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Tribe Falls Short of an Upset in Football Season Debut
Written by Ernie Quatrani, Correspondent
2020-09-30

            An Upper Perk defense that had played valiantly throughout last Friday night's pandemic-delayed home opener needed one more stop at the end of the game to cap an upset of the Methacton Warriors.

            It didn't happen.

            Methacton scored on that final drive and then stopped UP's Logan Simmon just three yards from the endzone as the game ended to preserve an 18-12 victory.

            Methacton, trailing 12-10, began the winning drive from their own 37 with just under three minutes left in the game.

            A pass and three runs moved the ball to the Upper Perk 26 with 1:51 left.

            Upper Perk's defense, which had kept the team in the game after starting quarterback Hunter Flack's leg cramps kept him off the field for most of the second half, reached down one more time. But on fourth down Warriors quarterback Michael Merola ran six yards to the Tribe 14 for a first down.

            On the next play, Merola hit Justin Gumienny down the middle for the go-ahead touchdown with 35 seconds left in the game. Ryan Cassidy ran in for a two-point conversion and a six-point Warrior lead.

            Flack was back on the field for the final series and promptly connected with Trey Robinson on passes of 12 and 16 yards which moved the ball to the Methacton 39 with just over two seconds on the clock.

            Flack's desperation heave to the end zone fell incomplete as time ran out, but a roughing the passer penalty gave the Tribe one more chance from the 24.

            Simmon (21 carries-75 yds./5 receptions-37 yds.) caught Flack's final pass at the 10 but could not escape the grasp of Jude Wozniak at the three.

            Upper Perk Head Coach Tom Hontz had praise for his underdog players.

            "I was pleasantly surprised at how solid we looked on both sides of the ball. The [offensive line] did a nice job and our skill guys were all firing on all cylinders."

            Upper Perk's first offensive drive of the year was a clinic. After the opening kickoff, the Tribe utilized Flack, Malachi Duka and Simmon to drive 84 yards in 13 plays and a 7-0 lead.

            Flack connected with Duka (6 receptions-63 yds.) three times on the drive, including a 16-yard TD pass. The quarterback stood tall in the pocket against a heavy rush and Duka went up to haul in the pass in the endzone despite tight coverage. Flack added the extra-point.

            During the scoring march, Simmon carried the six times for 27 yards and also had a 12-yard pass reception.

            "What was great was that offensively we really spread the ball around. Everyone contributed: Flack, Simmon, Duka, (Corey) Jackson, (Trey) Robinson- they all had nice games," noted Hontz.

            The Tribe's advantage stood up until early in the second quarter when the Warriors capped a long drive of their own with a 13-yard touchdown pass from Merola to a wide-open Matt Blakemore down the middle of the field. Tyler Ready's extra-point tied the game.

            Upper Perk put another sustained drive together, using up nearly six minutes of the clock just before the half. But Methacton stiffened and Flack kicked a 32-yard field goal for a 10-7 lead, an advantage that looked safe going into the intermission.

            However, the Warriors managed to move into field goal range thanks mostly to two 15-yard roughing the passer penalties against Upper Perk in the last nine seconds of the half.

            With no time on the clock, Ready booted his own 32-yard field goal to knot the score.

            Flack (12-17, 194 yds.) opened Upper Perk's first drive of the second half with a 32-yard completion to Jackson (2 receptions-65 yds.), but the quarterback crumpled to the ground after the play and left the game.

            Junior Gorje Navarrete (3-8, 18 yds.) took over for Flack with the ball on the Warriors 30-yard line but the next three plays netted minus-two yards.

            Hontz decided to punt and the move paid off when Nevan Smith, filling in for Flack, pooched the ball to the Methacton three. The Tribe defense forced a punting situation and when the snap from center sailed over punter Merola's head for a safety, the Tribe had a 12-10 lead that they held for about 17 minutes of clock time until the bitter ending.

             From the stands, the feel of the game in Keeny Stadium was anything but normal. Approximately 80 UP parent spectators sat socially distant. There were no marching bands nor fans on the visitor's side of the field. The teams did not go into the locker rooms and masks were mandatory for everyone except the players and cheerleaders--when they were cheering.

            "Once the game started, everything seemed the same. The competitive juices start flowing and you are only focused on what is happening on the field," said Hontz.

            "The only really odd parts were not having a locker room and how quiet things were as we approached the field."

            The Tribe travels to Perk Valley tomorrow night to face one of the PAC's toughest programs starting at 7 p.m.

            "This season is just about our players getting the opportunity to play football and compete. Wins and losses, while important, are not the absolute measurement of success," said Hontz.


 

 

 

 

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