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2023 News


NOVEMBER 21, 2023




Matt Zollers - QB

Jamal Lewis - RB

Belal Abdelrahman - WR

Mason Scott - WR

Luke Ellor - OL

Owen Norman - OL

Liam McGarvey - K




Evan Strzeminski - DT

Owen Norman - DE

Mike Bendowski - LB

Shane Lewis - DB




Jordan Marsilio - WR

AJ Moyer - OL




Bryce Roberts - DT
Gyasi Romu - DE

Nick Garzarella - OLB
Zach Stead - DB

Matt Zollers - P

PAC’s 6A standouts Spring-Ford, Perkiomen Valley still searching for breakthrough

Rams, Vikings, Phantoms undeterred by playoff losses


PUBLISHED: November 14, 2023 at 3:04 p.m. | UPDATED: November 14, 2023 at 7:21 p.m.


Following Friday night’s loss to Central Bucks South, Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubaker put his team’s 9-3 season in perspective.

“Guys are hurting in (our locker room),” said Brubaker. “But there are a lot of teams that don’t get to play in games like tonight.”

For the third time in four years, Spring-Ford advanced as far as the District 1-6A quarterfinals (with a semifinal appearance in 2020).

Over at Perkiomen Valley, coach Rob Heist and the Vikings are on a similar run of three consecutive quarterfinal berths, their own semifinal trip coming last season.

There’s a fine line between appreciation and contentment, and both Brubaker and Heist toe that line – pride in the consistency of the programs they’ve built, admiration for the dedication and drive of their athletes, yet continuing to strive for deeper playoff runs and ultimately, a District title.

Records of District 1 football champions dating back to 1992 show only 11 different schools have captured a title in the big-school classification (4A until 2015, 6A from 2016 on). Spring-Ford and Perkiomen Valley are still trying to break into that club.

“It’s very hard,” said Brubaker. ‘The playoffs come down to matchups, and we schedule tough nonleague games so we can see that playoff style in advance.

“But in those games, there are things we can control. Our Achilles’ heel has been trying to stop the run – we struggled to do it. We need to be better offensively in those games too.”

Brubaker talked about the numbers game – getting more kids into the weight room year-round, for one, an area where he feels the program has improved.

Perkiomen Valley lost to No. 2 seed Downingtown East, concluding a 9-3 campaign of their own that featured losses to both Downingtown schools and archrivals Spring-Ford.

But the Vikings claimed signature victories over District 1-5A top seed Chester and defending Delaware state champions Smyrna.

“One of our goals as a program is to win District 1,” said Heist. “That’s the ultimate goal.

“I think we’ve carved out a place in District 1 where we’re a perennial threat to do that. I think we’re right there. We need to stay the course, staying process-oriented and trusting in our culture and our team.”

Both coaches offered their appreciation for their respective senior classes. The 24 seniors on Perkiomen Valley’s squad persevered through an unfortunate spate of season-ending or otherwise long-term injuries to their classmates. At various points, the Vikings lost three starting members of their backfield in running backs Jake Stewart and Anthony Miceli, plus quarterback Patrick MacDonald. Offensive linemen Francisco Soto and Cole Euker also battled back from various injuries.

“Our leaders – Robbie Sturges, Sam Koehler, Drew Kenworthy, and Kyle Gallagher – committed fully to their roles on our team,” said Heist. “During my tenure, we’ve been fortunate with injuries, but this year we seemed a little snakebit.

“It was one of those seasons. But that’s football, and we believe in next man up. It gave a lot of kids new opportunities, and those kids are tough as nails.”

Spring-Ford had a smaller-than-usual senior class with only 15 players, but they included outstanding performers on both sides of the ball – standouts the Rams need to replace.

“We started eight underclassmen on defense by the end of the year,” said Brubaker. “This year’s seniors did a great job of leading those underclassmen, and we’ll have a lot of experience coming back next season.”

Including this year, District 1 has awarded 32 big-school championships. North Penn, CB West, and Coatesville account for exactly half of those titles with CB West still in the mix for another title this season.

As Brubaker said, success breeds success. Teams tend to go on sustained runs of championships – Garnet Valley claimed the past two District 1 titles, with Coatesville going back-to-back in 2017 and 2018. North Penn won three out of four titles from 2008-2011 and three more from 2002-2005.

In the early days of district titles, CB West reeled off four in a row from 1997-2000.

But it’s not as easy as getting 1-2 generational players and collecting trophies for the duration of their careers. Each of the schools listed has won at least one more championship outside of that aforementioned run.

“You get on one of those runs, and kids are buying in,” said Brubaker. “Kids want to be part of winning, they know they’re going to be successful.”

Central Bucks South runs away from Spring-Ford, 35-19

Titans run for 350 yards, go 9-for-11 on third down


PUBLISHED: November 10, 2023 at 10:44 p.m. | UPDATED: November 11, 2023 at 12:41 a.m.

ROYERSFORD >> Even if you know what’s coming, you don’t know who’s bringing it.

Central Bucks South doesn’t want to catch you by surprise. They don’t have many wrinkles in their offense. The Titans simply want to…

“Run the ball down people’s mouths,” said running back Corey Moore, who carried for three touchdowns in No. 5 CB South’s 35-19 win over No. 4 Spring-Ford in Friday night’s District 1-6A quarterfinal at Coach McNelly Stadium. “They know what’s coming, but they can’t do anything to stop it.”

Execution was the name of the game for the Titans on Friday, who ran the ball 58 times for exactly 350 yards. In all, the Titans had six possessions – four touchdowns, an interception at the end of the first half, and running out the clock to end the contest.

Anthony Leonardi and Moore had 22 carries a piece, with Leonardi outgaining Moore 146-121 but Moore finishing three drives with one-yard scoring runs. Quarterback Owen Pinkerton was no slouch himself, carrying 14 times for 83 yards and a touchdown.

“It’s the whole team – guys on this offensive line, running backs, our quarterback – every player on this team has that edge to them,” said offensive tackle Collin Goetter. “That’s what makes the run game work.”

As if they needed it, the Titans had some good fortune to open the game when Spring-Ford’s attempt at a cross-field lateral went awry, with Jack Mauz corralling the ball at the four-yard line and carrying in it for a 7-0 CB South lead just nine seconds into the contest.

Aside from the dominant running game, the CB South defense was able to limit the explosive Spring-Ford passing game to 129 yards. All-Area quarterback Matt Zollers was harassed throughout the game as the Titans clearly focused on containing Zollers and PAC-leading receiver Mason Scott.

Sebastian Pacchione had safety help on many snaps, but Scott had only two catches for 60 yards. The Titans’ game plan was clear when Spring-Ford set up a double pass to free Scott down the seam – but no fewer than four CB South defenders followed the two-sport star.

“We game planned for him. We knew he was a great player going into the game,” said linebacker Jim Wade, who had two tackles for loss and a forced fumble.

“We knew our players could do it.”

Wade has played with a cast on one hand since week five and had surgery on the other hand for an additional injury. He hasn’t missed any time.

“We gotta fight,” he said. “We’re not ready to give up.”

After the opening kickoff mishap, Spring-Ford moved the ball early using an effective read game between quarterback Zollers and running back Jamal Lewis to move the ball quickly into the CB South red zone.

But the Titans stiffened on first and goal, creating consecutive tackles for loss and an incompletion as the Rams settled for a 25-yard Liam McGarvey field goal.

The teams exchanged long, ground-based drives that ate up most of the first half.

CB South went first with a 14-play, 73-yard drive that ate up five minutes and ended with a Moore 1-yard TD run seconds before the first quarter ended.

Spring-Ford responded with an identically long drive, mixing the running game with a clutch pass from Zollers to Belal Abdelrahman on third and 17 to move into the red zone.

The Titans nearly turned SF away once more, but Zollers wouldn’t be denied on his second sneak attempt, bringing the Rams back within four by the break.

The second half was all CB South, however, as the Titans embarked on three almost identical scoring drives of 61, 60, and 63 yards, two of them ending with short, one-yard plunges by Moore and the other culminating in a 29-yard Pinkerton keeper after Goetter opened up the edge.

Central Bucks South quarterback Owen Pinkerton runs on a keeper against Spring-Ford during a District 1 Class 6A quarterfinal on Nov. 10 at Spring-Ford. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

“I think we all trust our line to make holes for us,” said Moore. “It’s our job to find those holes.

“It’s pretty satisfying when you can run the ball like that.”

CB South (11-1) moves to next week’s District 1-6A semifinal, where they’ll visit their rivals from Central Bucks West, winners over Garnet Valley in another quarterfinal Friday.

CB West handed the Titans their lone loss, 40-29, four weeks ago.

“We get our rematch now,” said Moore. “Hopefully we come out and do what we did (tonight).”

For Spring-Ford, the 2023 season comes to an end at a mark of 9-3. The Rams regained control of the PAC’s Liberty Division in a season highlighted by record-setting offensive performances from junior QB Zollers and WR Mason Scott, each of whom set numerous single-season and career school records.

The duo was held largely in check Friday night, but provided a few more highlights to their sterling seasons, as Zollers launched a picture-perfect bomb to Scott for a 54-yard gain in the fourth quarter. Three plays later, the junior quarterback found Belal Abdelrahman for a 15-yard score – his 37th touchdown pass of the season.

Jamal Lewis led Spring-Ford with 74 yards rushing, while McGarvey was 2-for-2 on field goals of 25 and 35 yards respectively.

In the end, the Rams just couldn’t get off the field against a CB South offense that converted nine of 11 third downs and picked up the conversion on fourth down on the other two occasions.

“We just didn’t get that third stop,” said Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker. “We were able to get them in some second and long, even third and long, and we just couldn’t finish.

“Give CB South credit. They come off the ball, they go downhill. So many times, I thought we had them and they churn out three, four yards.”

Zollers returns for one more year in the fall, but for Scott and 14 other Spring-Ford players, Friday was their final game in the Spring-Ford uniform.

“They’re kids of character,” Brubaker said. “They want to be coached, coached hard, they come from quality families. They’ve done everything we’ve asked, and a lot of things we didn’t ask.”

It’s the third time in four years that Spring-Ford’s advanced to at least the quarterfinal round of District 1-6A. In this, Brubaker’s 14th season at the helm, the coach addressed the topic of being a team that’s consistently in the conversation for the District title but hasn’t reached that pinnacle yet.

“Those guys are hurting in there,” he said. “But there are a lot of teams that don’t get to play in games like tonight.”

For CB South, that same journey continues next week against their neighbors from CB West – a team that knows the Titans better than anyone.

But as Friday night showed, knowing the Titans doesn’t mean stopping them.

Spring-Ford survives scare from North Penn, 42-35, in District 1-6A playoffs


PUBLISHED: November 4, 2023 at 12:43 a.m. | UPDATED: November 4, 2023 at 12:44 a.m.


ROYERSFORD >> Spring-Ford made an assortment of mistakes on Friday night that might often have proven to be fatal in playoff football. But the Rams – who squandered a 21-point lead in the first half and fell behind twice in the second – repeatedly bounced back behind the potent passing combination of quarterback Matt Zollers and wide receiver Mason Scott.

Those two teamed up on a 33-yard play to the North Penn one-yard line with less than a minute to go in the District 1-6A opening round contest at Coach McNelly Stadium and Mike Bendowski burst into the end zone from inches away with 36 seconds left to give Spring-Ford a 42-35 win.

The No. 4 seed Rams (9-2) will host No. 5 Central Bucks South, a 21-20 winner over Coatesville, in a quarterfinal on Friday.

Scott pulled in seven passes for 204 yards – including scoring plays of 54, 18 and 72 yards – as part of a 14-for-21, 261-yard passing night by Zollers.

North Penn senior running back Amir Major ran for 181 yards and four scores and caught a 28-yard pass for the other TD for the No. 13 Knights (6-5).

Spring-Ford led 7-0 just 11 seconds into the contest when Zollers threw deep down the middle for 54 yards to Scott for a touchdown. A 41-yard drive late in the opening quarter, finished up by a one-yard plunge by Evan Strzeminski, made it 14-0 and Scott caught an 18-yard TD pass less than three minutes into the second quarter for a 21-0 advantage.

But the Knights quickly got back into the game with the help of a Spring-Ford penalty that brought back a 60-yard-plus punt, a pair of unsportsmanlike penalties following Ram touchdowns that gave the visitors good field position after that kickoffs and a lost fumble on a kickoff return that set up a short North Penn TD drive.

“It was just a stretch of a bunch of things that went wrong for us,” said Zollers. “It happens in football. But we came back.”

“I’m upset about the unsportsmanlike penalties,” said Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker. “You can celebrate touchdowns without doing things like that. That was just silly. Those are things you can control.”

Those errors led to a 47-yard Knight drive, with Major running 43 yards for the score and a 53-yard march, topped off by the 28-yard toss to Major from quarterback Matt Bucksar. The Spring-Ford fumble on the ensuing kickoff gave the Knights the ball at the Ram 24 and Major scored from one yard out with 19 seconds left in the half for a 21-21 tie at the intermission.

“There was definitely some second-guessing going on,” said Scott. “But I knew that my team was tough.”

Then North Penn drove 75 yards on 12 plays over 6:56 to start the second half and took a 28-21 lead on a one yard run by Major. The Knights were on the move again on their next possession to the Ram 31, but Spring-Ford’s Bryce Roberts dropped Bucksar for a four yard loss on a 3rd-and-6 play and North Penn missed a 52-yard field goal attempt.

Two plays later, Zollers threw deep again to a wide-open Scott, this time for 72 yards to tie the score at 28-28. with 10:54 left in the game.

“I think my defenders might under-estimate me,” said Scott. “I think I put my defenders on edge by getting up on their toes and giving them quick moves. And I’ve got that amazing quarterback.”

The Knights regained the lead with an 11-play, 57-yard drive with Major scoring from the seven. But a 90-yard kickoff return by Scott set up a 9-yard TD pass to Belal Abdelrahman to tie the score again with 4:41 left. Then the Ram defense forced a punt and the offense drove 73 yards in less than three minutes to pull out the win.

“I went up to each and every one of the seniors and said that this was not going to be our last game,” said junior quarterback Zollers. “And I told the defense to get one stop, and they did. Our running offense could have been a little better today. We have to fix the little things, the stupid penalties.”

“They showed resilience,” Brubaker said of his players. “We did a lot of dumb things to set them (the Knights) up for success in the second quarter. We gave them good field position.”

North Penn had a 383-334 advantage in total yards. Jamal Lewis was the leading rusher for the Rams with 48 yards on 10 carries. Bucksar rushed for 62 yards on 12 attempts and Major ran the ball 33 times on the night and gained 105 yards in the second half.

“He’s tough,” North Penn coach Dick Beck said of Major. “This was the best night in his career. There’s not enough superlatives I can say about him.

“It was disappointing giving up the big play so much. That hurt us. No. 3 (Scott) is a tough cover. I’m proud of our guys, how hard they played, coming back from 21 down. Disappointed, but proud of their effort.”

This was only the second meeting between the teams, the other coming in the district second round in 2016 – the first year with a 6A classification – with North Penn winning 28-19 on the way to one of its six district titles.

North Penn did not have an easy road to district play this season after a slow start.

“We lost to CB South and we were 2-4,” said Beck. “We had two kids break their ankles and our quarterback had a concussion. What we did the last four games to make the playoffs and how hard we played in this game, it was inspiring for me.”

Pope John Paul II wins first PAC title, toppling Spring-Ford 28-27 in instant classic

Senior Boyd Skarbek runs for four touchdowns and 217 yards in historic victory


PUBLISHED: October 28, 2023 at 12:14 a.m. | UPDATED: October 28, 2023 at 11:56 a.m.

ROYERSFORD >> Throughout the 2023 season, Pope John Paul II maintained the same rallying cry.

No matter the score, the statistics, the Golden Panthers’ mantra remained identical.

“We haven’t won anything yet.”

The ‘unfinished business’ approach served PJP well in getting off to a 9-0 start for the second straight year. But it’s time to find a new slogan.

PJP withstood an attempted go-ahead two-point conversion with 26 seconds remaining and rode a career night from senior running back/linebacker Boyd Skarbek to their first Pioneer Athletic Conference football championship, 28-27 over Spring-Ford in an instant classic at Coach McNelly Stadium.

Not only is it Pope John Paul II’s first title in the school’s 14-year history, but it’s also the first for any Frontier Division school since the league went to the two-division system in 2016, and the first for any non-6A school in a decade (Pottsgrove, 2013).

Skarbek was a one-man wrecking crew. The senior carried 27 times for 217 yards and all four PJP touchdowns while adding four tackles for loss on defense including two quarterback sacks.

“That was the game plan,” said Skarbek. “We knew we could do it; we came in here to run the ball and we executed well.”

The Golden Panthers were able to control possession for most of the second half, yet Spring-Ford’s big-play ability allowed the Rams to answer every time.


Pope John Paul II’s Boyd Skarbek takes a carry against Spring-Ford during the PAC championship game on Oct. 27 at Spring-Ford. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

Pope John Paul II’s TJ Boccella (7) and Makel Parker (54) sack Spring-Ford quarterback Matt Zollers during the PAC championship game on Oct. 27 at Spring-Ford. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

Skarbek’s fourth touchdown and final carry of the night looked identical to his third – a 48-yard jaunt down the PJP sideline, with his teammates and student section cheering him on along the way.

But Spring-Ford was undeterred, responding with a first-down run and two quick passes from quarterback Matt Zollers (12-for-27, 229 yards, 3 TDs) and moving into the red zone following back-to-back pass interference penalties.

After two incompletions, Zollers found senior wideout Belal Abdelrahman over the middle for an 11-yard scoring strike, bringing the Rams within a single point.

The Rams opted to go for two and the win, but Zollers was hurried by PJP two-way lineman Kevin Heywood. He got the pass away towards a host of players in the back of the end zone, but it fell harmlessly to the turf as the PJP celebration began.

“To go into the gym at our school and see that title banner, knowing that our team won that – it just means so much,” said Skarbek.

“We can pass it, we can run – the run was there tonight. That’s a great credit to our offensive line.”

While crediting his linemen Chase Frantz, Kevin Heywood, Ignacio Escobar, Aidan Sgarra and Makel Parker, Skarbek was too modest to save some of the credit for himself, as his head coach Scott Reed predicted.

“Boyd will be the first one to tell you – we believe in that offensive line,” said Reed, who celebrated his 100th career victory on Friday night.

Pope John Paul II’s TJ Boccella tackles Spring-Ford’s Jamal Lewis on a carry in the first quarter of the PAC championship game on Oct. 27 at Spring-Ford. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

“There was no question we had to shorten this game. And that offensive line, they asked to run the ball. They wanted to attack. So we took our time, we ran the ball, threw when we had to. We were probably more conservative than we’ve ever been.”

Reed had good reason for that strategy – the Spring-Ford duo of Zollers and receiver Mason Scott. Scott in particular played a game of “can you top this?” with PJP’s Skarbek for the first three-and-a-half quarters.

Ben Bosio’s booming 58-yard punt flipped a quarter-plus battle for field position in the Golden Panthers’ favor. After a Spring-Ford three-and-out coupled with Braden Reed’s punt return set up the Golden Panthers at the SF 35, five plays later Skarbek powered through right tackle for a 4-yard score, breaking the scoreless tie with 3:21 to half.

It wouldn’t take Spring-Ford long to respond.

Thirteen seconds, to be exact, as Scott scooped a squib kick inside his own 10-yard line and exploded down the left sideline, staying in bounds through a tackle attempt at midfield and sprinting into the end zone for a 94-yard touchdown.

After a full half spent battling for field position, Scott’s big play erased the visitors’ advantage.

Spring-Ford’s Blake Turner (16) celebrates after intercepting a pass against Pope John Paul II during the PAC championship game on Oct. 27 at Spring-Ford. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

PJP came out of the locker room and took the ball down the field on the strength of five consecutive Skarbek runs, the last coming from 11 yards out to put the Golden Panthers ahead 14-7.

But Zollers found Tyler Moyer for a critical first down to open the fourth quarter, and two plays later he found Scott behind the defense for a 73-yard connection to even the contest at 14.

Visiting PJP began to respond with a methodical, clock-killing drive that suddenly accelerated when Skarbek broke out of a pile around midfield and sprinted down the sideline for his third score, putting the Golden Panthers back in front, 21-14 with 5:53 to play.

Spring-Ford jumped right back on the seesaw, however, with a highlight-reel grab from senior wideout Jordan Marsilio to put the ball in PJP territory. Following a drive-extending penalty, Zollers found Scott from 11 yards away, tying the score for a third time and setting the stage for the thrilling finish.

The back-and-forth, big-play scores overshadowed a number of outstanding individual efforts on both sides.

For Spring-Ford, cornerbacks Bryce Turner and Shane Lewis stood out, forcing PJP’s explosive passing game to move away from attacking vertically. Turner had an interception before halftime, while a banged-up Lewis battled to hold explosive Braden Reed to four catches on the evening.

Reed, however, made a further impression by returning two kickoffs out to midfield. PJP punter Bosio was 4-for-4 on extra points and averaged 46 yards on three punts, twice pinning Spring-Ford inside the 10-yard line.

Finally, two-way lineman Heywood played his final high school game (playing his first year for PJP, he is not eligible for district or state play).

“I came to (PJP) and I knew these guys were dogs,” Heywood said. “I’ve really enjoyed coming out here, balling out with them every week.

“I couldn’t imagine a better way to go out.”

Spring-Ford (8-2) will begin the District 1-6A playoffs at home next week against an opponent to be determined.

“We didn’t get some stops we needed in the second half,” said Brubaker. “Hats off to PJP – they played great defense, brought pressure from all over the place, and their secondary was holding up. We made some big plays, but we missed other opportunities because of that pressure.

“Scott Reed does an excellent job. They played their rear ends off. They stopped us a few times and made plays.”

For Pope John Paul II (10-0), who had the top seed in District 1-4A sewn up weeks ago, it was finally time to celebrate. Last year’s PAC title game brought heartbreak – a one-score loss to Perkiomen Valley, Reed’s former team – that if not erased, was more than balanced by Friday’s triumph.

“How do we top it? We don’t,” said Reed.

For a moment, he seemed ready to let out a year’s worth of frustration, disappointment, and heartbreak.

But just as quickly, he developed a new mantra in place of the now outdated slogan.

“It’s onto the next one,” he said. “I’ll enjoy it tonight, and we’ll celebrate it someday. I want to roll with these guys as long as we can.”

Week 10 Football Preview: Pope John Paul II, Spring-Ford meet for PAC Championship

PAC’s best offenses meet, but defenses could tell the story

 (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)


PUBLISHED: October 26, 2023 at 1:39 p.m. | UPDATED: October 26, 2023 at 1:40 p.m.

The Pope John Paul II Golden Panthers have passed every test with flying colors in 2023, but last week’s Frontier Division showdown with Phoenixville saw PJP in a new position.

For the first time all year, the Golden Panthers trailed by multiple scores, falling behind Phoenixville 14-0 in the first quarter.

But PJP came back quickly and authoritatively, scoring the next 23 points and ultimately cruising to a 37-21 victory.

Now 9-0 PJP (5-0 PAC) heads across town to Coach McNelly Stadium for a PAC championship showdown with 8-1 Spring-Ford (5-0 PAC), a fitting title match between the two teams that rose above their competitors all season.

The profiles are similar – explosive offenses coupled with equally impressive defensive units.

“(PJP) is a confident, well-coached team,” said Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker. “In a championship game, the key is to play well in all phases.”

Last week’s comeback proved manageable for a PJP offense that has not stopped pushing the pace all season. Up, down, or even, the Golden Panthers’ diverse attack continues moving forward, paced by the consistency of the area’s leading rusher Boyd Skarbek (1,327 rushing yards, 21 total TDs).

“Everyone knows about his play at running back, but Boyd’s also making a major impact on our defense,” said coach Scott Reed.

But focus too hard on Skarbek, and the precision PJP passing game led by quarterback Luke Terlesky (71 percent completions, 1,610 yards, 19 TD/5 INT) will make you pay. Over half those yards and scores come via connections with junior Braden Reed (40 receptions, 839 yards, 12 TDs) while Brent Mitala averages more than 16 yards a catch over his 25 receptions.

“Brent’s been a rock on our team,” said Reed. “He plays just about all 48 minutes of the game. Over and over again he continues to make plays on offense, defense, and special teams. He is an unbelievable leader and a young man that improves the overall football program with his presence.”

Everything runs behind the PJP offensive line, led by senior Kevin Heywood, a Wisconsin commit who figures to play his final high school game this weekend due to transfer rules regarding postseason eligibility. Reed lauded Heywood’s all-around improvement over the season.

“He’s a force on offense, but defense is where he has made his biggest strides,” the coach said. “He had to learn the noseguard position and every single week he has just gotten better and better.”

Heywood’s become part of a defense that’s allowing only nine points per game this season. TJ Boccella and Mike McNally are tied for the team lead in tackles, with Boccella atop the PAC in sacks (7.5). The Golden Panthers cause two turnovers per game on average, which is an area to watch against a Spring-Ford squad that’s been excellent for the balance of the season in avoiding giveaways.

Reed, Mitala, Skarbek, and Denny Owens are among the players who contribute on both sides of the ball for PJP.

The offenses are just about equal in points per game. PJP’s advantage in points allowed per game (9.0 to Spring-Ford’s 17.2) is mitigated by two key factors: the Rams allowed almost half those points in one outing against Manheim Township, one of the state’s best offenses, and more importantly, Spring-Ford’s been a brick wall since that Week 4 setback, their lone defeat of the season.

“That game exposed the things we needed to correct,” said Brubaker, “and the kids responded. We feel a lot better about it. Those players have nine games under their belts, and they’re no longer wet behind the ears.”

The Rams are allowing 5.8 points per contest in PAC play, and even that number is slightly misleading when considering the juncture of the game in which some of those points were scored. Bryce Roberts’ emergence (15 tackles, 7 tackles for loss, six QB sacks in the past three games) on the defensive line gives Spring-Ford another game-changing presence up front, joining seniors Owen Norman (six sacks) and team-leading tackler Evan Strzeminski (36 stops).

Senior Mike Bendowski leads the linebacker level with juniors Nick Garzarella and Brady Welsh, while juniors Shane Lewis and Anthony Earley will be tasked with limiting the PJP passing game.

When Spring-Ford has the ball, they’ll turn to the area’s leading passer in junior Matt Zollers, whose 2,309 yards and 29 passing touchdowns have him in range of single-season school records that could be established Friday night.

PJP coach Reed was equally wary of Zollers’ running ability, which has taken somewhat of a back seat in recent week but remains a threat to the tune of 324 yards on 41 carries and a half-dozen additional scores.

In the passing game, Zollers has a pair of prolific wideouts in seniors Mason Scott (38 catches, 867 yards, 11 TDs) and Belal Abdelrahman (40 catches, 624 yards, six TDs). Scott is set to become Spring-Ford’s leading single-season receiver in school history, while Abdelrahman needs 42 yards to reach 1,000 for his career.

If that’s not enough to worry about, junior Jordan Marsilio is a reliable chain-mover and big-play threat when needed (19 catches, 284 yards, two TDs), while tight end Ryan Kerchner emerged with a pair of TD catches last week, giving him six this year among his 18 grabs.

Balance is achieved through a running game where Jamal Lewis (93 carries, 557 yards, four TDs) seems to save his best for the biggest games, such as a 134-yard outing against Perkiomen Valley in Week 7. Bendowski (10 TDs on just 34 carries) and Zollers mix in as additional threats behind an offensive line led by seniors Norman and Luke Ellor.

With offensive profiles like these, it’s tempting to overlook special teams, but the kicking units make that an impossibility. True, punting isn’t a frequent concern, but the jobs are ably manned by Zollers for Spring-Ford and PJP’s Ben Bosio, who’s received credit throughout the year from Reed for his booming kickoffs that force offenses to travel 80 yards for their rare scoring drives against the Golden Panthers.

Meanwhile, Spring-Ford splits kicking duties between Liam McGarvey and Ryan Fields. Brubaker has stressed the need for continued improvement within the special teams unit, with an eye towards big games like this one where PJP has a threat like Braden Reed, averaging over 20 yards per opportunity on just eight punt returns.

“Throughout the year, we try to give guys opportunities (on special teams),” said Brubaker. “Sometimes, they’re guys who aren’t seeing as much time on offense and defense.

“But we shored some things up on Friday night, so now some of those roles are being filled by starters.”

Regardless of Friday’s outcome, both teams figure to embark on potentially fruitful postseason runs, with PJP running away with the top spot in District 1-4A and Spring-Ford currently sitting in third place in District 1-6A.

So for both teams, Friday represents the first – but hardly the only — opportunity to bring home some hardware as validation of their dominant season-long journeys.

For the Rams, it’s an opportunity to claim their first PAC title since 2020 on their home field and kickstart a postseason run that’s been a year in the making. Spring-Ford was playing some of the best football in the District last year when their season ended in overtime at the hands of eventual District 1 champs Garnet Valley in the District 1-6A quarterfinals.

PJP experienced twice the championship heartbreak – a seven-point setback against Perkiomen Valley in this same game, and a deflating loss against Interboro in the District 1-4A title game. Since the preseason the Golden Panthers have echoed the sentiment that as great as last season could have been, in the end they had no titles to show.

A win on Friday would make school history with PJP’s first PAC football title.

Spring-Ford secures spot atop Liberty Division with 30-6 triumph over Methacton

By AUSTIN HERTZOG | | The Pottstown Mercury

PUBLISHED: October 14, 2023 at 1:05 a.m. | UPDATED: October 14, 2023 at 3:05 a.m.


FAIRVIEW VILLAGE >> They still see room for improvement.

Even as members of a team that’s a dominant force in both the Pioneer Athletic Conference and southeastern Pennsylvania … a team poised to make another prolonged and productive run in the upcoming post-season.

And a team capable of putting together a one-sided outing like Friday’s at Methacton. Spring-Ford combined potent offense and shutdown defense in its 30-6 triumph over the Warriors. The outcome brought the Rams one step closer to sweeping the field in the Liberty Division, qualifying for yet another circuit championship game and firming its standing as a top club in the PIAA District One’s Class 6A rankings.

But for all their team has done to validate its record (4-0 Liberty, 7-1 overall), Spring-Ford seniors Luke Ellor and Evan Strzeminski don’t see the Rams achieving their full potential just yet.

“We have to respond better than we have,” Ellor, a two-way lineman, said. “Every guy has to do their job. When they do that, we’ll be dangerous.”

Spring-Ford demonstrated plenty of danger in building leads of 21-0 in the first half and 30-0 early in the fourth quarter. Matt Zollers threw a pair of touchdown passes in the first half while Jamal Lewis and Mike Bendowski bookended those scores with rushing TDs. But a possible mercy-rule outcome fell short when Spring-Ford missed a conversion kick and had to settle for a 24-yard Liam McGarvey field goal on a drive that saw them get to the Warrior five before being stopped. Methacton (2-2 Liberty, 5-3 overall) added to the scenario an aerial touchdown from quarterback Nick Remish near the three-minute mark.

“On the defensive side, we make good plays,” Strzeminski added. “We started the game well, but not in the second half. We can’t let up on plays.”

Three lost fumbles and 95 yards in penalties also marred Spring-Ford’s overall showing. On the positive side, the Rams got 100-plus yards rushing from Jamal Lewis, whose 35-yard run off left tackle got the visitors on the board at 6:39 in the first quarter; and a big aerial outing from Zollers: 156 yards on 12-for-23 passing to seven different targets.

“We felt we could compete with them,” Methacton head coach Brian Kennedy said. “We didn’t think we were going to shut them out, but we felt we could battle them.”

Remish, shouldering the load behind center with Kolby Howarth out sick, helped the Warriors avert a shutdown showing when he hit Wesley Conover on a 15-yard TD toss that capped a 14-play drive. Defensively, they recovered three Ram fumbles – Remish, Shane Corne and Abe Kazito made the grabs – and got sacks from Anthony Perillo and DJ Ballinger.

“We had some kids that made plays,” Kennedy noted. “I’m happy with what Remish did, and Conover made some plays.

“Thirty points is not an indication of how we played. We were hoping to score in the first half.”

Sparking the Rams’ defense were interceptions by Shane Lewis and Blake Turner, and sacks by Owen Norman and Bryce Roberts (two). Braden Welsh and Cole Brenner chipped in with fumble recoveries.

“Bryce Roberts made some nice plays,” Strzeminski said of his junior teammate, who dropped Remish for losses three times during the Warriors’ TD march.

Jordan Marsilio and Conover were the receiving leaders for Spring-Ford and Methacton, respectively. Marsilio caught four passes for 83 yards and Conover 60 stripes with four receptions.

Belal Abdelrahman and Mason Scott were on the receiving end of Zollers’ TD tosses of six and 15 yards, respectively.


Methacton came into the game ranked ninth in District 1’s Class 5A ranks. … Kennedy had plans to use both Remish and Howarth in the game if both were available. “They both bring different things to the game,” he said.

Spring-Ford wideouts Scott, Abdelrahman forcing defenses to pick their poison

Another big night for Rams’ offense in win against Perkiomen Valley


PUBLISHED: October 9, 2023 at 4:48 p.m. | UPDATED: October 9, 2023 at 4:48 p.m.

The only thing rivaling Matt Zollers’ numbers this season is his ability to see the future.

Following Spring-Ford’s win over Owen J. Roberts on September 30, Spring-Ford quarterback Zollers discussed the big day for senior wideout Mason Scott, who had a half-dozen catches for 130 yards and a touchdown.

“He’s got some of the best numbers in the state,” said the junior quarterback, who leads the PAC with 24 touchdown passes. “But we move the ball around. There’s a big day coming for all these receivers.”

Six days later, it was Belal Abdelrahman’s turn. The senior wide receiver/defensive back hauled in eight catches from Zollers on Friday night, compiling 118 yards and two touchdowns in Spring-Ford’s statement win against Perkiomen Valley, 28-7.

Scott and Abdelrahman – and Zollers – are all in positions to continue climbing the statistical ladder, well in range of various school records. More importantly, they’re part of an offense averaging upwards of 40 points per contest, with the Rams sitting atop the PAC’s Liberty Division at a mark of 6-1.

With 32 receptions apiece, Scott and Abdelrahman are tied for second in the conference in catches, with Scott leading the PAC at 773 yards and nine touchdowns.

Abdelrahman is third in yardage (563) and tied for fourth in the league with four touchdowns.

Head coach Chad Brubaker has coached plenty of high-performing wideouts in his 14 seasons at Spring-Ford, including all-time leading receiver Dante Bonanni, single-season yardage leader Stone Scarcelle and former Northwestern wideout Andrew Scanlan.

“But most (duos) were not this close statistically,” said Brubaker.

Scott and Abdelrahman took remarkably similar paths to their senior seasons. Both grew up playing football and started their careers as running backs.

“I’m not really built to be a running back,” said Scott. “I made the switch as a sophomore, and I did a lot of 7-on-7s to help me catch up. That’s where I realized I had potential at wide receiver, and since then I’m just focused on being the best version of myself.”

It was a growth spurt that pushed the now 6-foot-2 Abdelrahman outside. While Scott’s focus has been primarily as a wideout, Abdelrahman’s been a two-way star for the Rams.

Last season, he was an All-Area defensive back with a pair of interceptions and 10 passes defended in addition to his 27 catches on offense and playing as the Rams’ primary punt returner.

He remains the punt returner, but this year’s tradeoff has been less time on defense and a larger role in the offense.

“I’m still able to help the team when needed on defense,” he said. “But for now, I’m playing offense.”

Scott doesn’t see himself in quite as versatile a role.

“I tried defensive back, but it’s not my best role,” he admitted. “I knew I wanted to be a starting receiver, so I really focused on being the best (receiver) I can.”

Both played youth basketball, and both continue to run track, which is where their paths diverge slightly but importantly.

Scott enjoyed an especially prolific junior season on the track, where he was part of Spring-Ford’s 4×100 and 4×400 relay teams. The 4×400 team placed second in the state.

The alternate on those teams? Abdelrahman.

“I started as a distance runner,” Abdelrahman said. “I was doing a lot of 5Ks. But I wanted to get faster for football, so in 11th grade I started running sprints.”

By the end of his first season as a sprinter, he was an alternate for the area’s top relay team.

Yet on the football field, it’s Scott who’s the ‘speed guy.’ And for good reason, as the PAC’s leading receiver is also its reigning 100-meter, 200-meter, and 400-meter champion.

Most accomplished runners can tell you their best times, and Mason Scott is no different. But he’s far more interested in improving those times. “I just want to get better,” he said. “I’d like to run a 10.6 in the 100, and something in the low 21s in the 200.”

Defensive backs lining up against Spring-Ford get a choice – Scott, the reigning 100-meter champ in the PAC and runner-up in District 1, or Abdelrahman, a former endurance runner with speed to burn in his own right – enough to set his senior year goal to run a sub-2:00 800.

The long-distance background continues to pay dividends. When the Rams push the tempo on offense, there’s one guy who’s never going to get tired.

“We can run consecutive deep routes, run a bunch of plays in a row,” said Abdelrahman. “And when I do play both ways, I don’t get tired. I feel like I’m less tired than anybody else.”

When you’re as fast as Scott, it can be tempting to let the speed do the work for you as a receiver. Scott admits that’s the player he was earlier in his career.

So the PAC’s fastest receiver became a better football player… by slowing down.

“If you’re only fast, running routes is hard. You need to make cuts.

“I used to run everything at full speed, but that makes it difficult to break down, and that leads to injuries. Now that I’ve learned better body control, I can run with enough speed to pass a defender but still be able to break down, then explode.”

Of course, he hasn’t stopped working to improve his top-end speed either. “So many people think speed is just natural,” said Scott. “But we really train for this. I go to a trainer, and if anyone on the team ever wanted tips on how to get faster, I’d be glad to help.”

He’s already done just that for Abdelrahman. “I had bad form as a sprinter,” Belal admitted, “and Mason helped me a lot. I got faster on the football field and on the track.

“I was a patient route runner, and now I’m faster out of my breaks and better at creating separation.”

Scott and Abdelrahman are furthering the tradition of top receivers at Spring-Ford, potentially setting new program standards along the way. But where will they pass the torch following the 2023 season?

“Jordan Marsilio is working hard, he’s getting better every week,” said Abdelrahman. “He’s right where we were last year as juniors. If you double either one of us, Jordan’s going to be open.”

Marsilio has 14 catches for 181 yards and two touchdowns in 2023.

Both players pointed to sophomores Blake Turner and Aiden Baumeister as a duo to watch in the near future.

Scott and Abdelrahman saved high praise for quarterback Zollers. “He’s a great leader,” said Scott. “He knows I’m hard on myself, and I try not to show it… but if I drop a pass, he’s the first one there.”

Before his 118-yard, two-touchdown explosion on Friday, Abdelrahman muffed an early punt. Minutes later, he’d reeled in a pair of touchdown receptions.

“Matt was right there, building me back up,” said Abdelrahman. “He trusts me.”

Naturally, two friends and classmates who play the same position at such a high level are going to compete against one another.

“There’s always competition,” said Abdelrahman. “When I was playing more defensive back, we tried to go head-to-head in practice.”

“It made me better, going against Belal in practice,” said Scott. “He’s one of the best defensive backs in the PAC, so I needed to go 100 percent if I wanted to beat him, surprise him.”

So who wins?

“He’s so fast. I try not to end up in a spot where I had to catch up to him,” admitted Abdelrahman. “But we both won a few. I was able to get him a couple times.”

How? That, both agreed, is for the rest of the PAC’s defensive backs to figure out.

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

Rams register four QB sacks in limiting Vikings’ offense


PUBLISHED: October 6, 2023 at 11:59 p.m. | UPDATED: October 7, 2023 at 12:00 a.m.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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

Week 7 Football Preview: Perkiomen Valley vs. Spring-Ford has the makings of another classic

40th edition of Spring-Ford/Perkiomen Valley rivalry promises to be a classic


PUBLISHED: October 5, 2023 at 2:16 p.m. | UPDATED: October 5, 2023 at 2:32 p.m.


For a long time, it wasn’t much of a rivalry at all.

When Rob Heist’s senior season began in 1996, Spring-Ford held a 10-2 advantage on Perkiomen Valley in the all-time series.

But Heist was part of a PV team that went on the road to Spring-Ford in 1996 and won, 26-6.

“That started a 15-year period of time where PV won a large majority of those games, and inched our way back into the all-time series,” said Heist, now Perkiomen Valley’s head coach.

On Friday night at 7 p.m., Perkiomen Valley has a chance to even the all-time series at 20 wins apiece when they travel to Coach McNelly Stadium for a showdown between 5-1 teams that also doubles as the area’s best rivalry on the gridiron and beyond.

“It’s just intensified during mine and [Spring-Ford coach] Chad Brubaker’s time, because he’s a great coach with a great program. I feel the same way about our program – there’s a lot of pride on both sides, and it doesn’t really matter who’s better on paper.”

“The records don’t matter in this rivalry,” agreed Brubaker. “It’s going to be close; it’s going to be hard-fought, and it’s going to be as crazy as normal.”

With the game at Spring-Ford in front of a packed house for the first time since 2018 (the 2020 contest, won by Spring-Ford, 27-13, was played in front of limited fans due to COVID protocols), Heist is preparing his Vikings for a hostile environment.

“We’re simulating how loud we expect it to be on offense in practice,” said Heist. “There’s no way to fully assimilate that, but we do our best to create chaos and distraction. I expect it’ll be insane over there.”

“In my opinion, we should alternate every year,” said Brubaker. “But the only real difference is the excitement of our student body during the week. And we embrace that – I like it when the whole school’s excited about a football game.”

Both head coaches are offensive-minded play callers but coming off last season’s 7-6 slugfest in favor of Perkiomen Valley, the respective defenses move to the forefront of this matchup.

Each defensive unit has allowed a single touchdown over their first two games in PAC play. Spring-Ford comes in off a 37-0 shutout win over Owen J. Roberts, in which the Rams registered five quarterback sacks led by seniors Evan Strzeminski (team leader with 26 tackles, six for loss) and Owen Norman (five sacks), as well as junior Gyasi Romu (14 tackles, three forced fumbles, two sacks).

At the linebacker level, senior Mike Bendowski is flanked by juniors Nick Garzarella and Brady Welsh. Shane Lewis leads the secondary with a pair of interceptions in 2023, while Anthony Earley is among the team leaders in tackles.

“I have so much respect for coach [SF defensive coordinator Jim] Mich, coach [Steve] Schein, and their staff,” said Heist. “Year in, year out, they run their scheme with discipline, they know their responsibilities, and they make you earn every yard. All of those are signs of a well-coached defense.”

Patrick MacDonald was part of last year’s win in the rivalry and returns at quarterback this season for PV (59 percent completions, 742 yards passing, 11 total touchdowns) with a deep set of weapons at his disposal.

Xavier Nunez and Nate Reedy form the traditional two-headed backfield at PV this year, both players seeing an increase in playing time due to injuries but have entrenched themselves in those positions based on the merit of their own performances. Reedy went over 100 yards in last week’s win over Methacton, while Nunez picked up several first downs to keep drives alive in tandem with his own touchdown run.

When MacDonald takes to the air, Joey Keough (21 catches, 216 yards, two touchdowns) is his favorite target. Second-leading receiver Robbie Sturges stars on both sides of the ball and has the profile of a clutch player who PV will look to on third downs or in the red zone.

The Spring-Ford offense has been a big story over the first half-dozen games in 2023. They’re high scoring (43.8 points per game), avoid turnovers (four lost fumbles but zero interceptions), and possess strong balance (6.2 yards per carry, 284 yards passing per contest).

If the Rams meet those numbers on Friday, it’s curtains.

Preventing such a performance is the job of a PV defense stacked with returning All-Area performers and candidates for nomination this season. Carter Euker, Drew Kenworthy, and Sam Koehler lead the team in tackles as inside linebackers, with Sturges and Steve Tracanna making the big plays on the outside.

Cole Euker, Richie Strano, and Brett McDonnell are the leaders up front, but the toughest assignment goes to corners Brayden Perone and Dimitri Toman, who figure to draw the job of defending Spring-Ford’s prolific 1-2 combo at receiver.

Rams receivers Mason Scott (29 catches, 729 yards, nine touchdowns) and Belal Abdelrahman (25 catches, 446 yards, two touchdowns) will keep any secondary busy, while Jordan Marsilio, Tyler Moyer, and tight end Ryan Kerchner add depth to an offense piloted by one of the state’s most prolific quarterbacks, junior Matt Zollers (69 percent completions, 1,705 yards, 21 touchdown passes).

Zollers’ running ability could be a Spring-Ford X-factor, while PV safety Anthony Rodriguez has interceptions in consecutive games and could be used in multiple roles.

Jamal Lewis and Bendowski split carries fairly evenly in the Spring-Ford backfield, with Bendowski serving as the red-zone closer (nine rushing touchdowns on only 30 carries this season).

“PV tries to cause chaos at the line of scrimmage,” summarized Brubaker. “It’s difficult to deal with, because they’re so good at getting off blocks.”

Brayden Avery handles kicking and punting duties at PV, while leading tackle Sam Koehler also serves as a special teams ace as both a gunner and a punt returner. “He’s really good at anything we ask him to do,” said Heist.

Spring-Ford alternates between Liam McGarvey and Ryan Fields as placekickers, while QB Zollers handles the (infrequent) punting. Abdelrahman has big-play ability as a punt returner, but his sure-handedness and decision making may be his most important role in that facet of the game.


It’s the 40th chapter of Spring-Ford/Perkiomen Valley, but when did the game truly become a rivalry?

The PV victory in Rob Heist’s senior season begat an 8-1 run for PV from 1996-2004. By 2005, Heist was part of the PV coaching staff as the Vikings looked to even the all-time tally, but Spring-Ford prevailed 14-7 in overtime.

In 2009, PV did even the all-time series at 13. Brubaker arrived in Royersford the next season and reeled off four consecutive victories.

Heist is 5-2 against Spring-Ford in his tenure.

Asked for their respective highlights and lowlights of the rivalry, both coaches mirrored one another’s responses. The 2019 game at Perkiomen Valley (a 40-35 Spring-Ford win) and last year’s classic received mention from both sides.

Heist added the 2018 game at Spring-Ford, when 2021 Mercury Player of the Year Ethan Kohler, then a freshman, came in at quarterback due to injury at halftime and led a 17-point comeback.

For Brubaker, the 2015 victory in which Justin Grandas and Nick Crawford played big roles in a 28-14 Spring-Ford win stands out.

“Nick had been injured going into that game, and came in and had a late interception,” Brubaker recalled.

“We’ve been talking about it in practice. Guys who don’t normally get ink in the paper have made huge plays in this rivalry. The matchup’s created a lot of lasting memories.”

Week 6 Football Recap: Standout weekend underscores skill position talent in PAC

Numerous area players poised to set school records in 2023

Pope John Paul II running back Boyd Skarbek (13) celebrates with teammate Brandon DeAngelo (6) after scoring a touchdown against Archbishop Ryan at Northeast High School on Sept. 2. (Evan Wheaton – MediaNews Group)


PUBLISHED: October 2, 2023 at 4:13 p.m. | UPDATED: October 2, 2023 at 4:39 p.m.

Scheduling discrepancies, postseason rules, offensive philosophies – they make statistical comparisons difficult in football.

Do you look for the big-play threat, or the consistent running back who grinds out five tough yards at a time?

Do you want a quarterback who completes a high percentage of passes, or one who’s not afraid to make a risky throw for the payoff of a huge gain?

This season, the Pioneer Athletic Conference is blessed with a variety of skill position players who can do it all. Gaudy numbers, efficiency, versatility – they’re all here.

With a half-dozen games in the book for each team, and after a particularly strong weekend for some of the PAC’s best and brightest, we take count.

Pioneer Athletic Conference Football Leaders on PA Prep Live


This category can only start in one place. Spring-Ford junior Matt Zollers put forth an outing Saturday afternoon that would be a career day for most quarterbacks. For Zollers in 2023, however, it’s just another good game.

He went 24-for-33 – missing the school record for completions by just one pass – for 345 yards and three touchdowns in Spring-Ford’s 37-0 win over Owen J. Roberts.

“He’s awfully good,” said OJR coach Rich Kolka. “He sees the field well, and he’s got command of that offense.”

For the season, Zollers is completing 69 percent of his passes, good for 1,705 yards and 21 touchdowns with nary an interception. Even at a school with a strong passing history like Spring-Ford, he’s well on pace to establish several new single-season records.

Spring-Ford quarterback Matt Zollers looks to pass against Cumberland Valley. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

Saturday wasn’t such a good day for Zollers’ opposite number, OJR senior Derek Hinrichs, as the Wildcats struggled to find their footing against Spring-Ford’s stifling defense. But Hinrichs headlines the numerous PAC quarterbacks who’ve established themselves as dual threats in the early going this year.

Perkiomen Valley’s Patrick MacDonald is a big part of the running game, with seven touchdowns in the first six contests. Spring-Ford’s Zollers, Pottstown’s Dillon Mayes, and Pottsgrove’s Gabe Rinda can pick up yardage with their legs as well as their arms.

But what sets Hinrichs apart is the volume. He’s second in the PAC with 875 passing yards and nine touchdowns, and third in rushing carries at 108. The Wildcats’ offense runs through their first year starting quarterback, and Hinrichs is proving himself in all facets of the game.


The bread and butter of most offenses is the running game. But local schools are getting it done on the ground with a variety of approaches.

Pope John Paul II’s offense has displayed the ability to throw the ball with anyone, but they haven’t needed to for a couple of reasons – their margins of victory (an average win coming by 32 points per game en route to a 6-0 record) and senior standout Boyd Skarbek.

Skarbek saw his heaviest workload of the season Saturday in a 35-7 win over Pottsgrove, carrying 32 times for 157 yards and four touchdowns.

The spectacular stats diminish just how workmanlike Skarbek’s day was by his usual standards. Skarbek came into the contest averaging more than 10 yards per carry, but Pottsgrove’s defense allowed Skarbek the ability to show off his five-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust abilities as well. The touchdown runs came from distances of 3, 1, 5, and 6 yards (with a 22-yard fumble return thrown in for his fifth touchdown of the day).

Skarbek leads the PAC in rushing yards (968) and touchdowns (12), well on pace to outdo his sterling junior season a year ago. With the Golden Panthers looking like favorites in District 1 Class 4A, numerous school records are within reach.

Cole Yesavage, Boyertown

At Boyertown, the Wing-T offense finds the ball in the hands of senior running back Cole Yesavage, the PAC’s defending rushing champion. Yesavage is providing a worthy challenge to Skarbek for this year’s title with 860 yards and 10 touchdowns thus far.

As Boyertown continues to diversify the offense and spread the ball around, Yesavage’s quest for back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons continued undaunted as he leads the PAC with 124 carries.

The area’s most prolific 1-2 punch at running back resides in Phoenixville, where sophomore Deacon Williams (7.6 yards per carry, 626 yards, nine touchdowns) and senior Sam Moore (5.6 yards per carry, 470 yards, five touchdowns) are leading the Phantoms to a 5-1 start on the season.

Carries are split almost equally (Moore 84, Williams 82) and the temptation to make a “thunder-and-lightning” analogy is superseded by the versatility of both backs, each of whom show between-the-tackles toughness and long speed.

Face Phoenixville, and it’s a good bet you’ll be asked to tackle the dynamic duo 25-30 times over a contest, a job compounded by quarterback Ty Romance, who keeps the ball just enough to make life even harder on opposing defenses.

Nahzier Booker (Pottstown) and Nate Reedy (Perkiomen Valley) round out the top five in local rushing. Booker runs with a throwback style reminiscent of Eddie George, pounding the ball between the tackles for three quarters in hopes that a tired defense will give him space to break a long one late – as he did against Harriton in his best game to date (191 yards, three TDs).

Reedy didn’t begin 2023 as a starter, but the sophomore stepped up in the place of injured teammates to shoulder the lion’s share of carries in the Vikings’ offense. Friday night’s 122-yard outing came on only a dozen carries.

With underclass talents like Williams and Reedy enjoying two more years of high school football to come, it’s safe to say local rushing games will be in good hands even after the Class of 2024 departs.


You don’t put up Matt Zollers’ numbers without an impressive array of targets, and at Spring-Ford the number called most often is “3” – as in senior wide receiver Mason Scott.

The track-and-field standout’s talents carry over to the gridiron and then some, with an eye-popping 24.9 yards per catch good for 723 yards and nine touchdowns to date. Scott’s speed makes him a natural as a deep-ball threat, but he’s not afraid to go over the middle or muscle past defenders on quick hitches either.

Spring-Ford receiver Mason Scott runs for extra yards after a catch against Boyertown on Sept. 22. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

But for all Scott’s superlatives, he’s only second in the PAC for number of receptions. OJR’s freshman phenom Mekhi Graham has brought in 31 receptions already this year, six of those going for touchdowns in becoming Derek Hinrichs’ favorite target.

Graham’s also contributed a rushing score and two interceptions on defense in his first high school season.

Braden Reed of Pope John Paul II, Belal Abdelrahman of Spring-Ford, and Jayden Byrd of Norristown round out the list of PAC receivers with 20-plus catches in 2023. Reed leads the Frontier Division in all categories with 26 catches for 456 yards and five touchdowns, while Abdelrahman’s consistency (25 catches, 446 yards, two TDs) gives Spring-Ford a virtual pair of WR1s.

Owen J. Roberts’ Mekhi Graham (4) looks to split the Spring-Ford defense during a PAC game on Sept. 30. (Courtesy Rick Martin)

Other Stats

These players didn’t crack the top five in their respective categories, but possess statistical accomplishments that warrant a mention:

Efficiency: Logan O’Donnell’s making the most of his 24 completions thus far, with six touchdown passes to his credit. Phoenixville’s Romance has an identical number of scoring passes on just a few more completions (29).

For pure efficiency, it’ll be tough to top Pottsgrove’s Riley Delp, who fired one pass for a razzle-dazzle 59-yard TD. If Delp doesn’t attempt any more passes, he’ll establish quite the mark with a (tongue-in-cheek) 925.6 QB rating.

Spring-Ford’s Mike Bendowski makes most of his headlines as one of the Rams’ leading tacklers at the linebacker position, but a short-yardage back who averages 6.5 yards per carry and scores on almost a third of his attempts is a more-than-useful offensive weapon. Despite only 30 carries so far this year, Bendowski’s tied for third in the PAC with nine rushing touchdowns.

Versatility: We covered the quarterbacks for this category, but a number of PAC skill position players display their abilities in the rushing and receiving games. Spring-Ford backs Bendowski and Jamal Lewis each have multiple scores both rushing and receiving, and five other PAC players have reached the end zone via air and ground.

But they’re all led by Pottsgrove’s Bryce Caffrey. The do-it-all senior plays in a Deebo Samuel-type role and adds plenty of options to the power-based Pottsgrove offense.

Call him a receiver, and he’ll slice your defense for six yards a carry, good for a top-10 spot in the PAC with 410 yards.

But focus on the run, and he’ll run a pattern that gets him lost in your secondary as he did against Boyertown, grabbing a half-dozen passes for 164 yards and a receiving TD.

In all, Caffrey has 699 total yards (410 rushing, 289 receiving) – making him the only player to appear in the Top 10 for both rushing and receiving. For good measure, he threw in a 67-yard punt return for a score in Week 2.

Spring-Ford does it with defense in shutout win over Owen J. Roberts

Evan Strzeminski leads Rams defense, who registered five quarterback sacks


PUBLISHED: September 30, 2023 at 5:54 p.m. | UPDATED: October 1, 2023 at 11:02 a.m.

ROYERSFORD >> You won’t have to go far to find Spring-Ford defensive lineman Evan Strzeminski’s inspiration for Saturday’s performance in a 37-0 shutout of Owen J. Roberts.

You might be looking at it right now.

“Some of our coaches pointed out this week that we [the defense] weren’t mentioned in the papers at all,” said Strzeminski. “It was mostly about the offense.”

That changes now. Strzeminski had two of the Rams’ five sacks as Spring-Ford held OJR to 147 yards of offense in the dominant victory.

“If we’re going to have a good season,” Strzeminski continued, “we’re going to need to keep doing what we did today.”

The marquee matchup — and admittedly, the one featured in certain previews— focused on the two most statistically impressive units in the PAC’s Liberty Division.

Spring-Ford came into Saturday’s game averaging 46 points per game over their 4-1 start to the 2023 season, but on paper they appeared to be meeting their match against an OJR defense allowing only 9.8 points per contest in building an identical 4-1 mark.

But the result was football’s version of a first-round knockout.

While the Rams scored on their first four possessions in building a 30-point halftime lead at Coach McNelly Stadium on Saturday afternoon, the most impressive unit on the field was Spring-Ford’s defense.

The Rams limited OJR to just four first downs in the first half, accumulating a half-dozen tackles for loss and recovering a late fumble.

“We focused on the calls, we generated pressure and made plays happen,” said Strzeminski. “We’ve got plenty of depth, our coaches are going to keep coaching up these young guys, and it’ll allow us to have a great rest of the year.”

Spring-Ford quarterback Matt Zollers completed 24 of 33 passes for 345 yards and three scores, while running back/linebacker Mike Bendowski scored on all three of his offensive touches (two rushing, one receiving).

PAC leading receiver Mason Scott added to his impressive senior season with six catches for 130 yards – all in the decisive first half – and the first of Spring-Ford’s first-half touchdowns.

And yet Zollers said his first focus would be a throw he didn’t complete – an ill-advised sideline pass nearly picked off by OJR’s Troy Swittenburg in the third quarter.

“That’s how you win the game – limiting turnovers,” said Zollers. “There are plenty of ways to score touchdowns.”

Zollers’ 24 completions went to seven different receivers.

“Obviously, Mason [Scott] has some of the best numbers in the state,” he said. “But when we move the ball around, it opens up big-play threats.

“Belal [Abdelrahman], Jordan [Marsilio] – there’s a big game coming for all of them.”

The Rams’ opening drive was a mixture of quick-hitting passes and penalties, but the Zollers-to-Scott combination rendered all details meaningless when Spring-Ford’s star receiver fought through a defensive back’s interference and corralled a 45-yard pass while tumbling into the end zone for a 7-0 lead.

The Rams’ very next offensive play nearly saw the duo repeat the feat but for a great recovery from OJR’s Swittenburg to swat the ball away near the goal line.

Undaunted, Spring-Ford turned to their running backs as junior Jamal Lewis powered for consecutive first downs before Zollers scrambled and found Bendowski wide open for a 13-yard scoring connection.

The first quarter was just the start of the offensive fireworks. Jordan Marsilio got lost behind the Wildcats’ secondary on the first play of the second stanza, and Zollers made no mistake finding him for a 40-yard TD and a 20-0 lead.

Five minutes later, Belal Abdelrahman’s 23-yard reception on a 4th and 15 set up Bendowski’s second touchdown, this one a seven-yard run. With six minutes to play before halftime, the Rams had equaled the number of points OJR surrendered in their prior four games combined, good for a 27-0 lead.

Meanwhile, OJR’s offense couldn’t move the ball after their first drive. Three consecutive three-and-outs yielded a total of just six yards, but Colin King’s 26-yard catch-and-run set up the Wildcats in Spring-Ford territory before SF forced a turnover on downs.

After Gyasi Romu’s sack resulted in a fumble recovery by Bryce Roberts, Liam McGarvey beat the first-half buzzer with a 21-yard field goal for the 30-0 margin at the break.

OJR’s leading receiver Mekhi Graham was held to just 14 yards on four catches, though he did lead the Wildcats in rushing with 45 yards on four carries. Matt Gregory added a 29-yard reception of his own.

“We lacked energy, we didn’t execute on offense, and we were much better on defense last week,” summarized OJR coach Rich Kolka. “But we have four games left to go. We’ll go over the film on Monday and go from there.”

Kolka applauded the play of Brian Serfass, who generated several pressures on defense. OJR (4-2, 0-2 PAC Liberty) looks to snap its two-game skid next week when they host Norristown.

Neither side tallied after halftime until the opening play of the fourth quarter, when Bendowski’s third touchdown, a 13-yard run, closed out the scoring.

Now 5-1 (2-0 PAC Liberty), Spring-Ford prepares to host archrival Perkiomen Valley on Friday. The matchup’s winner has gone on to claim the PAC title in every season since the inception of the PAC’s two-division alignment in 2016.

“OJR was 4-1, and that’s what we practiced for – a good opponent,” said Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker. “We prepare every week for every opponent. Now it’s time to focus on Perkiomen Valley and come up with a good game plan.”

Notes: Spring-Ford celebrated the school’s 2023 Homecoming before and during Saturday’s game. Max Gandoul and Bella Butler were honored as 2023 Homecoming King and Queen.

Owen J. Roberts (4-1, 0-1 PAC Liberty) at Spring-Ford (4-1, 1-0 PAC Liberty), 2 p.m. Saturday

Wildcats coach Rich Kolka called last week’s 13-7 overtime loss at Perkiomen Valley a missed opportunity. While the Wildcats broke through with a scoring drive to open the fourth quarter, the rest of the contest was plagued by uncharacteristic penalties and mental errors.

Luckily, OJR doesn’t have to wait long for a chance at redemption when they visit Royersford on Saturday afternoon for Spring-Ford’s Homecoming game. One emphasis will be getting the running game back on track after PV limited OJR to only three yards total on the ground a week ago.

Dual-threat quarterback Derek Hinrichs has thrown for 793 yards and nine TDs over the first five contests and also leads the Wildcats in rushing (337 yards, four TDs.) His favorite target is freshman Mekhi Graham, who leads the PAC with 27 receptions and is second behind Spring-Ford’s Mason Scott in yardage and touchdowns (511 yards, six TDs.)

Junior Justin Daubert and freshman Matt Gregory continue to emerge as targets, diversifying the Wildcats’ passing game.

The defense for this team is one of the biggest stories, as they forced five turnovers from the PV offense and limited the Vikings to a single score in regulation. Junior linebacker Lorenzo Satiro has emerged as one of the PAC’s top defenders in 2023, while Graham and Gregory double as secondary standouts.

But this week may bring OJR’s greatest challenge, as they face off with the prolific Spring-Ford passing game led by junior quarterback Matt Zollers, who leads the area in every relevant passing category (69 percent completions, 1375 yards, 18 TDs.) Zollers is a less frequent runner than his OJR counterpart Hinrichs but averages ten yards per carry on his 27 rushes to go along with five scores on the ground.

Mason Scott’s 592 yards and eight receiving touchdowns headline the Rams’ receiving corps, but fellow senior Belal Abdelrahman (378 yards, two TDs) gives Zollers arguably the best 1-2 punch in the area. Jamal Lewis leads the Rams’ running backs in carries and yards (40 carries, 237 yards, 2 TDs) with senior Mike Bendowski as the short-yardage closer (seven TDs on only 28 carries).

The Rams’ offensive line (AJ Moyer, Connor Hudak, Luke Ellor, Jaiden McLeod, and Owen Norman) has been keeping the offensive unit humming through the first half of the season and got the nod from coach Chad Brubaker as the key to success in the first of back-to-back home games that may decide the Rams’ fate in the Liberty Division for 2023, with Perkiomen Valley coming in next week.

“OJR plays hard on the defensive side, and they have some nice pieces in their offense,” he said. “Our offensive line needs to establish the line of scrimmage.”

Dominant defense delivers Spring-Ford a 48-9 victory at Boyertown

By AUSTIN HERTZOG | | The Pottstown Mercury

PUBLISHED: September 23, 2023 at 1:14 a.m. | UPDATED: September 23, 2023 at 1:33 a.m.

BOYERTOWN >> The Spring-Ford football team has been turning heads every week this season.

Last week, it wasn’t for the reason the Rams would have liked. After a dominant 3-0 start to the year, Spring-Ford was slammed by Manheim Township 63-28, a surprising result for one of the projected top teams in District 1.

“It was eye-opening. We didn’t play our best game offensively or defensively,” lineman Evan Strzeminski said.

Maybe most surprising for the 60-plus points surrendered, this Friday’s trip to Boyertown came with a virtual guarantee that would not be replicated.

Both phases delivered, especially the Rams’ defense, which caused four turnovers and gave its offense short fields throughout a 42-point first half that carried Spring-Ford over Boyertown, 48-9 at Memorial Stadium.

“We wanted to bounce back as best as possible and come out this week and put a beating on Boyertown like we did,” Strzeminski said.

“It was a big loss last week,” senior lineman Owen Norman said. “Obviously we were coming into this week, PAC play, a chip on our shoulder from last week, so we had to show out tonight and obviously we did that.”

Spring-Ford (1-0 PAC, 4-1 overall) placed itself back on the right path while it embarks on the decisive two-week stretch of its league season with back-to-back matchups with Owen J. Roberts (Sept. 30) and Perkiomen Valley (Oct. 6).

Boyertown, which was coming off its own painful loss last week after falling to Pottsgrove 38-35, dropped to 1-4 (0-1 PAC).

Norman had a pair of sacks, Shane Lewis and Blake Turner each had an interception and the Rams’ defense forced two turnovers that teed up the S-F offense with regularity.

“I think we worked very well defensively,” said Strzeminski, who helped cause one of the fumbles, which was recovered by Connor Hudak. “The defensive line and the linebackers, we worked very well, did way better than we did last week with our communication. We checked all the boxes and came out on top.”

Of Spring-Ford’s six first-half touchdowns, only one required the drive to span more than 50 yards. That was the opener, a three-play, 59-yard drive that led to a Mike Bendowski 1-yard touchdown run.

Bendowski added another and quarterback Matt Zollers (13-for-20, 216 yards, 2 TDs) also ran in for a TD for a 21-point lead through one quarter.

By halftime, Zollers aired it out to Mason Scott in the corner of the end zone from 30 yards for a TD, Jamal Lewis (4 carries, 53 yards, 1 TD) got in the end zone and Bendowski added his third score to put Spring-Ford up 42-0 at halftime.

The Rams applied the finishing touch on the first drive of the second half with Zollers throwing a swing pass to Ryan Kerchner and the senior tight end barreled down the left sideline for a 50-yard catch-and-score that ended the night for Spring-Ford’s first-stringers.

Boyertown gave the home crowd something to cheer for when Michael Palmiero got his team on the board with a safety late in the third quarter. On the ensuing possession, it took only one play to find the end zone as Cole Yesavage (22 carries, 157 yards, 1 TD) rumbled down the left side for the score.

“They deserve all the respect in the world because they earned it,” Boyertown coach Justin Konnick said. “There’s a lot of talent on their side of the field, but there’s a lot of talent on our side of the field. We were hungry too because we came off a game we should have won. It comes down to who is going to play better football, and tonight they played better football.”

Things have not gone to plan for the Bears, which lost its fourth straight after topping Upper Perkiomen in the season opener.

“We have a lot of young guys on the lines and they’re gaining the experience right now. Cole is going to be Cole and get your yards, (Jason) Oakes and (Anthony) Famularo are going to have flashes,” Konnick said. “I’m hoping in the next couple weeks we can start racking them up and get it pointed in the right direction.”

Spring-Ford got exactly what it needed as it heads into back-to-back big games against its nearest rivals in the PAC.

“Great team win,” Norman said. “The offense was firing on all cylinders. I don’t think we had a bad play all night. We had great plays on defense.”

Spring-Ford 48, Boyertown 9

Spring-Ford  21  21  6  0 – 48

Boyertown  0  0  9  0  –  9

Landon Kennel's five touchdown receptions lift Manheim Township over Spring-Ford

Mark Evans held his hand about three feet off the ground. He has photos of Hayden Johnson and Landon Kennel together when they were that tall.

Manheim Township’s quarterback and wide receiver share a bond. The kind that can only be built through time.

They’ve never enjoyed a night like this one. At least not in high school.


Kennel caught five touchdown passes, tying a school record, and Township ran away from Spring-Ford 63-28 in a nonleague football game at Neffsville on Friday.

“Those guys have been together for 10-12 years,” Evans said. “Where one goes, the other follows. They have a special relationship. That, to me, is one of the cool things about coaching.”

Johnson has no shortage of receivers to target. It’s an incredibly deep corps that features Nick Palumbo, Antonio Vazquez, Lex Haberbosch and others.

Kennel seemed to be the one open near the goal line this time. Johnson had no trouble locating his buddy.

“Since kindergarten he has been throwing to me,” Kennel said. “We’ve always been boys. He always puts it in the right spot. We have an amazing connection.”

Kennel matched the record set by Jay Ridinger, who had five TDs against Penn Manor in 2006.

Four of Kennel’s touchdowns came in the first half as Township built a 42-14 lead. They went for 5, 3, 16 and 8 yards.

“I was just out here having fun,” Kennel said. “I definitely feel more comfortable in the red zone.”

Johnson, who completed 24-of-31 passes for 356 yards and six TDs, found Kennel again on the second possession of the second half. That capped their magical night.

Township (4-0) was nearly flawless on offense in the first two quarters. All six drives finished in the end zone. They had 229 yards passing and 142 yards rushing.

The Blue Streaks dominated Cumberland Valley, Dallastown and Harrisburg in the first three weeks. This victory might have been the most impressive of all.

Spring-Ford (3-1) was also undefeated with a lethal passing game. Quarterback Matt Zollers threw for 311 yards and flashed a big arm on deep throws.

A less-than-perfect second half gave Evans some buttons to push as Township headed into Lancaster-Lebanon League play at Hempfield.

Spring-Ford was able to pull within 21 points and had a chance to cut it to 14 before the Blue Streaks regained their footing and put it away.

“We can’t stop,” Evans said. “I thought we got a little complacent. We’ve got some mental things we have to work on about being good teammates. Picking each other up after we make mistakes. That’s gonna propel us to go farther.”

Township’s season is about finding every edge and never being satisfied. The Blue Streaks know how much they can achieve. They don’t want to venture off course.

Kennel finished with 8 receptions for 106 yards. Palumbo caught 5 balls for 80 yards and the last TD. Declan Clancy rushed for 136 yards and two scores.

Johnson and Kennel have grown a bit since those long-ago photos. They’re 6-foot-1 and 6-foot-3 now. Their football ESP has never been stronger.

“He knows where I’m gonna be,” Kennel said. “I know where he’s gonna put the ball.”

Five touchdown connections. No Township duo ever had more.

Matt Zollers, Spring-Ford light up Cumberland Valley, 63-17

MECHANICSBURG — Matt Zollers proved again Friday that he is one of the premier dual-threat quarterbacks in Pennsylvania.

Don’t believe it?

Check out what the Spring-Ford junior did to Cumberland Valley at Cumberland Valley before the storm clouds moved in and the lightning started flickering. Zollers — he deserves an awesome nickname after this one so we’ll just call him “The God of Lightning” — was absolutely lighting up the Eagles when the game was halted, Spring-Ford leading 63-17, with just more than nine minutes to go.

His line?

Well, the 6-foot-4, 205 pounder threw for 320 yards and six touchdowns. Oh yeah, he also ran for 129 yards and another score.

That brilliance helped Spring-Ford improve to 3-0 while the Eagles fell to 0-3.

“Our offense played very well,” Zollers told PennLive. “We hit on all cylinders and did everything tonight. I put too much air on passes in the first, but I adjusted for the second half and we rode out the lead.”

The Rams got going early on their first possession, going 45 yards on nine plays. Zollers capped the drive with an effortless 33-yard touchdown pass to Mason Scott to make it 7-0 at the 8:15 mark of the first.

Cumberland Valley looked to have something going early on, too, with quarterback Deagan Rardain and playmakers Bryce Staretz and Caiden Pines making plays, but Mike Bendowski intercepted Rardain and the Rams took over.

Zollers then found Jordan Marsillo for a 26-yard touchdown that made it 14-0 with 37 seconds left.

CV came out swinging in the second quarter as Rardain connected with Ke’aune Green on a 75-yard swing pass to cut the lead to 14-7.

The Rams weren’t phased.

Spring-Ford brought it back to the ground, answering with a 4-yard run by Bendowski that made it 21-7.

Zollers then started to take control, pulling the ball on a read and racing 64 yards for a score, and then connecting with Scott on another 64-yard score that helped make it 35-10 at the half.

The Eagles kept battling, though, and opened the half with a 55-yard pass from Rardain to Nolan Buzalka for a score that cut it to 35-17.

Zollers just kept dealing, tossing three more touchdowns — two to Belal Abdelrahman and another to Scott — before the lightning rolled in and closed the night out.


Zollers was unreal, accounting for 449 ards - 320 passing yards, 129 rushing yards - and seven touchdowns.

Scott caught five passes for 148 yards and three scores. Abdelrahmen caught five passes for 127 yards and two scores, and Jamal Lewis rushed for 90 yards on 12 carries.

Green finished with 75 receiving yards and a score for the Eagles while Buzalka added 55 receiving yards for a score.


It was all Spring-Ford in this one.


“All around we played as a team. We played well and did our jobs. Offensively, we aired the ball out, and Matt (Zollers) did a great job in finding all of our receivers.” - Belal Abdelrahmen on his team’s offensive performance.

“We did well. Everybody stuck to their assignment, and did their thing out there. Can’t complain at all tonight.” - Mason Scott on his team’s effort in the win.

“On defense, we still have a lot of things to work on, but we played a great game holding a team to only 17 points. Especially a team like CV. We had a fantastic game overall as Matt is nothing like I haven’t seen before.” - Mike Bendowksi on his crediting his team’s defensive performance and the quarterback play.

“There’s always good and bad in high school. There’s enough we need to work on as the scoreboard looked the way it did. There’s plenty to focus on after this game. We will watch film. Huge game against Manheim Township next week, so we’ll see where we go from there.” - Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubaker on preparing for Manheim Township next week.

Zollers, Scott lead Spring-Ford in aerial assault of Governor Mifflin


PUBLISHED: August 26, 2023 at 1:05 a.m. | UPDATED: August 26, 2023 at 9:10 a.m.

ROYERSFORD >> It didn’t take long for Matt Zollers to remind the area why he was co-offensive player of the year in the Pioneer Athletic Conference Liberty Division last fall.

The first team Mercury All-Area quarterback was as unforgiving as he was calculated on Friday night. Both masterful and cruel to defenders, the 6-foot-4 signal caller was as comfortable under center as Gordon Ramsay is in the kitchen.

Zollers threw for 294 yards, ran for another 71 and put up six total touchdowns in a 49-19 win for Spring-Ford over Governor Mifflin at Coach McNelly Stadium.

“We really worked hard over the summer, getting our connections right,” Zollers said of his receiver corps. “Mason (Scott), Belal (Abdelrahman), (Ryan) Kerchner, Jordan (Marsilio), I trained with them all summer, just getting our connection and timing right. That’s what’s put us over the edge.”

In the first half alone, Zollers – who holds a Division I offer from Old Dominion University – amassed 200 yards passing with five total touchdowns. His first was a 6-yard keeper to go up 7-0 at the 6:48 mark in the first quarter.

Despite the lopsided outcome, the Mustangs (0-1) clapped back immediately. Reese Hohl (three carries, 20 yards) returned the ensuing kickoff 96 yards to the house, cutting the game 7-6.

That explosive play on special teams proved to be the biggest highlight of the night for Governor Mifflin, albeit a botched PAT after.

“Reese Hohlt, he’s a junior and he’s up and coming,” Mustangs coach Jeff Lang said. “He’s got speed, he’s a really good athlete. The kickoff team got their blocks and he got in through the hole and took off. He’s definitely an athlete for us.”

Governor Mifflin running back Grady Garner, center, moves the chains against Spring-Ford at Coach McNelly Stadium on Aug. 25. (Evan Wheaton – MediaNews Group)

Zollers hit Scott with a 64-yard go-ahead touchdown in the open field to extend Spring-Ford’s lead, 14-6 with just under five minutes remaining in the first quarter. On the Rams’ next possession, Zollers commanded a three-play, 70-yard dash capped with another 21-yard loft to Scott in the end zone to balloon ahead, 21-6.

Scott was the main weapon of Spring-Ford’s aerial assault, hauling in a third touchdown reception with 8:31 left in the third quarter on a 28-yard bomb from Zollers – the Rams leading 42-6 by that point.

Spring-Ford wide receiver Mason Scott (3) makes a reception along the sideline against Governor Mifflin at Coach McNelly Stadium on Aug. 25. (Evan Wheaton – MediaNews Group)

This past track season, Scott was the PAC champion in the 100-meter, 200-meter and 400-meter events. That raw speed was apparent in his route running, creating separation often. Scott finished with five receptions for 162 yards to go with his hat trick.

“It just makes it really easy for me,” Zollers said on Scott’s athleticism. “Once he starts to get going, they’re going to have to tag onto him and start double-teaming him and it opens up everyone else.”

Spring-Ford (1-0) piled on two touchdowns in the final four minutes of the first half to create a 35-6 cushion heading into the break. After another 17-yard keeper into the end zone, Zollers displayed his gutsiest series of the night.

A pre-snap penalty on a 32-yard field goal attempt pushed things back five more yards. The Rams’ offense came back out, and on 4th-and-21, Zollers found Kerchner (five catches, 83 yards) for another walk-in score.

“Actually, I was upset with myself for not calling a screen the play before because we knew they were coming and we should’ve called a screen the play before,” Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker said. “We kind of felt we were on the edge of field goal range.”

Mike Bendowski (five rushes, 23 yards) tacked on a 6-yard rushing touchdown with 7:28 left. The Rams ran for 150 yards altogether, opting to carve out bigger yardage in the air.

“They played man-concept most of the time and they kept guys in the box. They’re two defensive tackles were hard to move and we’ll take what we can get,” Brubaker said of Governor Mifflin. “If we can run the ball, we’ll run the ball. If we can throw, we’ll throw. We’re not going to be picky about that.”

Brandon Jones (seven rushes, 37 yards) closed the scoring with an 18-yard rushing touchdown for the Mustangs with 1:19 left.

Governor Mifflin went 3-7 last year, just the first losing season for the program since 2003. Built on a winning tradition – and a traditionally dominant rushing offense that produced current Penn State running back and national Gatorade player of the year Nick Singleton – the Mustangs kept things on the ground for 162 rushing yards.

Senior Bryce Wunderlich, junior Javien Pletz and sophomore Lebron Leaf all competed for the starting QB job for Governor Mifflin following the graduation of Delsin McNeil. Against Spring-Ford, it was Wunderlich who had the start, but Pletz who saw most of the reps.

According to Lang, the two are expected to be a tandem as the season progresses.

“Bryce Wunderlich started it out and then we went with Javien and kind of just went back and forth,” Lang said. “Javien just gives it a little bit more with the athleticism getting it on the outside if we can get there, which we didn’t get there quite enough tonight. Bryce is a great team player, he went out there and played a little receiver for us too.”

Spring-Ford tight end Declan Finney (83) makes a reception against Governor Mifflin at Coach McNelly Stadium on Aug. 25. (Evan Wheaton – MediaNews Group)

Spring-Ford is coming off a season that saw a 7-6 loss to PAC champion Perkiomen Valley, followed by a large comeback over Ridley and double-overtime loss to Garnet Valley in the District 1 Class 6A tournament.
If the non-league opener against 5A Governor Mifflin is any evident, the Rams using those close shortcomings as bulletin board material.

“We’re really hungry. I think about that every day, especially the PV game,” Zollers said. “But I’m just worried about next week.”

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