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Upper Perk Outlasts PJP, Moves on to District Title Game
Written by Jake Hallman, Correspondent

            This one had all the trappings of a great, high school football game: a playoff atmosphere, second-half comeback, game-deciding interception and a

playoff win that has been a long time coming for Upper Perk's football team.

            It was a goal head coach Tom Hontz stressed at the beginning of the season after his squad qualified for districts last year.

            "I couldn't be happier for these kids and their families," Hontz said. "We've really become a tight-knit group…we as a program are very excited and proud about the season we've achieved. The fans and parents who attended the game Saturday night were treated to some very exciting football."

            The win puts Upper Perk in a District 1 4A title game against Pioneer Athletic Conference foe Pottsgrove. It's the same Pottsgrove team that posted a 55-24 win in week 7, and the same school that put an end to the Indians' first playoff game under Hontz last season.

            Against PJP, the No. 2 seeded Panthers played with passion from start to finish. Known more for their spread, pass-happy offense, they opted for a more traditional run game. The approach worked, as PJP scored on two of its first three offensive drives to take a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter.

            Despite the early adversity, Hontz and company didn't hit the panic button. And they kept their calm from there out as Upper Perk played from behind all game, not taking a lead until the end of the third quarter.

            "We definitely were a little shell-shocked down 14-0, but the coaches kept looking to the seniors and told them there was plenty of time in this game, but needed to get to work," Hontz said.

            One who certainly took that advice to heart was Tyler Whary. The senior running back was in playoff form as he shouldered the offensive load, carrying the ball 27 times for 236 yards and three of Upper Perk's four touchdowns. His hardnose style set the tone for the Indians and wore down PJP's defense as he ran over, around and through would-be defenders. Known more for brute force than patience, Whary let his linemen set up their blocks before making his move.

            Whary got Upper Perk on the board in the second quarter as he ran for a three-yard scoring plunge after a 10-yard gain the previous play. Ryan Kendra set the table as he picked off a pass from punter/quarterback James DeLaurentis after a bobbled punt snap on the Panthers' 17-yard line.

            Upper Perk tied things up as Whary took the first play from scrimmage in the second half for a 63-yard score off right tackle, coupled with a conversion pass from Tyler Keyser to Bo Duka. Undaunted, PJP came right back, scoring on a 39-yard pass to make it 21,-14.

            And then things got really fun.

            On the ensuing kickoff, Austin Tutolo powered his way to the 42. After a nine-yard run by Tyrese Reid, Keyser lofted a play-action pass to Kendra who was open on a post for a 39-yard score.

            Upper Perk forced the Panthers to four-and-out on their next offensive series, then went right back to work. What would become the game-winning drive started on Upper Perk's 49 and gained momentum with a smashmouth combo of runs of eight, nine and eight by Whary. Five more run plays moved the ball to the 14, and Whary did the rest from there as he took a counter off the left side, bounced it out and picked up a great block from Kendra in the end zone for the score.

            After trading punts, PJP mounted a last-ditch effort that started on their own 9 and advanced all the way to Upper Perk's 7-yard line. DeLaurentis went in for what appeared to be the tying score, but it was called back for a hold. On third-and-11 from the 15, DeLaurentis rolled to his right and threw a low pass to a receiver, but didn't see a diving Trevor Stephen, who intercepted the pass on Upper Perk's 3 yard-line. One kneel later, and Upper Perk had its ticket punched to the title game.

            Upper Perk will square off against a Falcons squad that overpowered No. 4 seed Interboro, 33-8 last week. In that game, Pottsgrove's Division I-bound Rashul Faison was off his normal pace as he rushed 27 times for 190 yards and two scores. Junior quarterback Jay Sisko also proved a threat as he ran for a pair of scores and threw for one.

            "We know stopping Faison is a daunting task," Hontz said, "but if we can at least minimize the big plays we will have a shot against a very tough Pottsgrove team. Hopefully our scheme will put us in position to keep him contained, but again, the key is we have to play near-perfect in all phases of the game if we hope to come out on top."



            Tutolo tallied a sack, forced fumble and tackle for a loss at defensive end. Stephen broke up one pass, had one tackle for a loss, and Duka had a tackle for a loss as well. Tyler and Luke Whary both had tackles for a loss at linebacker. … The last time Upper Perk was in a district title game was in 1997. Two current assistant coaches were on that team, Toby Cole and Jason Kulp.





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