring-Ford’s second straight league title came largely on the strength of a defense currently sporting a streak of three straight shutouts, but there were some offensive accolades as well. Nick Teets boosted himself into rarified air in program history with a 10-catch, 154-yard, two-score night. Teets is now over 1,000 yards receiving in his high school career – only the sixth Ram to accomplish that feat. By night’s end, Teets stood in the top five in both receptions and receiving yards in Spring-Ford history.

Stingy Spring-Ford shuts down OJR to repeat as PAC champions

by  Rob Senior

October 23, 2020

BUCKTOWN >> Spring-Ford’s 2020 team slogan doubled as a promise to the team’s players and coaches through the longest offseason in memory.

“Fall is coming.”

The motto meant as an ominous reminder prefaced a potentially special season, as Spring-Ford (5-0) concluded its dominant run through the Pioneer Athletic Conference Friday night with a 28-0 win over Owen J. Roberts (2-3) at Henry J. Bernat Stadium to give the Rams their first back-to-back conference titles in 25 years.

 

The accolades were numerous: aside from the back-to-back titles, the final score meant the contest was the Rams’ third consecutive shutout, and kept the team at No. 1 in the PIAA District One Class 6A power rankings in a season where only four teams will qualify for playoffs. 

Spring-Ford showed remarkable offensive balance, racking up 410 total yards of offense (235 rushing, 175 passing). The team had a 100-yard rusher (junior Harry Adieyefeh, with 112 yards on 17 carries), a 100-yard receiver (senior Nick Teets, nine catches for 149 yards and a pair of scores), and quarterback Ryan Freed set a career high with three scoring passes.

But they all had to accept second billing behind a defense that allowed only 34 yards of total offense, caused two turnovers and maintained a streak of not allowing a point in their last 13 quarters of football. 

“We love to fly around out there, playing hard and fast,” said senior linebacker Zach Marinello, who led the Rams in tackles on the evening. “But playing smart is the biggest key.”

 

Spring-Ford’s Zach Zollers (4) and Zach Marinello (20) lead on a tackle of Owen J. Roberts’ Will Whitlock. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

The Rams came in riding a two-game shutout streak, not allowing a single point since the third quarter of their game with Boyertown on October 2. Spring-Ford also kept its season-long first-half shutout streak alive, but they did it the hard way, turning away OJR twice after committing turnovers of their own deep in their own territory.

The contest started smoothly enough for Spring-Ford on offense, as Nick Teets took a quick slant pass from quarterback Ryan Freed for 62 yards on the Rams’ first possession. One play later, Andrew Yoon’s three-yard TD gave Spring-Ford a 7-0 lead less than three minutes into the contest. 

But those would be the only points of the first half. Both defenses stiffened, the Rams in particular as they allowed only 23 yards of total offense before the break. They were flagged for 70 more yards, however, allowing OJR to sustain a drive that began with a recovered muffed punt midway through the second quarter.

“I was pretty disappointed with our offensive performance in the first half,” admitted Chad Brubaker, Spring-Ford’s head coach. “Offense, special teams – they didn’t put us in good positions, but hats off to our defense. They’re in the right spots and doing the right things.”

The Wildcats’ deepest drive of the first half reached the SF 5 after two defensive pass interference calls but ended in a missed field goal with seconds remaining until halftime.

Meanwhile, OJR’s defensive line was able to limit the Rams after Teets’ big play despite giving away considerable size in the trenches. SF went three and out twice before an Avrey Grimm interception ended another Rams’ drive. Spring-Ford’s offense gained some traction before half but ran out of time and took a 7-0 advantage to the break. 

After the break, however, Spring-Ford was able to assert their offensive will on a nine-play, 75-yard drive that culminated in Teets converting a flare screen into a 10-yard TD pass from Ryan Freed for a 14-0 Rams lead. The drive ate up about half the quarter and established the Rams’ ability to move the ball at will on the ground.

The next drive was more of the same, with Adieyefeh surpassing 100 yards on the ground in eating up most of the 10-play, 74-yard drive before Freed found senior tight end Josh Hellauer for 11 yards and his second TD pass of the quarter, giving Spring-Ford a 21-0 advantage – a veritable stranglehold with the Rams’ defense. 

“They’re fast, they hit hard, and they cover well,” said OJR head coach Rich Kolka. “It’s (Spring-Ford) one of the best defenses I’ve seen in awhile.

“We’re just not at that point yet. We need to work towards the ability to have a defense and an offense without two-way players.”

 

Owen J. Roberts receiver Dante DeNardo is pursued by Spring-Ford’s Nate Capers (8) and Nick Teets (5) after a short reception. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

Teets and Freed would connect for another score, this one a 39-yarder halfway through the fourth quarter for the final margin.

For the 2-3 Wildcats, it was tough sledding all night, as the Rams held PAC leading rusher Avrey Grimm to negative-4 rushing yards on the evening, ending Grimm’s string of four consecutive 100-plus yard rushing games. Top receiver Dante DeNardo found the going equally tough, with two catches for 10 yards.

Reserve quarterback Will Whitlock moved the offense relatively well in the fourth quarter, picking up a couple first downs with shifty moves in the backfield.

“I’m happy for our players that we got to have a structured, uninterrupted season, with a chance to play for a league title,” said Kolka.  

The Wildcats will look to end the 2020 season on a high note when they travel to Upper Merion next week.

But the night belonged to Spring-Ford and their history-making defense. The victory seals not only their second straight league title but ensures they’ll maintain the top spot in the power rankings when they’re officially updated Monday. 

 

The top four teams as of November 1 will proceed to the district playoffs, with the No. 1 and No. 2 teams hosting first-round games on November 6. Of course, with a shortened season there’s little room for error, meaning Spring-Ford may need to win next week when they host Cumberland Valley of District 3 in order to make the playoffs at all.

“We have to figure things out before next week – we haven’t been strong on offense the past two weeks,” cautioned Brubaker.

“But the 1994-1995 teams (the last back-to-back champions at the school) were legendary. They’ve created quite a legacy; we just hope to add to it going forward.”

Defense drives Spring-Ford to cusp of PAC title repeat

by Rob Senior

October 23, 2020

“If we shut them out, we win the game.”

Sounds obvious enough, but maintaining that zero on the other side of the scoreboard has become the stated goal of Spring-Ford’s defense this fall.

When the 4-0 Rams take the field at Owen J. Roberts (2-2) Friday night, they’ll be carrying a shutout streak that spans the last nine quarters of football.

They’ll also be looking to claim their second consecutive Pioneer Athletic Conference championship, the first back-to-back titles at the school since 1994-1995.

“Over the years, (back-to-back titles) have been elusive,” said Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubaker, who’s won three PAC title in his 11-year tenure at the helm of the Rams. “It’s not easy to win on the road, and it’s tough to win league titles.”

The ornery defense has taken center stage, allowing only 26 points in SF’s first four games – none before halftime.

“All 11 kids are competitors,” said defensive coordinator Jim Mich Jr., “and that’s important to us as coaches. We want kids who are looking to compete, and getting shutouts is one of our goals. Shutouts are hard to come by, but it resonates with these kids, the idea of shutting down an opposing offense.”

The strength of the defense is in its balance, as the coaches predicted prior to the season that defensive tackle and secondary would be standout units.

With two linebackers – senior Zach Marinello and junior Ryan Horvath – one-two in the team lead for tackles, and senior defensive ends Nasir Cooke and Josh Hellauer tied with Horvath in tackles for loss, there’s no one area offenses can pinpoint to attack.

“I wouldn’t say we have one true, vocal leader – everyone’s involved in setting the tone,” said Mich. “The way they practice, the way they handle adversity in-game, it’s a combination of all these kids. Their play, their attitude, they rally around one another.”

Senior corner Naphtali Stine leads the Mercury area with three interceptions in a stingy secondary allowing just under 50 yards passing per game on average. The gaudy numbers don’t stop with the defense, as Cam Goldsmith has recovered a pair of blocked punts on special teams for scores this season.

“There’s no secret – we prepare for each opponent, and we have players who enjoy the Xs and Os, the chess match portion of the game,” Mich said. “The way we played against Perkiomen Valley (a 27-13 season-opening victory) was a confidence builder, and since then we’ve been improving week by week.”

The Rams enjoy depth as well, with Gavin Shafer fitting in seamlessly next to DJ Francis at defensive tackle in the absence of fellow junior Donnie Nicoline.

This week’s challenge comes in the form of an OJR offense that boasts both the area’s leading rusher and receiver in junior Avrey Grimm and senior Dante DeNardo respectively. Sophomore QB Michael Reed continues to improves week over week, setting a new career standard with 211 yards and two scores through the air in last week’s loss to Upper Perkiomen. The Wildcats saw their league title hopes ended last week and would relish the opportunity to play spoiler to Spring-Ford’s undefeated run.

“It’s not easy to go on the road and win, and it’s also a challenge when you win the league the previous year. You have a target on your back, and you’re getting every team’s best shot,” said Brubaker. “It’s a challenge to impart to the kids that they can’t look at what happened last week – you’re going to get each team’s ‘A’ game.”

Spring-Ford grinds past Methacton for 21-0 win​.

by  Owen McCue

October 16, 2020

ROYERSFORD >> The Spring-Ford football team had been on cruise control to start its season.

In three straight wins to start 2020, the Rams built three-score halftime leads three straight times, including going up by 35 and 41 points, respectively, in their last two games.

Methacton gave the Rams a reminder Friday night that things aren’t always going to be that easy as the two teams went into halftime tied at nothing apiece.

While the Warriors threatened the Rams the most they’ve been this year, Spring-Ford found a way to assert itself in the final 30 minutes and stay unbeaten with a 21-0 win, clinching at least a share of the Pioneer Athletic Conference title.

“First half I was a little upset that we were playing the way we were, but after halftime we were playing a lot better,” said junior quarterback Ryan Freed, who tossed for 104 yards and a touchdown pass. “I think we needed a little bit of adversity in our games because we didn’t have any battles. We had some adversity, and we were playing a lot better.”

 

Methacton’s (2-2) Justin Gumienny kept the score tied 0-0 with an interception in the final minute of the first half, but Spring-Ford’s offense controlled the ball and the clock in the second half.

The Rams (4-0) drove 74 yards in 10 plays to open up the half, capping the eight-minute touchdown drive with a Nick Teets one-yard touchdown run at the 6:42 mark in the third quarter.

They followed with a 12-play, 67-yard drive the next time they got the ball, Freed finding Josh Hellauer for a two-yard touchdown pass with 11 minutes left in the fourth before Harry Adieyefeh put the game on ice with a 39-yard touchdown run with 4:11 to play on Spring-Ford’s third drive of the second half..

For the Rams, Adieyefeh ran 19 times for 138 yards, tallying 92 of those yards in the second half, and senior Andrew Yoon ran 10 times for 62 yards, also doing most of his damage after halftime with 56 yards. Teets caught six passes for 43 yards to lead the Rams’ aerial attack.

“At halftime, a lot of the seniors on the team, we weren’t happy with the position we were in going into the second half,” Yoon said. “So we were just trying to re-energize everyone, tell everyone it’s a new half, new start, let’s just re-collect ourselves and play as a unit more.”

“We just played our game, and you can tell how the second half went,” Adieyefeh added. “Just block out the noise and just ball.”

Linebacker Jude Wozniak and defensive backs Gumienny and Sean Conner helped lead a total team effort by the Warriors’ defense, which held the Rams to their lowest point total of the season

The Warriors’ offense drove 60 yards down the near Spring-Ford goal-line on its second offensive possession, but  couldn’t come away with points after three stops by the Rams (including two tackles from Hellauer) and a field goal block. They weren’t able to string a long drive together again until a fourth-quarter drive that stalled at the Spring-Ford 27.

Merola finished 7-of-14 for 47 yards, including two passes to Gumienny for 29 yards. Carfrey ran 11 times for 48 yards and Merola added nine carriers for 25 yards.

“It’s little things,” Methacton coach Dave Lotier said. “I think we’re executing better. Hats off, they have a great defense. We had a drive at the beginning there. We just couldn’t put it in. It’s a missed block here, it’s dropped pass here, it’s an overthrow here, but we’re close. We’re so close on offense. I’m excited to see how the rest of the season goes.”

 

After allowing 13 points in their first two wins, Friday night’s victory was a second consecutive shutout for the Spring-Ford defense. The Rams held Methacton to five first downs and 61 total yards in the final three quarters.

Rams’ defensive back Naphtali Stine hauled in his PAC-leading third interception of the season, and Zach Marinello had a sack, jarring the ball loose with a big hit on Merola.

“They don’t fail to impress ever,” Yoon said of the Spring-Ford defense. “They’re always going at them, all gas, no brakes. It’s just great to see.”

Methacton entered the game with nine consecutive losses to the Spring-Ford. The Warriors’ last win against the Rams was a 25-20 victory Sept. 25, 2010.

The recent history of the series hadn’t been kind to Methacton. In their previous five losses to the Rams, the Warriors had been outscored 297-14, including a 35-0 defeat in 2019.

The Warriors came into Friday night’s game confident as they hoped to not only snap the losing skid but tie the Rams’ atop the league standings. They didn’t accomplish the feat, but Friday’s game was another example of the strides Lotier’s team continues to make.

“We told our kids to come out and play one play at a time, one quarter at a time,” Methacton coach Dave Lotier said. “You see that we’re not backing down to anybody any more. That’s a good football program and we fought them. To their credit, they wore us down a little at the end and put a couple in, kudos to them, but I’m very proud of our guys. I love the way we fought. We’re getting better and better and we’re going to win some more football games.”

A first-half interception by Freed, in his first season starting under center, was his first of the year. He didn’t let the play linger, however, making a handful of big plays late in Friday’s win.

With his team up 7-0 late in the third quarter, Freed connected with Joe Brogan for a 21-yard pass play on a 4th-and-8 to move his team deep into Methacton territory. Five plays later he connected with Hellauer as he rolled out to his right on 4th-and-goal from the two-yard line.

“It feels good that I know he believes in me and that I can make the play on that and that he trusts me to make the play and do whatever I have to do to make the first down,” Freed said.

“I didn’t trust him in the first half, and I have to do a better job with that,” Brubaker said. “He proved me wrong. That’s a good step in the right direction. We gotta trust each other as a group. It goes a long way.”

 

Methacton will finish its official league schedule against Perkiomen Valley next week in the Battle Axe game.

Having already clinched at least a share of the league title, the Rams face Owen J. Roberts with a chance to finish off an undefeated league mark and claim a PAC championship outright for the second season in a row.

“After tonight, I hope it’s a wake up call,” Brubaker said. “The coaching staff said throughout the week that Methacton’s an improving team and coach is doing a great job there. They were tough tonight, and they played physically.

“It’s good for us to see, I think no matter what you say as coaches, these kids are 15, 16, 17 years olds and they think they know everything. … They think they can show up and write it in, and you can’t do that any week.”

NOTES >> Yoon, Adieyefeh and Freed all praised the play of the Rams’ offensive line — Kyle Kennedy, Corey Fiore, Ryan Bethal, John Kaputa, Ian Harvie, Connor McMahon— in the second half, noting them as the reason for Spring-Ford’s three straight touchdown drives. “I think it was more of we weren’t executing as an entire offensive line (in the first half), and in the second half, we brought it together and really worked together,” Kennedy said.

Do-it-all Teets helps Spring-Ford cruise past Upper Perk, 55-0

by  Dennis Weller

October 10, 2020

ROYERSFORD >> Spring-Ford’s Nick Teets is becoming quite an all-around football player, as he showed Friday night in a 55-0 Pioneer Athletic Conference win over Upper Perkiomen at Coach McNelly Stadium.

The Ram senior recorded game-high totals of four catches and 115 receiving yards, ran for a touchdown and was part of the defense that held the Indians to just 26 total yards. Andrew Yoon rushed for 70 yards and a score for Spring-Ford (3-0 PAC and overall) and Cameron Goldsmith blocked a punt and recovered it in the end zone for six points and also ran for 42 yards and a TD.

Upper Perk (0-3, 0-3) hurt itself with a fumble and an interception late in the first half that helped the hosts build a 41-0 advantage at the intermission.

“I knew I was going to have to expand my horizons for this team,” said the 5-8,185-pound Teets, who has seen action as a quarterback, running back, receiver and safety so far this season.

“We’ve moved Nick all around,” said Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker.”Tonight, he didn’t play quarterback, but he is a tremendous high school football player.”

Upper Perk tried to control the clock early in the game by taking its time between plays, but the Rams marched 39 yards on five plays in only two minutes on their first possession, with Yoon running into the end zone from 24 yards out.

Teets scored a on 1-yard run to cap a 6-play, 60-yard drive late in the opening quarter and that’s the way the score remained as the Indian defense forced a punt early in the second. But the Rams broke the game open with four touchdowns in a span of six minutes with the help of the Indian miscues.

First, quarterback Ryan Freed (8-for-12, 141 yards, 2 TD’s) hit Nick Cagliola with an 8-yard scoring pass and then the Indian turnovers began. Upper Perk tried to punt from its eight yard line, but Goldsmith blocked it and fell on the loose ball in the end zone.

A lost fumble resulted in a quick 3-play drive for the Rams, with a 1-yard TD run by Harry Adieyefeh making it 34-0. Then Naphtali Stine wrestled the ball away from an Upper Perk receiver for an interception and the Rams took the ball in from 26 yards out, the last one on a pass from Freed to Adieyefeh for the 41-0 lead with 1:19 to go until the intermission.

“We’ve been battling tough the first quarter, quarter and a half,” said UP coach Tom Hontz. “Once the turnovers happened, that started to snowball. I could see it on the guys’ faces that they started to lose it. That team is one of the best teams in the district. They’re tough on defense.”

“Our big thing is just to try to get better every week,” said Brubaker. “That’s so important in this type of environment. You practice, but there’s not that carrot. We had some lulls in the other games, but we were able to execute. It’s important for us to execute on both sides of the ball.”

Goldsmith carried the ball 42 yards on five carries and scored on a 12-yard run on the opening drive of the second half and Ryan Wilson completed the scoring with an 11-yard TD run in the fourth quarter.

Five Rams scored a rushing touchdown as Spring-Ford ran for 220 yards and racked up 19 first downs and 361 total yards on the night while punting just once and not turning the  ball over.

“I definitely think we put a complete game together,” said Teets. “We still had some lulls, but we can’t disagree with the outcome.”

And while Spring-Ford is looking for a high seed in the District 6A playoffs and is currently in the fourth spot, the Indians are relieved to have gotten perennial PAC championship contenders Perkiomen Valley and Spring-Ford – two teams they would not have usually played – out of the way.

“We got through it,”said Hontz, whose squad will be playing five of the PAC’s large-school teams this year since the league’s other small schools did not decide to play football this season until after the schedule had been drawn up. “This is not something we wanted to do. We got stuck with the big school games. It’s a shame. In our division, I think we could have done well. I think we wanted to get out of here healthy, which we did for the most part.” 

Spring-Ford runs away from Boyertown, 49-13​

by  Jeff Stover
October 3, 2020

BOYERTOWN >> Over the years, Spring-Ford has been synonymous with straight-ahead, hard-charging, ground-pounding offense.

As demonstrated Friday when they visited Boyertown, the Rams have a wide assortment of players who can contribute to the maintenance of that persona.

With no less than a dozen of them getting touches — many of them with major production — the Rams rolled Boyertown 49-13 … and it ended up not being even that close.

Spring-Ford (2-0) put the second-half “running clock” into effect by scoring five first-half touchdowns for a 35-0 lead. Four of them were scored by three different players on running plays; the other was a credit to heads-up play on special teams, a blocked punt returned for a touchdown.

“One of the things we try to do is give other teams different looks,” Ram head coach Chad Brubaker said. “We try to diversify our offense, and we have guys with the ability to give the different looks.”

The offense also featured a pair of touchdown tosses over the game’s final eight minutes, one by starting quarterback Ryan Freed and the other by junior Kyle Keckler. But the ground-pounders — nine of them — set an indelible tone for the game.

“That was our goal coming in, to get everyone touches,” Nick Teets, whose short night of one-half’s action featured two rushing touchdowns and more than 100 yards’ total offense, said. “We’ve got a lot of good skills … we’re not one-dimensional. We ran against Perkiomen Valley (Sept. 25) with that identity.”

Boyertown (0-2) cut into the Rams’ big lead by scoring on successive possessions covering a span of little more than seven minutes. It proved a brief respite, however, as Spring-Ford used its air game to get its lead back to the 35 range.

“That’s a very good Spring-Ford team,” Boyertown head coach T.J. Miller noted. “We made stupid mistakes early, and that’s how you get from good to bad.”

 

On a night when the momentum and statistics were solidly in the Rams’ favor, Miller was cheered to a degree by his team’s response to the tough go it faced.

“Our offensive line … when you’re down 35-0, you could just play out the running clock,” he said. “But they kept going. Our defense went the whole game working out of our red zone. We’re young, but we fought.”

Spring-Ford got its roll toward a second-half “running clock” started on its second series, one secured by Napthali Stine’s recovery of a fumble at the Boyertown 7. Harry Adiefeyeh went two yards through his left tackle to score four plays later, with 8:05 left in the quarter.

The Rams expanded their advantage when Andrew Yoon scored from five yards with 7:08 left in the half. Less than five minutes later, Teets upped Spring-Ford’s lead to 21 points with an eight-yard scamper around his right end.

The visitors’ special teams then got in the scoring act. Josh Pergine blocked a Bears’ punt from the Boyertown 20, and Cam Goldsmith took the recovery to the end zone at the 2:11 mark.

Spring-Ford got one more TD in nine seconds before the half, Teets roaring 39 yards through his right tackle.

“On that play, I asked our linemen what they wanted to run,” he said. “They decided on that play.”

 

Boyertown finally got on the scoreboard in the third quarter, scoring on successive possessions. Luke Ordway hauled in a four-yard pass from Noah Segal with 4:13 left in the quarter, and Leo Egbe (14 carries, 62 yards) followed with a seven-yard scoring run at the game’s 9:03 mark.

“Ordway is becoming the deep threat we knew he could be,” Miller said.

And of one four-yard carry where Egbe pushed a pile of teammates and opponents toward the end zone, the coach described it as characteristic of “Boyertown football.”

The Rams were not finished, though. Freed’s TD toss to Joe Brogan, a 50-yard strike with 8:34 to go, was the game’s longest pass completion. And Keckler’s 43-yard pass to Payton West, coming with little more than a minute left, wasn’t far off that mark.

 

NOTES >> Alex Nadeau was 7-for-7 in conversion kicks for Spring-Ford. … Like Teets, Yoon got his night’s work (67 yards on seven carries) done in the first half. … Segal finished as Boyertown’s rushing leader, collecting 67 yards on 14 carries. … The Rams saw one scoring attempt go for naught late in the first quarter, missing a 37-yard field goal try.

Adieyefeh, Spring-Ford run over Perkiomen Valley, 27-13

by Rob Senior

September 25, 2020

ROYERSFORD >> This preseason, Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker was asked about the strengths of his team.

“The secondary, and the defensive tackles are the known quantities,” he responded.

On Friday night, both the knowns and unknowns of the Rams defense showed their strength in an emphatic 27-13 victory over arch rival Perkiomen Valley on the opening night of play of the delayed Pioneer Athletic Conference season.

The defending PAC champions caused four turnovers and held the Vikings to 35 total yards in the first three quarters, while a physical, methodical offense tallied the contest’s first 27 points before a late Vikings rally closed the margin.

 

For the hosts, the win was their second in a row over the Vikings after three consecutive setbacks between 2016-2018.

“I’m exhausted,” said a happy Brubaker after the game. “Week 1 is always a challenge, but it’s just so good to be on the field.

“We didn’t know if we were ever going to play. I’m so appreciative that our administration, our school board fought for our kids, helped us execute a plan so we could get out on the field.”

Brubaker’s defense showed their appreciation, forcing a PV turnover in every quarter and holding the Vikings to 166 total yards — 131 of which came in the final seven minutes.

Donnie Nicoline led the way with two sacks of Vikings quarterback Ethan Kohler and a fumble recovery, while DJ Francis added another takedown. Linebackers Ryan Horvath and Zach Marinello each approached double figures in tackles.

“We’ve got a couple of dudes (Nicoline and Francis) in the middle who are tough to block,” said Brubaker. “We’re really good in the secondary — we didn’t have (safety) Andrew Yoon (shoulder injury) tonight, but Cole Turner stepped up and made a few plays for us in our deep coverage.”

 

Offensively, Harry Adieyefeh was the centerpiece of the attack, carrying 34 times for 180 yards and a TD. The junior back saw time last year as a complement to All-Area performer Armante Haynes, but authoritatively stepped into the lead role on the offense Friday.

“Armante taught me how to run tough,” Adieyefeh acknowledged, “and running behind my guys up front sure helps.”

‘His guys’ were led by Kyle Kennedy, who was joined by fellow returnees Ryan Beppel and Ian Harvie as well as first-time starters John Kaputa and Connor McMahon in paving the way for 219 rushing yards for the Rams.

“Harry makes it easy when he runs hard like that,” said Kennedy.

 

A game that traditionally marks the end of the PAC Liberty slate was moved to Week 1 — just one of many changes to make the 2020 season possible — and the change was to the advantage of the Rams, who returned several starters on both lines as opposed to the very young Vikings, who brought back only four total starters from 2019.

“I’m glad to have a game under our belt — the fact that the game was Spring-Ford probably wasn’t too helpful for us,” allowed Perkiomen Valley head coach Rob Heist.

“But that’s no excuse for the way we executed, and I’m going to take responsibility for that. Spring-Ford has a lot of new players too, but they had a very smart game plan and executed it perfectly.”

Adieyefeh was busy all night, but particularly on the game’s opening drive when he carried eight times for 70 yards, punctuating the journey with a short dive through a big hole on the right side of the line for a 7-0 Rams lead. The physicality at the point of attack set the tone for the Rams’ success on both sides of the ball.

“We knew what we wanted to do on the ground tonight,” added Kennedy. “We knew what worked last year, and we wanted to utilize that again and were able to do so.”

 

SF’s next drive ended inside the PV 5, when the Vikings caused a fumble that appeared to come loose after the runner’s knee was down. PV’s ensuing 97-yard return was brought back for an illegal block, taking a much-needed swing in momentum away from the Vikings, who picked up only one first down before halftime.

Communication issues caused Spring-Ford to burn their final timeout on the second play of the second quarter, but the Rams made it count as senior Nick Teets carried on a 4th-and-2 play untouched for a 29-yard score.

It was all the dominant Rams‘ defense would need. Naphtali Stine’s interception in the final minute of the second quarter set up a 28-yard Alex Nadeau field goal, expanding the Rams’ lead to 17-0 at the break. After halftime, Nicoline’s fumble recovery set up another long run by Adieyefeh to the PV 6, where Teets would take a direct snap and carry off-tackle to make the lead 24-0.

Ryan Freed got the start at quarterback for the Rams and was efficient (6-for-12, 65 yards passing) in executing a run-heavy game plan. He got a considerable assist from Teets, who took direct snaps on several occasions and turned those carries and others into a 41-yard, two-score performance on the ground. (It could’ve been a career night for Teets, who had two other scoring plays called back for penalties, including a 71-yard catch-and-run from Freed that was revoked for an illegal man downfield.)

The Rams forced another turnover early in the fourth quarter, converting it into another Nadeau field goal before the Vikings got their offense going late.

The numbers (6-for-17, 67 yards passing; 46 yards and 2 TDs rushing) don’t tell the whole story of Kohler’s evening. Under constant pressure from a relentless Rams defense, the junior signal caller extended several plays and was the greatest factor in the final outcome not appearing even more lopsided in Spring-Ford’s favor.

Midway through the fourth quarter, Kohler found Jason Posner for a pair of long gains before finishing the drive himself with a one-yard sneak to get the Vikings on the board. On the final drive of the game, Kohler and sophomore Leo Hunsberger each had long first-down carries before Kohler scored from nine yards out to bring the game’s final margin to 27-13.

“We’re going to get better every week,” said Heist. “Ethan’s a keystone of our offense this year. He’s his own worst critic — that’s one of the things I love about him. I thought our line improved throughout the game, and I was pleased with Leo (Hunsberger’s) performance for his first varsity game.”

The night, however, belonged to that Rams’ defense, who even without the services of Yoon showed their ability in spots that were expected to be strengths (defensive tackle, secondary) and answered any questions about their ability to replace last year’s linebacking corps.

“We have work to do on both sides,” said Brubaker. “But it’s always a good win when we can beat PV. We’ve been working long days, and right now I have a feeling of relief.”

Spring-Ford, Perk Valley rivalry kicks off season unlike any other

By Rob Senior

September 24, 2020

Neither team has played a single down since November, but it’s safe to say Spring-Ford and Perkiomen Valley have worked harder to get to this year’s game than any other in the past.

It’s a different type of work, to be sure. For the past couple years, the Rams and Vikings battled through arduous non-conference slates before meeting in the regular season’s final week with the Liberty Division title at stake. So when Pioneer Athletic Conference football schedules were released early in 2020, it was a bit alarming to see the archrivals poised to start the conference season against one another.

Then… everything changed.

“Covid-19 has reminded us what a blessing football is,” said Perkiomen Valley coach Rob Heist. “We’re thankful for the privilege of being out on the field together, working toward a common goal. For us, our team, and our captains, it’s about the resolve and ability to overcome adversity.”

“It’s been so encouraging to see the determination of our players and our parents since July 1st,” added Chad Brubaker, Heist’s Spring-Ford counterpart. “They’ve kept their eye on our first game, although we had no idea when that would be.”

With non-conference play eliminated, the new schedules had Perkiomen Valley as Spring-Ford’s first opponent overall. There’s a reason why rivalry games are typically saved for the end of the season, but in 2020 the coaches wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Rob [Heist] and I agreed we’d rather play this game right out of the chute because we don’t know what the future holds,” Brubaker said in preseason. “We won’t play any scrimmages, we didn’t have spring practice, so certain challenges are new this season.”

 

On the field, competition has been intense for a Vikings team that returns only four combined starters (out of a possible 22 spots on offense and defense from last year’s 7-4 squad. For Perkiomen Valley, perhaps their greatest advantage lies in having junior quarterback Ethan Kohler back for his second year as the starter. Kohler saw extensive playing time as a freshman, leading a comeback victory for the Vikings over Spring-Ford at Coach McNelly Stadium in 2018, before taking the reins full-time last season. In an abbreviated season, matching his 2019 numbers (61 percent completions, 2,249 yards, 21 TDs/6 INTs) isn’t a realistic goal, but taking a step forward as an on-field leader will be the focus.

Offensive tackle Taylor Hartner also returns to his role, but otherwise the PV offense will be composed of first-year starters. Sophomore Rasheem Grayson shined on special teams and in a limited role on offense as a freshman, while Tyler Marshall impressed on both sides of the ball in recent practices and in the Vikings’ inter-squad scrimmage. Perhaps best of all, Heist lauded the improved cohesion of his offensive and defensive lines going into the game that has become an annual highlight on the local high school sports calendar.

“It’s Spring-Ford,” Heist said succinctly. “We know they’re always well-coached, well-prepared, and this year they have a stable of backs with strong offensive linemen returning. They always have a terrific defensive game plan for us.”

The Rams may not be replacing as many starters as the Vikings, but they lose a half-dozen first team All-Area performers, not the least of which is 2019 Mercury Player of the Year quarterback Ryan Engro. Ryan Freed, a junior, will get the first crack at stepping in behind center, and he’ll have no shortage of playmakers to choose from in the offensive skill positions. Junior Harry Adieyefeh figures to split carries with senior two-way standout Andrew Yoon, and they’ll be following an offensive line powered by seniors Kyle Kennedy and Ryan Beppel.

Brubaker expressed particular excitement about having Yoon back at 100 percent after injuries curtailed his sophomore and junior years.

“He’s going to have a tremendous season,” the coach predicted.

Nicholas Teets, another two-way performer (WR/SS), is the Rams’ leading returning receiver, and will be joined on the outside by a rotating cast of skill players hoping to fill the shoes of All-Area WR Dante Bonanni, plus Blaize Scarcelle, Zach High, and BJ Beard, all of whom graduated from last year’s championship squad. Senior tight end Josh Hellauer hopes to add another dimension to the Rams’ passing game.

Normally, the Spring-Ford/Perkiomen Valley game is the culmination of a season’s worth of ups and downs, wins and losses – the defining moment of a long campaign. But by the time the two sides kick off in Royersford Friday night they will have overcome enough ups and downs to last us a decade. Perhaps leading off the season with the rivalry showdown is appropriate for 2020.

“The biggest challenge is no spring practice, no team camp, and limited reps in the preseason,” Brubaker said. “And PV is in the same situation. It feels like the X’s and O’s of football are so far down the list, because we have to plan differently with all the precautions and restrictions we’re implementing.”

Coverage/Streaming Capabilities: Spring-Ford will stream Friday night’s contest – and future home games – via YouTube at www.youtube.com/ramcountrytv

Souderton staves off Spring-Ford’s furious rally in District 1-6A semifinal

by Rob Senior
November 6, 2020

 

ROYERSFORD >> For the first 40 minutes, Souderton’s defense dominated their District 1 Class 6A semifinal against Spring-Ford.

The offense took it the rest of the way.

Quarterback Evan Kutzler led a nine-play, 62-yard drive highlighted by a 22-yard completion to Sean McGoldrick on a critical third down to seal Souderton’s 27-24 victory over the Rams and book a trip to the District 1 championship game next week at Pennridge.

Kutzler finished the drive with a three-yard touchdown run, putting the Indians ahead 27-17 with 3:21 to play. After Spring-Ford’s Gage Swanger returned the ensuing kickoff 91 yards for a score to bring the Rams within three, Souderton used its punishing running game, aided by a critical Spring-Ford penalty, to run out the clock and move onto next week.

“It was really our only good drive of the second half,” Souderton head coach Ed Gallagher said after the victory. “Fortunately, it happened at the right time.”

For most of the night, it didn’t appear the Indians would need any such heroics.

Souderton built a 20-0 halftime lead and staved off a six-minute Spring-Ford drive to start the second half when a fourth-down pass fell incomplete from the Indians’ four-yard line. But towards the end of the third quarter, Spring-Ford’s Zach Zollers finally got home and blocked a Souderton punt after a couple near-misses earlier in the game. 

The Indians’ defense was further buoyed by forcing a 32-yard Alex Nadeau field goal, limiting Spring-Ford to three points on a drive that began at Souderton’s 15-yard line. But the fun was just beginning.
 

Souderton’s ensuing drive ended emphatically when Spring-Ford’s Nasir Cooke broke through for his second sack of the evening, forcing the ball from Kutzler’s grip and into the end zone, where Josh Hellauer corralled it to cut the Indians’ lead to 20-10. An Indians’ three-and-out followed, and Rams quarterback Ryan Freed found Zollers open down the middle for a 45-yard touchdown after a great play-action fake to bring Spring-Ford within a field goal with 7:21 to play.

 

“At halftime, I told them we couldn’t play any worse [offensively] than we had in the first half,” said Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker. “Once we got some momentum, we really got things rolling and just ran out of time. The throw [Kutzler ] made on third down on their final scoring drive was obviously a killer.”

 

Souderton quarterback Evan Kutzler rolls out to pass against Spring-Ford. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

Truthfully, it had been a quiet night to that point for Kutzler and the Souderton offense, with the exception of punishing fullback Brayden Porter (18 carries, 130 yards, two TDs). The third-down pass to McGoldrick was only Kutzler’s fourth of the evening as Spring-Ford was able to limit Souderton to 234 yards of total offense.

The key to building the early lead was the excellent field position the Indians enjoyed thanks to their special teams and defense. Most of those advantageous starts were thanks to sophomore Shaun Purvy, who submitted punt returns of 30 and 38 yards in the first half, setting up both of Porter’s early TDs.

The first long punt return set up Souderton’s second drive at the Spring-Ford 39, where Porter wasted no time carrying off left tackle for a 39-yard score and a 7-0 lead. 

The highlight of Souderton’s defensive effort came with only 17 seconds to play in the quarter when Elijah Cooks — playing with a cast on his arm — picked off a tipped pass and went 50 yards for a score toward the end of the first quarter to expand Souderton’s early lead to 14-0.

Two possessions later, Spring-Ford kicked to Purvy again, and the sophomore made the Rams pay, shooting up the middle on another punt for 38 yards to set up the Indians at the Rams’ 30. This time it took Porter two plays to power 27 yards through the middle to pay dirt, expanding the lead to 20-0. 

 

Purvy also thwarted SF’s best scoring chance of the opening half, picking off Ryan Freed at the Souderton 10-yard line after Kolten Kqira’s kickoff return set up Spring-Ford at the Indians’ 32.

Souderton’s coaches are clearly excited about the present and future when it comes to Purvy, who does a little bit of everything for the 6-0 Indians.

“The more I’m on the field, the more I can do – whatever’s best for our team,” Purvy said.

“I think we’re capable of anything. If we can come in here and get a win, we can do it again next week.”

Harry Adieyefeh ground out 61 yards rushing for Spring-Ford, who took a while to gain any traction on offense. 

“Our defensive coordinator, Mike Heath, put together a tremendous game plan,” said Gallagher. “Spring-Ford likes to spread you out and run between the tackles. We tried to pack the box and force them to throw the ball to beat us.”

And when the Rams figured it out, there just wasn’t enough time to complete the comeback. Ryan Freed finished with 95 yards passing and a touchdown but was intercepted twice by the Indians. Spring-Ford’s second straight PAC championship season came to an end at a mark of 6-1.

“We’re excited about this team and all the obstacles they’ve overcome,” said Brubaker. “Since July 1 all the way up until today, these guys have gone as hard as they possibly could despite not knowing whether we were going to play.

“This has been a great senior class to work with – we’ve had to do so many extra things just to take the field each week. Psychologically, it’s been constant, and a little exhausting for all of us. But all along, I kept saying I can’t wait until we get to 7 o’clock Friday night so this group can take the field again.”  

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