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Sports Article
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Tribe Hangs Tough in Playoff Loss to Pottsgrove
Written by Staff Report

Upper Perk defensemen rush in to attack the Falcons ball carrier during the opening play of Friday night's District 1 4A playoffs at Pottsgrove.

                 What a difference four weeks made for Upper Perkiomen's football team.

                Back on Oct. 7, Pottsgrove pinned a 41-point loss on the Indians, 62-41, in a Pioneer Athletic Conference Frontier Division game. This past Friday night the two teams met again, this time in the first round of the District 1 4A playoffs.

                And this time, things were much different.

                It started as Upper Perk's defense forced the second-seeded Falcons (7-4, 4-1) into a three-and-out on their first series, a small victory considering Pottsgrove did not have to punt in the first meeting between the two teams. Upper Perk's moxie continued as Zeke Hallman connected with Tyler Keyser on a 4-yard score, and the Indians recovered a fumble before half to take a one-score deficit into the break.

                The Falcons' Rashul Faison, though, proved too much of a weapon to keep quiet as he rushed for two scores in the second half to seal a 28-14 victory for Pottsgrove. Faison finished with 360 yards on 28 carries and four scores, accounting for more than 85 percent of the Falcons' offense. The win advanced the Falcons to the district title game against top-seeded Interboro in a game to be played tomorrow night. Upper Perk saw its season end at 5-6, 4-1 in the division.

                "While a victory would have been nice, we couldn't have asked for a better way to finish the season," said Indians head coach Tom Hontz. "We made the playoffs and proved we belonged. The kids did what we asked; they put it all out there and worked as hard as we've seen in a long time. The fact that we saw so many tears from our guys after the final whistle tells me that they cared and they have bought into what we are trying to do – make UP football meaningful again."

                When asked what the difference was compared to the first two times the teams met, Hontz was quick to point out the efforts of senior co-captains Dylan Reinford and Zeke Hallman. Reinford, a two-way starter on the offensive line and at linebacker, tore his ACL in week two against Upper Moreland and spent the rest of the season on the sidelines in street clothes. Though scheduled to undergo surgery later in the month, his doctor gave him the OK to play in playoffs and Reinford jumped at the chance.

                Reinford made his presence felt, taking on lead blocks and jamming up the inside of Pottsgrove's offense all night. He played without any noticeable limp, and said his knee felt fine afterwards.

                Hallman, who has made some cameos on defense but hasn't played an entire game, was asked to do just that against Pottsgrove at safety. Not known for his tackling, he helped prevent a handful of touchdowns, broke up a pass and put a jarring hit on Faison before half that was flagged for a personal foul. He did his usual thing at quarterback as well, finishing 20 of 39 for 204 yards, and ran for the team's final score with 1:36 on a 4-yard scamper. He finished the drive on a bum throwing shoulder as he said he felt it pop out and then back in on his last defensive series.

                "Inserting Dylan Reinford was a huge lift, what a courageous kid, and our coaching staff really made some nice adjustments," Hontz said. "Zeke played extremely well at safety and shored things up most of the time if Faison broke clear of our front line. PG may have had a huge game from Faison, but he was hit and hit hard all night and quite frankly, the rest of their offense was very limited this time. He's just such an exceptional back, that if they keep feeding him the ball like they did, he is going to break free."

                Tyler Whary led Upper Perk's rushing attack with 45 yards on 14 carries, had a tackle for a loss at linebacker and a big kickoff return on a reverse that set up Upper Perk's first score. Tyler Keyser led the receiving corps with six catches for 57 yards and a score as Trevor Steven caught four passes for 54 yards, with Whary (4 catches, 31 yards) and Ryan Kendra (3 catches, 24 yards) also in the action.

                Defensively, Austin Tutolo had a pair of tackles for a loss, fellow linebacker Aidan Rowles tallied one, Nick Benner broke up a pass and recovered a fumble and Bo Duka broke up one pass.            

                "This is just a great group of kids," Hontz said. "As a staff, you usually have some players that you might clash with or have issues with, but this team was different. We enjoyed coaching each and every one of these kids. They were respectful, hard-working and really wanted to be the team that put UP football back in to contention and they did that. Of course you always want more victories (Boyertown and Upper Moreland come to mind), but as far as growth, improvement and commitment – we could not have asked for more."



                Whary, a junior, finished third in the league in rushing with 1,193 yards on 179 carries and 12 touchdowns. Phoenixville's Matt Garcia held a one-yard advantage at the top with 1,820 yards, ahead of Faison. Hallman's QB rating of 140 is third in the league as he threw for a school-best 1,938 yards and 24 touchdowns. Kendra finished third in the league in yardage with 749 yards on 50 catches and eight scores. His five interceptions on the year was tied for a league best with two other players.

                As a team, Upper Perk finished with the third best offense, averaging 345 yards per game behind Spring-Ford (420) and Perkiomen Valley (400). Pottsgrove had the best defense yielding 221 yards per game, while Upper Perk was 10th, averaging 373 yards per game.






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