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Sports Article
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Upper Perk Football Looking to Combat Depth in 2015
Written by Town and Country Staff Report

Upper Perk defensemen Jacob Votta and Dylan Reinford team up on a Wilson High School ball carrier in last Thurday night's scrimmage.

        The experience is there, the game plan and system are in place, and from the appearances of the offseason and early goings of the 2015 season; the will to improve is there as well.

        The only thing missing, according to second-year Upper Perkiomen head coach Tom Hontz – is depth.

        "It's no secret we have to keep everyone healthy," Hontz said of his squad that has 48 players listed on the program, including JV and varsity players. "The lack of depth is the one thing which will keep us from competing with the Spring-Fords and Perk Valleys in the league, because they can just wear our front guys down.

        "And if we lose some of those front line guys to injury, then we are scrambling to compete at all."

        One thing the 2015 Upper Perk squad isn't lacking, though, is returning talent.

        Back is senior tailback Michael Felix, who rushed for 879 yards and five touchdowns in just eight games last year. Felix, who suffered an injury in the 2014 opener, came on strong in the latter half of the season, averaging over 100 yards in each of the last eight games. Felix will also be a linchpin in the secondary, where he is expected to be a force at safety.

        Junior quarterback Zeke Hallman, who threw for 711 yards and six TDs as a sophomore, is back under center and is expected to target sophomore receiver Ryan Kendra (15 catches, 169 yards, 2 TDs as a freshman), and senior wideout Austin Bittenbender.

        The Indians' backfield is also expected to get a boost from hard-hitting sophomore fullback Tyler Whary, fellow sophomore tailback Austin Tutolo and senior Dylan Croissette. Up front, the team will rely on center Dustin Derstine, guards Cole Fryer and Mike Knudson, tackles Julian Liguoro and Sylvester Inyang and tight end Kevin Loose.

        To combat the lack of depth, Hontz and his staff are relying on an aggressive practice regimen and conditioning program that he hopes will translate into strong finishes in games. Other programs have similar issues when it comes to numbers. Methacton, who posted an 8-3 record in 2014 and just missed out on a berth in the District 1-AAAA playoffs, has a team with around 30 players. Phoenixville, which has an uptick of players with 40, lost two key starters to injury in training camp.

        Upper Perk is coming off a 4-6 mark last season, 4-5 in the Pioneer Athletic Conference. The team finished with a 3-1 flurry in the final four games of the season to just miss out on a spot in the District 1-AAA playoffs.

        Defensively, many of the same faces on the offensive side of the ball are expected to be impact players, especially in the secondary. Felix will be joined at safety by Kendra, with Bittenbender, the leading tackler from last season, flanked at cornerback by Brandon Martin. Up front, Upper Perk will rely on ends Josh Engdahl and Mahlon Schaffer, with Croissette at tackle. The linebacking corps is headed up by Whary, Dylan Reinford, Kevin Loose and Jacob Votta.

        "This off season and the start of this season has been night and day for myself and the staff," Hontz said. "I've got a great group of coaches in Brian Peoples, Chris Bieler, Jake Engle, Toby Cole, Vince Leskusky and Casey Perlstein, who after getting a year under their belt have just done a tremendous job in regards to preparing our team.

        "We are miles ahead of last year in regards to knowing our offense and implementing our defensive goals. This obviously, has rubbed off on the players as they seem more confident in regards to what they are doing and how they carry themselves."

        Upper Perk will kick off the 2015 season tomorrow night at home against Quakertown at 7 p.m. The Panthers reeled off a 38-0 victory last year in a game played at Souderton High School due to the renovation of Quakertown's field en route to an 11-2 overall mark and a Suburban One playoff victory.

        The Indians will open the PAC-10 schedule on the road next Friday night at rival Boyertown.

        "We want to be right at that next level and maybe even pull off a surprise or two," Hontz said of his team's expectations in league play. "But the goal has always been to improve upon last year and, hopefully qualify for the playoffs."






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