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News from 2022 Season

Mercury All-Area: 2022 Football Teams





First Team


QB: Matt Zollers, Spring-Ford
RB: Boyd Skarbek, Pope John Paul II
RB: Hunter Rhoads, Owen J. Roberts
All-Purpose Back: Ryan Klimek, Perk Valley
WR: Zach Zollers, Spring-Ford
WR: Braden Reed, Pope John Paul II
WR: Danny Cashman, Owen J. Roberts
TE: Nolan Clayton, Upper Merion
OL: Owen Norman, Spring-Ford
OL: Cole Euker, Perkiomen Valley
OL: Christian Gregory, Owen J. Roberts
OL: Luke Ellor, Spring-Ford
OL: Nyzir Lake, Pope John Paul II
K: Ryan Klimek, Perkiomen Valley
All-Around Player: Kayden White, Hill School
Kick Returner: Gage Swanger, Spring-Ford








DL: Luke Pajovich, Spring-Ford
DL: Zach Zollers, Spring-Ford
DL: Shane Nelson, Perkiomen Valley
DL: Brandon Kelley, Owen J. Roberts
DL: TJ Boccella, Pope John Paul II
LB: Carson Pascoe, Perkiomen Valley
LB: Ryan Lamson, Pope John Paul II
LB: Mike Bendowski, Spring-Ford
LB: Robbie Sturges, Perkiomen Valley
LB: Will Fish, Spring-Ford
DB: Stephen Ciaudelli, Perkiomen Valley
DB: Trenton Allen, Pottsgrove
DB: Braden Reed, Pope John Paul II
DB: Belal Abdelrahman, Spring-Ford
P: Jake Reigh, Spring-Ford

Second Team


QB: Luke Terlesky, Pope John Paul II
QB: Dean Rotter, Daniel Boone
RB: Will Fish, Spring-Ford
RB: Cole Yesavage, Boyertown
All-Purpose Back: Sam Moore, Phoenixville
WR: Michael Poruban, Perkiomen Valley
WR: Ahmid Spivey, Phoenixville
WR: Brent Mitala, Pope John Paul II
TE: Josh Cancro, Methacton
OL: JC Dugery, Perkiomen Valley
OL: Ryan Shaner, Spring-Ford
OL: Mike Scalia, Spring-Ford
OL: Mark White, Pottsgrove
OL: Danny Aselton, Phoenixville
OL: Sean Lyons, Pope John Paul II
K: Ben Bosio, Pope John Paul II
All-Around Player: Bryce Caffrey, Pottsgrove
Kick Returner: Wesley Conover, Methacton


DL: Franny Undercuffler, Spring-Ford
DL: Marc White, Pottsgrove
DL: Nyzir Lake, Pope John Paul II
DL: Cole Marinello, Boyertown
DL: Evan Strzeminski, Spring-Ford
DL: Cole Euker, Perkiomen Valley
LB: Drew Kenworthy, Perkiomen Valley
LB: Matt Yurko, Spring-Ford
LB: Ryan Souder, Daniel Boone
LB: Sam Koehler, Perkiomen Valley
LB: Carter Euker, Perkiomen Valley
DB: SahBri Hill, Methacton
DB: Dimitri Toman, Perkiomen Valley
DB: Shane Lewis, Spring-Ford
DB: Tre Cook, Pottsgrove
DB: Dimark Lyons, Pottstown

Honorable Mention

Boyertown: Jason Oakes, Kyler Reyes
Daniel Boone: Max Heffner, Ethan Kryman, Jesse Smith
Hill School: Anthony McMullan, Jake Voynar
Methacton: Levi Borkowski, Tyler Weil-Kaspar
Norristown: Qudir Drummond, Meyon Ferrell, Jamal Griffin
Owen J. Roberts: Derek Hinrichs, Mason Miller, Michael Reed
Perkiomen Valley: Rasheem Grayson, Vance Junker, Tim Ledger, Pat MacDonald, Jake Stewart, Yanni
Phoenixville: Jamie Gray, TJ Howard, Trey Lear, Talon Romance
Pope John Paul II: Chase Frantz, Brendan Kenning, Jack Lockrey, Dylan Skarbek
Pottsgrove: Riley Delp, Koleson Gale, Cory Jubilee-Scott
Pottstown: Nahzier Booker, Rashean Bostic, Joneil Oister

Spring-Ford: Ryan Kerchner, Mason Scott, Colin Sweeney, Travell Wellons, Dan Winters
Upper Merion: Marcus Crittendon, Zayd Etheridge, Preston Thomas
Upper Perkiomen: Mike Boyle, Chidike Eruba, Zach Schwartz

Screenshot 2022-12-12 105415.jpg

2022 PAC All-Liberty

All-Liberty QB - Matt Zollers 

All-Liberty RB - Will Fish

All-Liberty WR - Zach Zollers

All-Liberty WR - Mason Scott

All-Liberty OL - Owen Norman

All-Liberty OL - Luke Ellor
All-Liberty OL - Ryan Shaner

All-Liberty DT - Luke Pajovich 

All-Liberty DE - Franny Undercuffler 

All-Liberty ILB - Will Fish 

All-Liberty DB - Shane Lewis 

All-Liberty 2nd Team TE - Ryan Kerchner 

All-Liberty 2nd Team OL - Mike Scalia 

All-Liberty 2nd Team DT - Evan Strzeminski 

All-Liberty 2nd Team DE/OLB - Zach Zollers
All-Liberty 2nd Team OLB/SS - Matt Yurko

All-Liberty 2nd Team ILB - Mike Bendowski

All-Liberty 2nd Team DB - Belal Abdelrahman
All-Liberty 2nd Team P - Jake Reigh

Spring-Ford football pushes reigning District 1 champ Garnet Valley to the limit

In building their 31-game winning streak against District 1 opponents, the Garnet Valley Jaguars followed a formula that’s almost as easy to explain as it is difficult to overcome.

The Jaguars run the ball downhill – dives, sweeps, keepers, mixed in with just enough play-action passes to keep a defense honest … and confused.

Eventually, opponents go where Garnet Valley wants them to go. They get out of their lanes; they lose track of assignments. Physical exhaustion meets mental fatigue, and the Jaguars win by football’s version of a TKO.

It’s an effective approach. After all, Garnet’s District 1 winning streak now stands at 32 games after Friday night’s 30-27 overtime win over No. 8 seed Spring-Ford.

But the victory came with a question 12-0 Garnet Valley had to answer for the first time this year: what do you do when your opponent just won’t go away?

In an area more than familiar with heroic underdog performances in sports – both real and cinematic – Spring-Ford’s unwavering resolve against the class of District 1 nearly resulted in a seismic victory at Moe DeFrank Stadium, leaving fans of the hosts with an unfamiliar reaction – relief.

Garnet Valley’s (36) Jason Bernard carries the ball in the first half against Spring Ford in the quarter-finals of State 6A playoffs Friday night. The Jags went on to win by a score of 30-27. (Pete Bannan – MediaNews Group)

And while the ending was more Rocky or Friday Night Lights than it was Miracle, Spring-Ford provided a blueprint for underdogs everywhere by simply refusing to believe that they were, in fact, expected to lose this game.

The Rams trailed by double digits midway through the second quarter yet were undeterred and managed to battle back to a 10-all tie by the eight-minute mark of the third period. That was when the fun really began.

Garnet Valley would break their 20-minute scoreless streak – an eternity for their offense – with a short touchdown run in the first minute of the fourth period. The score came at the end of a 16-play, 84-yard drive, the type of possession that typically heralds Garnet Valley assuming permanent control over yet another conquered opponent.

But Gage Swanger wasn’t being toppled. The Spring-Ford senior kept hope alive with a thunderbolt of a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to re-establish the tie game.

That was when something changed for the hosts. A murmur through the crowd, an exchange of glances on the sideline. Spring-Ford wasn’t going away, Garnet Valley would have to put them away. The Rams had designs on more than just ‘hanging around.’

Surely, however, this marked the beginning of the end. The Rams’ defense had been on the field for almost an entire quarter, Swanger’s kick return their only brief respite. Fittingly, the Jaguars charged down the field on a 58-yard drive that took only two minutes to re-establish the lead.

Garnet Valley’s (20) Jack Westburg scores the winning touchdown in overtime to defeat Spring Ford in the quarter-finals of State 6A playoffs Friday night by a score of 30-27. (Pete Bannan – MediaNews Group)

The Rams’ response covered only 51 yards but was months in the making. Spring-Ford’s vastly improved running game was on display with the never-say-die running of Will Fish (12 rushes, 95 yards, 2 TDs) while sophomore quarterback Matt Zollers displayed his progression from first-year starter to seasoned veteran in just 10 plays, picking up first downs with his arm and his legs.

But when Fish powered into the end zone to tie the game at 24 with four minutes remaining, the writing was on the wall: Garnet Valley had plenty of time to charge down the field once more for a game-winning score.

Instead, Spring-Ford dug deep, stopping an offense that almost never takes losses for two negative plays in one set of downs and forcing the Jaguars into a potential game-winning 34-yard field goal attempt, one which drifted wide and sent the game into an extra period. Improbably, the Rams had done what no one in District 1 had in three years – stood toe-to-toe with the Jaguars and fought them to a standstill.

But playoff football doesn’t allow for standstills or ambivalent endings of any kind. There would have to be a victor, and the high school football overtime format – a start from the opponent’s 10-yard line for each team – played directly into the hands of Garnet Valley, an offense predicated on the notion of ‘keep it moving, 10 yards at a time.’

So perhaps Spring-Ford’s ultimate undoing was losing the coin flip and going on offense first. Or maybe it was the first two plays of that possession, consecutive close calls that went against the Rams.

A holding penalty negated Fish’s 5-yard run on first down, pushing the Rams back to the 23-yard line, where an apparent completion to the GV 2-yard line was ultimately overruled and called incomplete.

Ryan Fields stepped up under a world of pressure and drilled a 27-yard field goal to put Spring-Ford ahead, 27-24 – the first time Garnet Valley had trailed in a game since the season opener.

The Jags made it clear they didn’t enjoy the feeling, ending the game and surviving their sternest challenge on Jack Westburg’s 10-yard score on their first play. The play was vintage Jaguars football – a sweep to one of their seemingly endless stable of ball carriers with at least two lead blockers clearing a path.

Now 12-0, Garnet Valley remains on course for a second consecutive District 1 title when they face Downingtown East this Friday.

There are no moral victories for a program as accomplished as Spring-Ford’s – particularly when said loss ends their season and the high school careers of some two dozen senior players.

It’s the type of loss that stays with players and coaches. Over time, the disappointment turns into motivation – one more set in the weight room, one more rep on the practice field, one more kid who comes out for next year’s team, hoping he can make one more play that changes defeat to victory. It’s the game that allows underdogs to ultimately become favorites.

Football: Westburg’s dash in overtime keeps Garnet Valley’s dream alive

CONCORD – Jack Westburg provided the heroics in overtime as No. 1 Garnet Valley defeated No. 8 Spring-Ford, 30-27, in a District 1 Class 6A quarterfinal Friday evening.

After their defense held the Rams (9-2) to a 37-yard field goal by Ryan Fields on the first possession of overtime, the Jaguars (11-0) wasted no time when they got the ball.

Westburg took the hand off from quarterback Matt Mesaros and followed the lead blocking of running backs Jason Bernard and Joseph Checchio to the outside. Westburg sprinted 10 yards untouched to the end zone where he was met by the members of the Garnet Valley cheer team, jumping and screaming in celebration.

“To be honest, I had full faith in Bernard and Checchio,” Westburg said. “Every week we practice jet (sweep) and just to go to the goal line untouched, it’s unbelievable. I just can’t thank the offensive line and those two enough. I’m giving all the credit to the line and everyone else. I mean, I just ran the ball. Anyone could have run the ball in with our O-line … and Checchio and Bernard were horses today.”

Garnet Valley is two wins away from a second consecutive District 1 Class 6A title. Next week the Jags will host No. 12 Downingtown East, which upset No. 4 Downingtown West, 34-9, in the semifinal round.

“I am extremely proud of them. True grit and they stuck together,” Garnet Valley coach Eric Van Wyk said. “They didn’t point fingers and they always believed in each other.”

The Jags and Rams were tied 10-10 at the end of the third quarter. Jason Bernard’s short TD run put GV ahead, but Gage Swanger took the ensuing kickoff 90 yards to the end zone to even the score at 17.  Luke Minigioni sprinted 22 yards to pay dirt to give the Jags a 24-17 advantage. GV attempted an onside kick and Spring-Ford recovered near midfield. Ten plays later Will Fish rumbled across the goal line from four yards out to pull the Rams even at 24. Garnet Valley’s Tim Comers tried a 34-yard field goal as time expired in regulation, but the kick went wide of the uprights.

Bernard led the Jags on the ground with 122 yards on 20 carries. Mesaros rushed for 103 and Luke Minigioni added 79.

Fish paced the Rams with 95 yards on 12 carries and sophomore quarterback Matt Zollers was 12 of 19 with 104 yards through the air.

Spring-Ford vs. Garnet Valley Preview

By Rob Senior


Class 6A: No. 8 Spring-Ford (8-3) at No. 1 Garnet Valley (11-0), 7 p.m. Friday

The Rams played their best half of football in 2022 after halftime last week, turning a 28-14 deficit into a 42-28 win over Ridley of the Central League. Will Fish (144) and Mike Bendowski (100) each went into triple digits running the ball as Spring-Ford’s physicality was the solution – not the issue – against a tiring Raiders defense.

This week, they’d be advised not to wait until halftime.

There’s physical football, then there’s Garnet Valley. To put it bluntly, the Jaguars are a juggernaut. They haven’t lost to a District 1 opponent since 2019 (Coatesville, in the Class 6A semifinals) and currently stand as five-time defending Central League champions, defending District 1 Class 6A champions, and the No. 1 seed as favorites to repeat at District champs.

The retirement of longtime coach Mike Ricci led many to believe the Jags would take a step back this season. And they were right – after averaging 46.6 points per contest last season, Garnet Valley’s all the way down to 39.2 per game in 2022.

Surely, new coach Eric Van Wyk fears for his job.

In all seriousness, any difference in scoring is more than covered by a defense that allowed double-digit points for only the second time this season in last week’s District opener against Quakertown, a 63-14 Garnet Valley victory. For the season, the Jaguars are allowing just under eight points per contest. 

You get the idea. It’s a strong squad, one with visions of playing into December for a second consecutive season – and one that Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker sees as a system to emulate.

“They’re a well-oiled machine,” said Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker, “and anytime you play an option team you need to be assignment oriented. You get in trouble if you start watching the ball.”

“I have a lot of respect for the culture, the program that Mike built there over the years. And his staff is more or less still intact.”

Spring-Ford’s prolific front seven, led by seniors Luke Pajovich, Franny Undercuffler, and Zach Zollers up front with Fish and Matt Yurko at the linebacker level, will be tasked with holding down the Jaguars’ ground game that averages 7.3 yards per carry. Jason Bernard and Joe Checchio see the lion’s share of the carries, with QB Matt Mesaros always a threat to keep. 

Checchio also figures prominently on Garnet Valley’s defense, who will see a different challenge in Spring-Ford this week. The Rams are showing their completeness as a unit, as sophomore Matt Zollers rebounded from an early interception to do damage with his arm and his legs against Ridley, throwing for 176 yards but also carrying for a trio of scores on his own. 

Zach Zollers (42 catches, 566 yards, 8 TDs) is the main threat in the passing game, but Mason Scott, Gage Swanger, and Belal Abdelrahman will force Garnet Valley to cover every yard. If the Rams are effective in spreading the Jaguars out, freshman tight end Ryan Kerchner is enjoying an increased role in the middle of the field.

Matt Zollers’ role as a punter could be emphasized this week. Stopping the Garnet Valley offense isn’t a realistic ask but forcing them to repeatedly drive the length of the field for their points is the key for Spring-Ford to get to the second half or the fourth quarter with a chance to win.

“We go in with a game plan and the expectation to win,” said Brubaker. “We want to put them in unfamiliar situations.”

Spring-Ford uses second-half surge to oust Ridley​

​ROYERSFORD >> For years, Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker has emphasized the need for his Rams to match the physicality of the powerhouse teams they face in the postseason. It was again a point of emphasis for the No. 8-seeded Rams as they prepared for No. 9 Ridley of the Central League.

Spring-Ford’s patience was rewarded. The Rams bounced back from a two-touchdown halftime deficit, matching and then surpassing Ridley’s play in the trenches in a come-from-behind, 42-28 win for over the Raiders in the District 1 Class 6A first round.

Senior Will Fish carried for 144 yards with Mike Bendowski adding exactly 100 as Spring-Ford outrushed Ridley 283-108 in controlling the line of scrimmage after halftime.

The Rams went into the locker room trailing 28-14 after an uneven first half but outgained the Raiders 288-13 in the next 22 minutes, scoring on four out of five drives to earn the comeback win.

“Starting in the third quarter, we started pounding the ball, getting positive yards,” said Brubaker. “We just kept rolling with it.”

“Early on, we had a turnover, we didn’t get any stops — and we came in down two scores. But there was no ranting and raving, it was just ‘let’s go down and score, get back into it.’”

And that they did. Fish got rolling behind a powerful offensive line with a couple first-down carries after halftime before QB Matt Zollers’ second of three TD runs brought SF within 28-20.

“We never got down on ourselves,” said Fish. “We knew we hadn’t played our best [before halftime].”

A quick Ridley three-and-out gave junior Mike Bendowski his chance in the backfield, which paid off in a 37-yard sprint through the right side. Bendowski beat the pursuing linebacker through an enormous hole and outran the Ridley secondary to tie the contest at 28.

“That gave us momentum, got us moving in the right direction,” said Bendowski.

That momentum turned into Spring-Ford’s first lead when Zollers kept on a third down and raced untouched six yards to the house, putting the Rams ahead 35-28.

Fish put the icing on the cake in the following drive, bouncing outside on a fourth down for a 40-yard score to send Spring-Ford to the second round for the first time since 2016.

“Just keep going, stay positive, keep hitting,” summarized senior captain and offensive lineman Ryan Shaner. “If someone makes a mistake? Pick him up; hit them harder.”

Gage Swanger’s last interception thwarted Ridley’s final opportunity.

For their part, a Ridley offense that had been borderline unstoppable before halftime stalled out as the game progressed. Three straight three and outs set the stage for SF’s rushing dominance, but the Raiders had their highlights as well.

Ridley’s special teams set the visitors up on their first two drives, Kimir Stephenson and Khameen Powell each taking kicks back into Spring-Ford territory. Both drives ended in Paul Jackson rushing touchdowns, the first a 47-yard scamper off a direct snap on a fourth down.

On the next drive, a Stephen O’Donovan (five catches, 80 yards) catch on third down at the SF 34 gave Ridley a first and goal.

In between, Spring-Ford QB Zollers found older brother Zach for a 31-yard TD to get Spring-Ford on the board.

The big play of the first half came when Ridley’s Powell intercepted Matt Zollers around midfield and returned the ball all the way to the SF 1-yard line, where Ridley QB Ryan Carroll snuck over the goal line for a 20-7 advantage. The Rams embarked upon a 12-play drive that ate up most of the second quarter, culminating in Matt Zollers’ 8-yard TD scamper.

The Raiders (7-4) responded and recaptured momentum going into halftime as Alante Smith scored from five yards out with 27 seconds left.

It would be the final highlight of the evening for Ridley. Penalties would be part of the Raiders undoing, whistled eleven times for 105 yards.

“Spring-Ford played extremely well in the second half,” said Ridley coach Dave Wood. “We lost one of our inside linebackers (Michael Cosella) to a broken arm, and we weren’t really the same after that. But I give credit to Coach Brubaker and his team.

“I was disappointed in the officials. That’s not to take away from Spring-Ford, I’m just disappointed in the discrepancy in penalties. I’d love to talk with [the officials], have the chance to go over those calls.”

Spring-Ford, for their part, was whistled nine times themselves for 75 yards.

“I give credit to Ridley for a well-played game,” said Brubaker. “But they are penalties. They’re correct calls.”

Friday’s game matched two of the best teams not to win a league championship this season in District 1.

Coming in, Ridley’s losses were to Garnet Valley and Strath Haven — Central League co-champions and respective No. 1 seeds at 6A and 5A — and Crestwood (Fla.)

Like Ridley, Spring-Ford’s losses came against top competition — PAC champions Perkiomen Valley (by a single point), and 6A state contenders Cumberland Valley and Manheim Township from District 3.

The Rams (8-3) move to next week’s District quarterfinals against No. 1 Garnet Valley (11-0) who topped Ridley 35-7 on September 16, and bested Quakertown in round one Friday night.

Ridley’s 2022 campaign continues on Thanksgiving Day against Interboro.

Spring-Ford takes PAC crossover, 56-0 over Phoenixville

PHOENIXVILLE >> The bitter sting of last year’s Pioneer Athletic Conference crossover loss to Pottsgrove wasn’t on Spring-Ford’s mind, but rather, the idea of treating the regular season finale with respect instead.

“That was the message all week,” Rams coach Chad Brubaker said. “We can’t just assume that because they’re playing in smaller schools, that they are smaller than us, that we just show up and win. Doesn’t work that way, so that’s what we emphasized all week.”

The message was well received. In Friday’s Week 10 PAC crossover, Spring-Ford took a decisive 56-0 win over Phoenixville at Washington Field.

The Rams (7-3) scored on every possession and running back Mike Bendowski added a touchdown on a blocked punt to go up 14-0 in the first quarter. It was the junior’s second straight game with a blocked punt recovery for a touchdown.

“We’ve just been so aggressive all year, we’ve had plenty of blocked punts,” Bendowski said. “Zach Zollers is an animal off the edge, so is Will Fish up the middle. Zach created both those opportunities for me, so I was just in the right place at the right time.”

Bendowski ran in a 22-yard touchdown with 7:55 in the second quarter to balloon Spring-Ford’s lead, 28-0. Fish added a 4-yard punch-in early in the third frame.

Zollers found a big opportunity in the second quarter as well, scooping up a fumble to halt the Phantoms (6-4) in the red zone. Spring-Ford’s defense hasn’t let up a touchdown since Week 7.

“It starts with our front seven and we try to win the line of scrimmage,” Zollers said. “We work hard at practice every day. We were down a couple guys, but it’s that next-man-up mentality.”

Gage Swanger provided monster plays in the second quarter. The senior made three receptions for 113 yards and two touchdowns. His first came on the first play of the frame off a 13-yard floater to the corner of the end zone from Matt Zollers (10-of-13, 210 yards, 3TD) to go up 21-0.

Two drives later, Swanger caught a pass in the open field and took it in for a 64-yard score to carry a 35-0 lead at halftime.

Despite falling behind early, Phoenixville was still able to move the chains, ending the first half with five first downs, just one less than Spring-Ford.

“I mean, it was better than last week,” said Phantoms coach Anthony Ciarlello, noting last week’s loss to undefeated Pope John Paul II. “They were asked to get better, and they did. We moved the ball, we had some mistakes and we need to clean that stuff up for next week.”

Both Spring-Ford and Phoenixville are District 1 tournament-bound in the Class 6A and 5A fields, respectively, as they await their playoff seedings.

Spring-Ford quarterback Matt Zollers (2) gets rid of the ball before he takes a sack against Phoenixville in the PAC crossover at Washington Field Friday. (Evan Wheaton – MediaNews Group)

Ranked No. 10 ahead of the final week of the regular season, the Rams flexed their offensive muscles on their opening drive. Matt Zollers took his unit downfield in four plays capped by a 38-yard bomb to Mason Scott for the initial score of the game.

Mosiah Rhodes found bountiful time off the bench in the second half. The senior took 10 straight handoffs for 46 yards and a 2-yard touchdown.

On Spring-Ford’s following possession, the first snap saw Rhodes break loose on a 61-yard run to the house to cap the scoring. He finished with a game-high 109 yards on 11 carries.

“He brings energy to practice every day. He’s excited, he’s never in a bad mood. He’s just a great kid, so it is great for him to get an opportunity these past two weeks in games like this and he made the most of it both times,” Brubaker said.

Sam Moore, one of the most prolific running backs in the PAC, was kept to 95 yards on 18 carries as he consistently moved the chains for Phoenixville. Darius Watson also hauled in a 23-yard reception from Talon Romance (4-of-6, 35 yards) as the Phantoms kept looking for answers offensively.

Similar to the Rams, Phoenixville entered Week 10 ranked 10th in District 1 among 5A schools. Playing up to 6A Spring-Ford as well as top-ranked 3A Pope John Paul II last week offers the Phantoms a taste of strong competition to try and build on ahead to the postseason.

“We saw two of the best teams we’ve seen all year the last two weeks of the season without a doubt,” Ciarlello said.

Bendowski, family lean on Spring-Ford football for support amid mother's bout with cancer.

By Rob Senior



When Mike Bendowski was seven years old, he failed to recover a fumble in a youth league football game.

His grandfather, Dave Kennedy, was determined that it would not happen again.

“We’d sit in his living room,” Bendowski said, “and he’d drop the ball on the floor, and I’d have to cover it up.”

The lesson, and others, took quite well. Today, Mike is a junior at Spring-Ford, starring on both sides of the ball ranking among the team’s leaders in tackles and rushing yards. (Grandpa would be proud to know Mike’s also tied for the team lead in fumble recoveries).



“Unofficially, my dad [Dave] was Mike’s first coach,” said Bendowski’s mother, Karen Kennedy, “and his biggest fan.”

When Dave passed away in 2013, it was Karen who assumed the mantle of Mike’s biggest supporter.

“Without my mom, I would not be playing football,” said Bendowski. “She’s been there for me from the very start.”

Now, Mike and the entire Spring-Ford program are returning the favor, displaying their support for Karen Kennedy. Just over a year ago, before the start of Mike’s sophomore season, Karen was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer.

Karen’s battle isn’t a consistent fight. There are good days, weeks, even months interspersed with times that range from challenging to plain old bad days. In a word, it’s unpredictable. Any glimmer of consistency becomes much more valuable. For Karen, that glimmer is high school football.

“This year, my ninth grader Brandon plays on Thursdays, and Mike plays on Fridays,” she said. “As difficult as some of the other days can be, I look forward to Thursdays and Friday nights.

“Mike and I have a ritual – win or lose, he’s there at the fence (separating sidelines and spectators) after the game. I take these moments in a little bit more right now, as his senior year looms.”

“I text her from the locker room before every game,” added Mike. “Just a quick text message to say, ‘I love you.’ It’s the last thing I do before I turn on my music and get ready mentally.”

This past week, Karen had to wait one extra day as Spring-Ford played on Saturday afternoon at Coach McNelly Stadium. It was Homecoming for the Rams, but it was a special game for Mike Bendowski for an entirely different reason.

“I bought a pair of cleats that I’m wearing today – and for the remainder of the season – in honor of my mom and everyone who battles osteosarcoma,” said Bendowski. “They’re yellow, which is the color of osteosarcoma awareness. She had a procedure, and I wondered what I could do to show my support.

“I asked coach [Chad] Brubaker and he was 100 percent behind it. He’s so much more than a coach to me.”

But what Bendowski didn’t know – what no one other than Brubaker knew until just before Saturday’s kickoff – was that the Spring-Ford head coach followed Bendowski’s request by ordering special socks for each Rams player to wear for the Homecoming game. In support of Karen Kennedy, Spring-Ford took the field wearing their customary uniforms, but with socks that displayed a yellow ‘ribbon’ about an inch thick at the top.

Karen was already in her usual seat at the 40-yard line in Coach McNelly Stadium when Mike texted to tell her about the gesture. “I told him, ‘Mike, I can’t believe this – I’m crying,” Karen said. “I think he was pretty emotional too.”

“These kids get me through a lot of days,” she continued. “They’re so much more than football players – they’re here Saturday through Thursday too. It’s tough to teach, but year after year, these coaches bring up the same type of people and athletes through this program.”

“We’re really fortunate in this program, this community, to have great parents who are raising these kids,” said Brubaker. “It doesn’t happen by accident.”

Spring-Ford has a Thursday night tradition in which varsity players have dinner together at a team member’s home. Brubaker, of course, attends these functions – he says it’s his opportunity to step outside of his role as football coach and get to know players and families as people.

“When you break bread, something’s different. You’re in someone’s home, and you’re discussing things that go on in life beyond football. You know you’ve got the support of all these people at that meal, and we want that to go beyond just Thursday nights.”

Mike Bendowski made the Spring-Ford varsity football team as a ninth grader and as such, had the opportunity to form friendships with players in the classes above. He drives now, but during his 10th grade season those older teammates and their parents were all too willing to offer Mike rides to and from practice and other events to help the family.

“You would have been doing a lot of walking last year if it wasn’t for (your teammates)!” Karen told Mike, laughing.

Through football, Bendowski has formed lasting bonds strengthened by the circumstances around Karen’s diagnosis.

Bendowski credited others in the Spring-Ford community outside of football – particularly his 10th grade English teacher, Joy Needles – for their willingness to offer support on those tough days. “She keeps in contact with my mom, and her door’s always been open,” he said.

Clad in his brand-new yellow cleats and matching socks to honor his mother during Saturday’s Homecoming game win over Norristown, Mike Bendowski gave a nod to his late grandfather.

After Zach Zollers deflected a Norristown punt in the first quarter, Bendowski roared in from the opposite side of the line, showing perfect form in scooping up the loose ball and returning it four yards for a Spring-Ford touchdown.

Now, the team lead in fumble recoveries is his alone.

“That was perfect – I was thinking about him, of course,” Mike said after the game.

In the 49-0 win, Spring-Ford’s commanding lead meant Mike’s day was finished at halftime. But as the clock ticked down, Karen Kennedy made her way down to the same spot at the fence where she and Mike always meet.

On a special day, mom and son shared a conversation that lasted 30 seconds, a minute tops. It was that minute Karen fought for all week – and the minute she’ll fight for this coming week to be back in that same spot after the next game.

As Mike headed for the locker room, Karen smiled. Only six days to go until Friday night.

Spring-Ford tunes up for playoffs with win over Norristown

ROYERSFORD >> Spring-Ford no longer had any hopes of getting into the Pioneer Athletic Conference football championship game this season coming into Saturday’s Liberty Division contest against Norristown.

But the Rams still had a list of things to accomplish … such as minimize mistakes, execute their plays and work on their timing. And obviously. get other win to possibly help their seeding in the upcoming District 1-6A playoffs.
All of those tasks were accomplished in a 49-0 win on Homecoming Day at Coach McNelly Stadium.

Matt Zollers completed all nine of his pass attempts in the first half for 158 yards and three touchdowns and Will Fish ran for 59 yards and a score as the Rams (4-1 PAC Liberty, 6-3 overall) ran out to a 49-0 lead at the half. Brendan Farrell passed for 117 yards for the Eagles (0-5, 2-7), with Marquis Holmes catching three passes for 71 yards.

“Our goal today was to minimize mistakes and execute on both sides of the ball,” said Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker. “That was our goal. We did it well.”

As far as the minimizing of mistakes went, the Rams had no penalties and no turnovers. And they were unstoppable on offense in the first half, scoring touchdowns on their first six drives, with a blocked punt recovery in the end zone for another score besides.

Spring-Ford drove 34 yards on its first possession, with Fish rumbling the last 20 yards for the score. Then Belal Abdelrahman intercepted a pass for the Rams and Zollers hit him with a 45-yard touchdown strike on the next play.
Fish completed a 50-yard drive with a 5-yard run, Mike Bendowski recovered a blocked punt in the end zone, Luke Pajovich caught a 3-yard TD pass, Zach Zollers caught an 18-yard scoring pass and Mosiah Rhodes ran eight yards for a TD to make it 49-0 at the half.

Sophomore quarterback Matt Zollers had all the time he needed to spot his receivers and delivery an accurate pass.

“The offensive line has been doing a great job all season,” he said. “They’ve been stepping it up a lot lately and continue to get better. I’ve been trying to fix my timing on routes lately. I’ve been late and missing my receivers.”
Fish also benefited from the line’s play as he averaged 6.6 yards on his nine carries.

“They were making a lot of nice blocks,” he said. “I was just following them. We’re just trying to minimize mistakes. Just trying to get better at what we do.”

Many of Norristown’s 144 total yards came on long pass plays as Farrell found Holmes for completions of 40 and 26 yards and hit Bocar Dieng with a 35-yarder.

“We were looking to try to establish our identity in this game by running the ball a little bit more,” said Norristown coach Joe Milligan. “We’ve got most of our starting running backs back from last week. We’re running full tilt.”

But it was difficult for the Eagles to make much progress against the tough Ram defense as they gained only 25 yards on 18 carries.

“They’re definitely a pretty good program, especially this time of year,” said Milligan. “A well-oiled machine.”

Both teams will wrap up the regular season next week with PAC crossover games.

And the Rams will continue to try to tune up their game and advance in the district rankings. They are currently ranked 11th, with the top 16 teams going to the playoffs.

“Obviously, we wanted to be playing in that championship game,” said Fish. “We still knew we were going to the district playoffs and this was a big game for seeding.”

“We’ve got to just keep getting better for the playoffs,” said Brubaker. “We want to go into the playoffs firing on all cylinders.”

Stout defense, turnovers lift Spring-Ford football 45-7 over Methacton

  • by  Evan Wheaton

  • October 15, 2022

    ROYERSFORD >> Spring-Ford’s defense was loud last week. On Friday, it was booming.

Fueled by three timely turnovers and a pair of sacks, the Rams made the most of their opportunities. Behind 31 unanswered points in the first half, Spring-Ford took a 45-7 win over Methacton at Coach McNelly Stadium.

The win for the Rams (5-3, 3-1 PAC Liberty) comes on the heels of a 7-6 gut-wrenching loss to Perkiomen Valley in a battle for control of the Pioneer Athletic Conference Liberty division.

“We definitely had a lot of motivation coming off that tough, hard-fought loss,” Spring-Ford quarterback Matt Zollers said. “We changed our game plan up, we wanted to throw early and often so we could just get points on the board and run the clock out with our backups, get them some reps.”

Zollers unleashed an aerial assault on the Warriors (4-4, 2-2 PAC Liberty). The 6-foot-4, 200-pound sophomore signal caller threw 16-for-30 with 176 passing yards and two touchdowns, connecting with seven different receivers on the night.

In the first half alone, he had over 120 passing yards and ran in on a 12-yard keeper for the first score of the game two minutes in.

“Our offensive line is definitely giving me a lot of time and our receivers are getting open and catching the ball,” Zollers said. “Once they catch the ball, they do all the work and they make opportunities for themselves.”


The initial touchdown from Zollers was set up on an interception by Belal Abdelrahman (three catches, 38 yards) to bring out Spring-Ford’s offense inside the red zone.

From there, Zollers threw a pair of 4-yard touchdown darts to Zach Zollers (three catches, 22 yards) and Ali Safa (two catches, 16 yards) in the second quarter to break open the game.

“It gave us a lot of motivation,” Zollers said on finishing in the end zone off turnovers. “It showed our offense is picking up and our defense, it’s been the same the whole year. It’s very good and it gets a lot of stops for us and sets us up for great opportunities.”

While Spring-Ford’s game plan was to stretch the field and air out the ball — and it most certainly did — there was no shortage of ground-and-pound. Junior running back Mike Bendowski chopped up 114 yards on just seven carries.

The vast bulk of Bendowski’s production came in a two-play, 91-yard drive capped off with a 2-yard punch-in to extend the Rams’ lead 14-0 in the first quarter.

Bendowski found the end zone once more midway through the third quarter with an 8-yard run to the outside to go up 38-7.

“Our goal tonight was actually to come in and try to throw the ball a little bit, work on some of our in-game timing,” Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker said. “We felt we wanted to throw the ball early and finish the game by running out the clock, running the ball late. But Mike had different plans I guess on that drive.”


Methacton wasn’t without a pair of bright spots with flashes of defense and special teams. The Warriors held the Rams to a 26-yard field goal from Ryan Fields late in the first quarter and Wesley Conover returned a kickoff for a touchdown as the buzzer blared for halftime, cutting it 31-7.

“We were hoping that coming out in the second half, we would get a stop on defense, play a little bit tougher, a little bit more physical,” Methacton coach Brian Kennedy said. “Our physicality wasn’t that bad, just some mental lapses.”

Perhaps the biggest lapse came early in the fourth quarter. The Warriors were putting together their cleanest drive of the night, but a bad snap along Spring-Ford’s 3-yard line pushed them back out to the 20.

Luke Hall then recovered a fumble and took it all the way back to close out the scoring with 9:30 left in the game.

It wasn’t an isolated incident, either. Stationed along the Rams’ 1-yard line during the first quarter, the Warriors coughed up the ball and Will Fish scooped it up to pull Spring-Ford out of an early jam.

“That hurt us. When you’re in the 5-yard line and come away with no points, that’s huge,” Kennedy said. “We could’ve gone down there and 7-7, that’s a different football game. Maybe they’re back on their heels a little bit, maybe it gives our kids a boost of confidence and momentum.

“We just never got momentum and in football, if you don’t have momentum, it’s one thing you really need.”

Against Perkiomen Valley, Zach Zollers, Franny Undercuffler and Luke Pajovich combined for 26 tackles and two sacks. Friday marked another strong defensive performance that generated turnovers and allowed no points from Methacton’s offense.

“They’ve been playing great all year. They came up with obviously timely turnovers tonight,” Brubaker said. “We did give up some drives, (Methacton) did move the ball but when it counted, we came up big.”

Perkiomen Valley slugs past Spring-Ford, gains top spot in PAC Liberty

GRATERFORD >> As Perkiomen Valley honored some 38 seniors — football players, team managers, and cheerleaders — before Friday’s game, the public address announcer read each senior’s “favorite moment” of their PV athletic career. 

At least one Viking is already looking for a redo. 

“That was the first thing one of our coaches said to me — new favorite moment!” said running back Brad Curci, whose 36-yard catch-and-run in the late third quarter stood up as Perkiomen Valley outslugged Spring-Ford, 7-6, in the latest installment of the two schools’ classic rivalry.

“Two great teams — a couple of great defenses,” added Cole Euker, a sophomore two-way tackle for PV. “It felt all along that it would come down to defense.”

And it did, as Euker’s final big play of the evening was a tackle on Spring-Ford quarterback Matt Zollers on a would-be go-ahead two-point conversion with 46 seconds to play. 


The deciding play came after the Rams’ first two-point attempt was whistled dead for an offsides penalty on the Vikings, moving the ball halfway to the goal line for Spring-Ford.

“I wasn’t sure how that [penalty] would affect it,” said Euker.

The plan, however, stayed simple. 

“Wasn’t much to say,” said Euker. “Just continue doing what we’ve been doing all night.”

And that was coming up with big plays at the right times. Euker joined with Carson Pascoe and Vance Junker up front to stop SF in the backfield repeatedly, putting Spring-Ford behind the sticks or stopping previously promising drives in their tracks. 

Spring-Ford’s Jake Reigh’s booming 65-yard punt pinned PV at their own 10-yard line midway through the third quarter of a scoreless contest. Yet the Vikings embarked undaunted on an eight-play, 90-yard drive that featured running back Jake Stewart (19 carries, 79 yards) before Curci made his first touch of the evening count, taking a middle screen 36 yards untouched for a 7-0 PV lead.

“Screen plays are the best,” said Curci, “because the line comes through, and all you see is green in front of you.

“I had a lot of blocking in front of me. My first thought (after scoring) was ‘let’s get the PAT’ but then I see everyone coming at me, and in the stands, going wild.”

Indeed it was a sellout crowd, as usual, at Thomas J. Keenan Stadium after a reshuffling of the schedule led to Perkiomen Valley hosting the matchup for the second straight year. But the best was yet to come. 

The Vikings survived a lost fumble, but the defensive struggle continued as the Rams forced a punt before their two-minute offense began to move the ball as efficiently as they had all evening. Matt Zollers (19-33, 179 yards, TD) found three different receivers, going 6-for-7 on the drive before a coverage bust found Belal Abdelrahman wide open inside the five-yard line for a score that brought the Rams within 7-6 with less than a minute to play and set up the deciding conversion.

“Before the drive even started,” said Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker when asked when he decided to go for a two-point conversion and the win. “We hadn’t really moved the ball all night, our whole coaching staff was in agreement [on going for two]. 

“I would make the same call again.”

Spring-Ford outgained PV 277-175 but were undone by repeated snap issues and other mistakes.

“Too many penalties,” Brubaker summarized. “[PV] is awfully quick on defense. That’s hard to simulate in practice and it gave us some problems.”

It wasn’t an offensive spectacle, a back-and-forth shootout befitting two of the strongest offensive units in the area. Instead, it was a somewhat disjointed game at times, one fraught with self-inflicted errors and a pair of stout defenses dictating the flow of the contest. 

But one thing didn’t change — an edge-of-your-seat, nail-biting finish. Four of the last five games in the ‘Battle of the Horns’ came down to a single score. Coming down to a single point, a single play, a single yard, in fact, was a new twist.

Early on, the theme was those missed opportunities, and it started immediately when Ryan Klimek took the opening kickoff 57 yards to the SF 34 for the Vikings. But a poor snap pushed PV back into its own territory before a punt.

That punt, however, gave the Vikings their best field position in the early going after a Spring-Ford fumble. The Rams defense stood tall, however, as Zach Zollers made the first of several big plays in the opening half by defensive linemen when he stopped PV’s Owen Peterlin on a variation of the famed “Philly Special.”

From there, the defenses remained in control throughout the half, as Spring-Ford’s Mike Bendowski recovered a fumble to end the Vikings’ best threat, while Vance Junker scored a QB sack on Zollers at the PV 30 to thwart the Rams.

After the teams exchanged punts to start the second half, it became apparent the first score would be paramount to determining the outcome.

And it was — just not as big as the two-point play that followed the second score.

Cole Euker has two brothers on the team — Carter and Grant — and a brother Gavin who graduated in 2019. As of now, he’s the only member of the family who’s undefeated against the Vikings’ archrivals.

“Of course, that’s special,” he said. “It’s always the game you want to win.”

The win gave Perk Valley (6-1, 3-0 PAC Liberty) sole possession of first place in the division, as well as the all-time lead in the series by the slimmest of margins, 20-19.

Perkiomen Valley can cement a second straight PAC Liberty title with a win next week against Norristown.

Spring-Ford (4-3, 2-1 PAC Liberty) looks to bounce back when they host Methacton.

Aside from his passing numbers, Matt Zollers added 25 yards rushing, a number diminished by his need to jump on a couple errant snaps. He saved the day on at least one occasion, corralling a bad snap and buying himself time to throw the ball away for an incompletion rather than losing significant yardage.

The visceral reactions to the last-second loss on the Rams’ sideline and even in the student section showed just how much the rivalry means to both sides.

“It hurts,” Brubaker said succinctly. 

The pain of what could’ve been for the Rams was balanced by the joy and unofficial ‘greatest moment’ of Brad Curci’s football career — a fitting portrait of the latest chapter of the area’s best rivalry. 

Spring-Ford clamps down on Owen J. Roberts in 37-20 win


Owen J. Roberts started strong. Spring-Ford finished stronger.

After the Wildcats scored the game’s first two touchdowns and opened an 11-point lead, the Rams took control in the second quarter and put the clamps down with strong line play on both sides to earn a 37-20 victory at Wildcat Stadium.

Spring-Ford surrendered only one score after the 7:09 mark of the second quarter, running off 34 points of its own in that span.

Sophomore quarterback Matt Zollers (6-for-12, 130 yards, 1 TD) ignited the Rams’ charge with a 44-yard TD pass to Ryan Kerchner. The QB later ran for two TDs. Will Fish powered the run game with 16 carries for 160 yards and a TD.
OJR’s Michael Reed was 12-for-19 for 109 yards and a TD while leading receiver Danny Cashman caught 6 passes for 67 yards.

Owen J. Roberts (3-3, 0-2 PAC Liberty) started the game stoutly on the defensive end, forcing Spring-Ford (4-2, 2-0 PAC Liberty) into an early turnover on downs and holding the offense to a field goal on the Rams’ following drive.

A deep return by returner Danny Cashman on the ensuing kick-off earned the Wildcats positive field position at the 50-yard line and Owen J. Roberts’ offense took advantage of the momentum – albeit in an unexpected fashion. After two short rushes by running back Hunter Rhoads, the Wildcats lined up for a short-yard situation in an attempt to get the two yards needed for a first down. Owen J. Roberts quarterback Reed took the direct snap for a quarterback sneak attempt and torpedoed his way into the trenches, somehow squeezing out of the pile on the other side on his way to a 42-yard touchdown run to give the Wildcats an early lead.

After a blocked point after attempt, momentum continued to trend in Owen J. Roberts’ favor as the Rams coughed up the football on its second play of the drive, setting up the Wildcats deep in Spring-Ford territory thanks to a loose-ball recovery by Carter Hendricks.

Owen J. Roberts would score again on the ensuing possession on a 21-yard circus catch by Derek Hinrichs, who went up for the football with three Spring-Ford defenders in the vicinity and came down with the touchdown to give the Wildcats a 14-3 lead.

“I was happy with a lot of things tonight, but especially defensively in the first half I thought we were very good,” OJR coach Rich Kolka said. “And I thought offensively we did some nice things as well.”

However the Rams regained their composure on the following drive, picking up a chunk of yardage on a 29-yard rush by Will Fish and then finding their way into the end zone on a long 44-yard catch and run from quarterback Matt Zollers to wide receiver Ryan Kerchner.

“We just said, ‘Forget about that, you’ve got to move forward,’” Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker said. “Football is a crazy sport and sometimes things just happen. That’s just football, but we had to come back and execute on offense.”

A momentum-swinging sack by Luke Pajovich forced the Wildcats into a punting situation deep in their own territory on the following drive and proved a decisive moment in the game.

“We had to be careful because he (Reed) is a good runner too,” Brubaker said of the Rams’ pressure on the quarterback in the win. “He’s multi-dimensional so you can’t just get up field on him. We had to manage that and we picked our spots, we got some pressure with our front four at times and Luke was just all over the field.”

The ensuing snap went sailing over the head of Owen J. Roberts’ punter and landed in the end zone, resulting in a touchdown recovery by Zach Zollers and a 17-14 Spring-Ford advantage heading into the half.

The Rams came out of the break firing on all cylinders, quickly putting another score on the board and taking a 24-14 lead after a short run by Matt Zollers.

“We kind of found ourselves last week in terms of the run game,” Brubaker said. “Tonight we just wanted to run downhill and come off the ball, instead of just running zone-read.”

However Owen J. Roberts refused to go down without a fight, putting together a long drive on its following possession that ended with a short touchdown pass from Reed to Colin King and cut the Wildcats’ deficit to just one score.

“I was really happy with the fact that we were able to battle back into the game and cut it to 24-20,” Kolka said. “That shows a lot about our character and that’s really what I’m happy about.”

The Rams would score on back-to-back possessions via another short run by Matt Zollers and a 33-yard rumble by Fish that gave Spring-Ford a comfortable 37-20 lead heading into the latter minutes of the game.

Spring-Ford rolls past Boyertown in PAC Liberty opener

By  Evan Wheaton

  • September 24, 2022

ROYERSFORD >> Spring-Ford came into Week 5 looking to snap a two-game losing streak. Well, picture that proverbial snap as a branch getting obliterated beneath its foot.

By scoring six touchdowns on its first six drives, the Rams bombarded Boyertown in the Pioneer Athletic Conference Liberty opener, 42-0 at Coach McNelly Stadium Friday night.

“Spring-Ford did a great job keeping the offense off the field for sure, but then again, we kicked ourselves in the foot fumbling there twice and took us out of the first quarter,” Bears coach Justin Konnick said.

Boyertown (2-3) had two turnovers, the first on a fumble along the Spring-Ford 1-yard line. After recovering on their 3-yard line, the Rams (3-2) pieced together a lengthy 12-play, 97-yard drive capped off by a 10-yard rushing touchdown by senior running back Will Fish.


Fish was a human battering ram and all 5-foot-11, 205 pounds of him chopped up 142 yards on 18 carries, adding another touchdown on a 28-yard run to the house just before the half to carry a 35-0 lead into the break.

“During our first game, we knew that we could run the ball against Governor Mifflin and the past few weeks, we haven’t been able to do that,” Fish said. “To come out tonight and show that we can run the ball against everyone, it’s a big deal and means a lot to us.”

Through the first four weeks, Spring-Ford averaged just 54 rushing yards per game. A major item on the Rams’ agenda was to establish that ground game which hadn’t been present thus far.

And with 265 rushing yards across the hands of six different members of its backfield, it’s safe to say Spring-Ford did just that.

“That was the goal. We’ve been struggling,” Rams coach Chad Brubaker said. “It’s obvious if anybody’s looked at the box scores. We’ve played two pretty good teams, but even prior to that, we had not broken out the way we wanted to break out offensively and how we want to execute.

“We pulled back a little bit this week in terms of complexity. We decided we were going to be more downhill as opposed to a read team and we took a lot of the reads, zone-read and other reads out of the game and just ran downhill. Obviously we got results.”


The results weren’t exclusive to the ground. Sophomore quarterback Matt Zollers — who entered Week 5 with a PAC-high nine passing touchdowns — threw 9-for-15 for 154 yards and three touchdowns, all in the first half.

His first came two minutes into the second quarter on an 11-yard strike to Zach Zollers to double up the Rams’ lead, 14-0.

“We were running a bunch of RPOs and the linebackers were coming up heavy and I was just throwing right behind their ears,” Matt Zollers said. “They were playing a lot of cover-zero and a lot of cover-four, and that’s pretty easy coverage to pick apart.”


Junior wide receiver Belal Abdelrahman hauled in a 16-yard end zone reception from the 6-foot-4, 200-pound signal caller to put an exclamation point on a two-play, 75-yard sprint with 7:15 left in the second quarter.

With just under four and a half minutes remaining before the break, Zollers once again found Abdelrahman in the end zone with a 12-yard dart.

“I mean, that’s Spring-Ford,” Konnick said. “Spring-Ford’s gonna go out there and throw the football and we went out there and did everything this past week to get ready for that.

“Obviously we weren’t good enough and they did what they needed to do to move the ball down the field and (Zollers) is a hell of a quarterback. His brother is a hell of a receiver and we knew coming into this game what we were up against.”

Mike Bendowski caught four passes for 46 yards and added another 75 yards on the ground across six touches. The junior closed out the scoring with a 33-yard rushing touchdown five minutes into the third quarter.


The Rams weren’t the only ones with major offensive keys on the field. Junior running back Cole Yesavage entered the game as the leading rusher in the PAC with 518 yards on the ground and eight touchdowns.

If a shutout to open league play wasn’t enough for Spring-Ford’s defense, holding one of the strongest running backs in the area to just 27 yards on 13 carries is another box checked off the list.

That, avoiding injuries and handing the game over to second and third-stringers to get some valuable experience for the bench late in the third quarter was also a plus for the Rams.

“We wanted to make sure when we come out in the second half, it doesn’t turn into mistakes and mental mistakes and everything like that,” Brubaker said. “Our second-team guys did a good job of that in the second half.

“We did make some mistakes, but it was nice seeing different guys get touches in the second half that haven’t gotten touches all year. I think as a program, we really needed a game like this.”

Manheim Township overcomes penalties with late defensive stand

Hayden Johnson completed 24-of-33 passes for 283 yards and two touchdowns to lead Manheim Township over Spring-Ford Friday.

ROYERSFORD — All of Manheim Township’s frustration, and all those penalties, were erased by three timely defensive plays. One prevented a touchdown. Two ended the potential game-winning drive.

Township held off Spring-Ford 17-14 in a nonleague football game Friday night. It was 48 minutes that became a test of perseverance.

Jake Cramer’s tackle was the clincher. The senior dragged down Belal Abdelrahman short of the first down to end Spring-Ford’s chance at the go-ahead score in the final minute.

“I immediately looked at the sticks and saw it wasn’t a first down,” Cramer. “That was it. We just wanted to get off the field. The defense was putting it out there. It felt good.”

One play earlier, Shymere Covington pushed a receiver out of bounds to force an incompletion. Each of those passes could have kept the drive going. Instead it stalled at Township’s 44-yard line.

Township’s defense held Spring-Ford to 152 yards on 48 plays. Both of the Rams’ touchdowns came on drives that started in Blue Streaks territory.

The most important defensive stand may have happened late in the third quarter. Eli Rodriguez sacked Matt Zollers before he could connect with a wide-open receiver for what looked like a sure 35-yard touchdown.

Despite trailing in the fourth quarter and being called for 13 penalties, Township prevailed.

“There’s a learning opportunity here,” coach Mark Evans said. “We didn’t have our ‘A’ game and we found a way to win. That’s what good teams that are going to become great teams do. They find a way to win.”

Turning point: Township faced a gut-check when it trailed 14-10 with 6:45 remaining. Hayden Johnson completed four consecutive passes and hit Charlie Kingsbury for an 8-yard score to put the Blue Streaks back in front.

Covington’s 34-yard kickoff return and Declan Clancy’s bruising 12-yard reception were keys to the drive, which succeeded despite running back Nick Good being out with an injury.

“Our kids stayed focused when they needed to,” Evans said. “They didn’t let all the periphery get to them.”

Star of the game: Johnson completed 24-of-33 passes for 283 yards and two touchdowns. The other score went to Landon Kennel. Nine receivers caught passes. Kingsbury was the top target with 5 receptions for 64 yards.

Key statistic: The teams were called for a combined 21 penalties for 188 yards. Township received the brunt of it by being whistled for 113 yards worth of infractions. Two unsportsmanlike calls came after the Blue Streaks had the ball on Spring-Ford’s 1-yard line. Those cost Township a likely touchdown.

Cumberland Valley deals Spring-Ford its first loss

​ROYERSFORD >> Last season, Cumberland Valley pulled out an improbable win over Spring-Ford on the final play of the contest.

Friday night at Coach McNelly Stadium, the Eagles were taking no such chances. 

Cumberland Valley made the long trip from Mechanicsburg pay off with a 28-16 win over the Rams on a night where the visitors always seemed to come up with the big play.

The teams were dead even on first downs. They each had six penalties, each committed one turnover, and total yardage was comparable (321-265 for Cumberland Valley).

But the difference was Cumberland Valley’s (3-0) ability to strike in all fashions from different points on the field. Their scoring drives weren’t long – a six-play scoring foray marked the Eagles’ longest of the night – but they were authoritative.

Spring-Ford’s Zach Zollers (4), Luke Pajovich (34) and Matt Yurko (26) team up to tackle Cumberland Valley quarterback Isaac Sines. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

Senior quarterback Isaac Sines combined play-making ability, efficiency and poise, passing for 139 yards and two touchdowns on only eight completions, in addition to his 59 rushing yards and rushing score.

“And I thought we actually did an excellent job against him,” said Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker. “But there was always that second-and-long play where he escapes or extends the play — and now it’s third and two instead of third and long. 

“We knew what he was capable of. He’s their conductor.”

Sines also contributed to a Cumberland Valley secondary that frustrated the Rams’ offense for long stretches, facing 40 passing attempts on the night and forcing Spring-Ford to work for their two scoring drives (eight and 12 plays, respectively). The Rams went the first 15 minutes of the second half without a first down, during which time the Cumberland Valley lead grew from 14-8 to 28-8.

On the Eagles’ second drive of the third quarter. Sines did it all, extending a play to hit Griffin Huffman for a 33-yard gain, then following a short run with a strike to an open Caiden Pines down the seam for a 27-yard score and a 21-8 advantage.

After a Rams punt, fullback Josh Wagenheim burst loose on his second carry of the evening for 58 yards early in the fourth quarter, setting up Bryce Staretz’s short TD plunge to ice the game for the Eagles.

“We took this game very seriously,” said CV coach Josh Oswalt, “because we know Chad [Brubaker] and Spring-Ford have an excellent program and they’re sound in all facets.

“Josh (Wagenheim) isn’t our starting running back, he’s a linebacker — but he competes all week for those few carries. We ride the hot hand. One week it’s Bryce (Staretz), there’s Isaac at quarterback… we have a lot of contributors.”

An evenly played first half saw the visiting Eagles take the lead into the break when Sines found Paddy Hernjak over the middle for 24 yards and a go-ahead score with only 35 seconds before the break. 

Cumberland Valley had the better of the possession in the early going, but the two squads exchanged touchdowns and turnovers, in that order, before the Sines-to-Hernjak go-ahead score. Sines himself carried the ball over from eight yards out midway through the first quarter and kicked his own extra point for good measure.

Early in the second quarter, the Rams responded with a Matt Zollers scramble followed by a catch-and-run from Mason Scott to the CV 3. Senior Will Fish finished the drive from there, and Spring-Ford would take their only lead of the night on a two-point conversion, with Zollers finding his older brother Zach on a fade to the right corner.

But it would be the last offensive highlight for the Rams until the fourth quarter. The Zollers brothers just missed on an end-of-half Hail Mary attempt, and the Cumberland Valley defense stiffened, holding SF to 31 total yards on their first four drives of the second half before a 12-play, 79-yard journey ended in Matt Zollers’ five-yard scoring strike to Mike Bendowski.

Spring-Ford’s Mason Scott picks up extra yards after catching a pass against Cumberland Valley. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

The 2-1 Rams return to action next week against Manheim Township, Cumberland Valley’s District 3 counterparts who fell to the Eagles 31-27 in both teams’ opening game on August 26.

“We got some pressure on [Sines], but we have some things to resolve in the secondary,” said Brubaker. “Offensively, we need to take what’s there for us. Stay ahead of the chains, get ourselves into second-and-five type situations. When you’re down, you can’t play from behind the chains.”

NOTES: It was the second straight season that Cumberland Valley gave Spring-Ford their first loss. Almost a year ago to the day, the Eagles turned a botched game-winning field goal attempt into an improbable touchdown as time expired for a 23-19 victory in Mechanicsburg.

Playing without kicker Liam McGarvey, the Rams opted to go for two-point conversion after both touchdowns and were successful on each attempt. Sines’ do-it-all approach spread to special teams, where he was a perfect 4-for-4 on extra points. Rated No. 10 in Pennsylvania 6A football by MaxPreps before the game, Cumberland Valley returns home next week to face Central Dauphin East before traveling to play Harrisburg, ranked No. 3 among 6A teams in the state.

“In my opinion, [the Mid-Penn Conference’s Commonwealth Division] is the toughest in the state,” said Oswalt.

Spring-Ford set for true test from Cumberland Valley in Week 3

The record books show a 2-0 start, but Spring-Ford still has some strides to take before starting league play in a couple weeks.

While by no means perfect in execution, the Rams’ first two efforts have been strong enough to get them a pair of victories behind solid if at times inconsistent team play and a pair of impressive statistical showings from sophomore quarterback Matt Zollers (26-for-43, 418 yards, 7 TDs, 1 INT).

But coach Chad Brubaker says that won’t be enough this week when the Rams welcome Cumberland Valley of District 3 to Coach McNelly Stadium.
Last year, a 2-0 Spring-Ford was on the road and dropped a 23-19 verdict to Cumberland Valley on Sept. 10.

The Eagles come in with a similar 2-0 record earned in victories over Central York and Manheim Township.

“They are a powerhouse program,” said Brubaker. “We’ve been able to get a couple of victories without playing our best games. We no longer have that luxury.”

Indeed, a dominant first-half effort on defense and special teams last week was clouded by a second half in which District 12’s Olney dominated possession and played the Rams to a standstill for the final 24 minutes. The first-half advantage stood up, with Spring-Ford prevailing 28-8.

Against Cumberland Valley, however, such extended dominance may not be realistic. The Eagles’ first two performances have them among the “Five Teams to Watch” just outside the Top 10 in statewide Class 6A rankings, and they’re plenty battle tested after winning those two contests by a combined six points.

The offense is piloted by dual-threat senior Isaac Sines, whose air and ground games are almost perfectly balanced (222 yards rushing, 216 yards passing, 4 pass TDs/3 rush TDs). The thunder to Sines’ lightning is junior Bryce Staretz, averaging just over five yards per carry with two scores of his own.

The Eagles know how to be efficient in the passing attack – their 11 completions in 2022 have yielded four scoring strikes without a turnover.

“We will need to contain Sines,” said Brubaker. “They are at their best when he is scrambling.”

They’re not bad on defense either, picking off a trio of passes already this season. Sines also does the place kicking for the Eagles – a perfect 5-for-5 on extra points this year – and Brubaker was impressed by a long Cumberland Valley kickoff return against Central York.

The Rams’ defensive approach starts with their game-changing defensive line talent. Luke Pajovich (16 tackles, four tackles for loss, two sacks) leads a unit also featuring Franny Undercuffler, returning All-Area defensive end Zach Zollers and emerging junior Evan Strzeminski. Gage Swanger’s steadiness in the back seven complements his versatile skill set on offense (99 yards receiving, two TDs).

For the Rams offense, it expects to be sophomore QB Zoller and the unit’s biggest test to date.

“Matt must take what is there to get us into manageable down and distance,” said Brubaker. “We need to match [Cumberland Valley] for 48 minutes.”

Spring-Ford improves to 2-0 with win over Olney

ROYERSFORD >> Attrition is a fact of life in high school football, but it seems especially pronounced in the early season.  

As important as wins and losses are, watching a new team’s growth is paramount in the lead-up to league play starting at the end of September.

That’s why Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker looked like anything but a 20-point victor after Thursday night’s 28-8 win over District 12’s Olney.

Despite a decisive disadvantage in manpower, the visitors from Olney outplayed SF for much of the second half, not the desired outcome following the Rams’ impressive debut against District 3’s Governor Mifflin a week ago.

“We need to play a complete game, and that second half wasn’t it,” said Brubaker. “We have work to do to get better.”

Olney dressed only 27 players for the contest. As one might expect, the difference was in the trenches as Spring-Ford was able to control possession in the first half, amassing a 21-0 lead while also racking up 14 tackles for loss on the night defensively.

Franny Undercuffler and Luke Pajovich were the leaders with four TFLs apiece. Spring-Ford stopped the Trojans from crossing midfield until late in the third quarter, but the players echoed their coach’s thoughts on improvement.

“We need to take our opponents seriously the whole 48 minutes,” said Pajovich. “There were a lot of penalties, and I think that got us off our game. That can’t happen. We need to maintain, need to keep going.”

Sophomore QB Matt Zollers’ hot start continued as he threw for 171 yards and four touchdowns to four different receivers.

As much as there can be a ‘turning point’ in a 21-0 game that ends with a 20-point margin, Shyheem Taylor’s red-zone interception of Zollers in the third quarter marked the moment when Olney came to life. He returned the ball to the Rams’ 39, marking Olney’s best field position to that point. But the Rams’ defense would stiffen, providing their highlight for the evening with a goal-line stand that allowed them to keep Olney off the board for the time being.

The Trojans would break up the shutout on the first play of the fourth quarter, a safety on a punt snap out of the end zone.

Olney quarterback Dylan Health was under siege all night but showed impressive resilience that paid off in a late scoring strike to Amari Alvin to bring Olney within 21-8 with five minutes to play. But Spring-Ford recovered the onside kick and embarked on a five-play scoring drive culminating in Will Fish’s barreling 16-yard scoring reception to ice the contest.

Surprisingly, the Trojans got stronger as the contest progressed, controlling possession for much of the second half despite the numbers disadvantage. The performance impressed many observers, leaving both viewers and Olney staff to wonder how the outcome might have differed had Olney enjoyed similar roster depth to the Rams. 

“We need to keep our heads in the game — more stamina, more energy,” said Undercuffler.

Spring-Ford’s special teams repeatedly set up the home team with outstanding field position in the first half, blocking two punts deep in Olney territory with each leading to touchdowns.

Neither team made much happen on offense early, but Zach Zollers’ work on special teams and at wide receiver got Spring-Ford a first-quarter lead. His punt block gave the Rams possession inside the Olney 30, where it took six plays for Matt Zollers to find his older brother on a fade for a 12-yard touchdown pass that opened the scoring.

The second quarter saw the Rams double the lead when Gage Swanger took a short hitch, juked a couple Olney tacklers and dove across the goal line from 24 yards out. Three minutes later, it was Mason Scott catching Matt Zollers’ third TD pass of the half on a 21-yard toss, set up by Mike Bendowski’s blocked punt.

Olney (1-1), who opened with a 12-9 win over Father Judge of the Philadelphia Catholic League last week, returns to the field next week at Chichester. Dylan Health led the Trojans with 73 yards passing and 35 yards rushing. Penalties were indeed costly, with the Trojans whistled 13 times on the evening.

Despite the final score, Olney takes a lot of positives from Thursday’s game after hanging tough for 48 minutes.

“Hats off to them,” said Brubaker. “I think they played better than us. We need to find some fire.

“We didn’t throw well, catch well, block well… I did think we tackled well, but we allowed them to control that game.”

Spring-Ford (2-0) moves onto another non-league challenge next week when they host Cumberland Valley from District 3. The Rams dropped a heartbreaker to the Eagles a year ago, falling 23-19 in the final seconds on a broken play.

The Rams figure to take advantage of the extra day of preparation a Thursday night game affords them — a benefit Franny Undercuffler feels is much needed.

“[The short week] threw things off a little bit [tonight], but we were able to get the win,” he said. 

“We’ll be angry next week,” said Pajovich. “I hope our whole team realizes we need to play better.”

Spring-Ford scores opening win over Gov. Mifflin, 21-10

SHILLINGTON >> Spring-Ford started its season with a win on Friday night.

The Rams were stout on defense and relied on the arm of sophomore quarterback Matt Zollers to earn a 21-10 win over Gov. Mifflin in a non-league game.

“Overall, we’ll take the W,” Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker said. “We have to finish drives and we’ve got to cut out the penalties on offense. We had way too many penalties offensively.”

Aside from the penalties, the Rams’ offensive success was facilitated by Zollers. With a big arm and strong pocket presence, Zollers completed 13-of-24 pass attempts for 240 yards and three touchdowns.

“I expect Matt to complete every pass,” Brubaker said. “That’s what he can do. When we call a pass play, I expect Matt to complete it.”

Zollers made a splash early on, connecting with older brother and senior wide receiver Zach Zollers on a 66-yard touchdown during the Rams’ first offensive series of the game to give them a 7-0 lead. Zach Zollers finished with seven catches for 146 yards and two touchdowns.

The Mustangs responded late in the second quarter, stringing together a lengthy drive before Delsin McNeil plunged in the end zone on a 2-yard quarterback sneak to tie it 7-7. McNeil finished with seven carries for 39 yards and the rushing touchdown and completed 2-of-5 pass attempts for 16 yards.

Gov. Mifflin took a 10-7 lead early in the second quarter thanks to kicker Jackson Schools, who nailed a 22-yard field goal. Schools finished the game 2-for-2 in field goals and PATs.

“We were a little flustered early on,” Mustangs coach Jeff Lang said. “We recovered. We hung with them for most of the game.”

Spring-Ford responded on its next drive, as the Zollers brothers connected for another touchdown. The Rams led 14-10 at the half.

Spring-Ford scored the lone points of the second half midway through the third quarter, as Matt Zollers found wide receiver Gage Swanger for a 33-yard touchdown. The touchdown was Swanger’s lone catch of the game.

The Rams consumed the clock in the second half, relying on productive inside runs from running back Will Fish. The senior finished with 19 carries and 118 yards.

“He was punishing people,” Brubaker said. “He was running real well, so we just kept it going.”

The Mustangs struggled on offense in the second half, as Spring-Ford crowded the box and stuffed the running game. Fullback Brayden Reis was the lone bright spot for Gov. Mifflin, as the senior ran for 113 yards on just 10 carries.

“They wore us down,” Lang said. “In the end, it showed.”

The Mustangs were shutout in the second half and scored just 10 points, their lowest output since October 2018. In its first regular season loss since September 2019, Gov. Mifflin mustered 221 yards of total offense, 205 of which came on the ground.

“Defensively, I thought we did pretty well,” Brubaker said. “You have to be very disciplined against their offense.”

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