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Defense Turns Over Win
Written by Staff Report
2022-09-07

            A week after allowing over 500 yards of offense and nine touchdowns in its first outing, Upper Perkiomen head coach Tom Hontz praised that same defensive unit after Friday night's home 34-14 victory over Schuylkill Valley.

Chidike Eruba jumps up to catch  pass during the first

half of Upper Perkiomen's victory ove Schuylkill Valley.

            Hontz was quick to single out defensive coordinator Brian Peoples for his solid game plan, as well as his players for their execution. The Panthers (0-2) did hold a 16-12 advantage in first downs, and racked up 342 yards of total offense (compared to the Indians' 369) – but were hamstrung by five turnovers.

            Sophomore Zach Schwartz, who made the move from corner to safety, accounted for two of those turnovers as he picked off passes in the first and second quarters. He was a similar force on offense as he led all rushers with 19 carries for 130 yards and two scores.

            "Zach is a tough-minded athlete that demonstrated those traits even last year as a freshman," Hontz said. "We moved him to safety this week and it really paid off as he was able to use his speed and athleticism to both cover the pass and help out with the run. Just a great effort from him."

            Fellow sophomore Aiden Void came up with the other interception on the Panthers' first drive on fourth down. Freshman Brody Weiss and sophomore Sam Carino aided the defense with fumble recoveries.

For the Panthers, it was the second straight week that the team turned over the ball five times.

            Besides Void (three tackles), Carino (forced fumble), Weiss (three tackles, pass break-up) and Schwartz, Upper Perk's other underclassmen were well represented on defense. Freshmen Ethan Scharneck (three tackles, tackle for a loss, quarterback hurry) and Maddux Diaz (solo tackle) both started on the defensive line, with linebacker Kane Krier (two solo tackles) also in the mix.

            Jayden White and Josh Hill both led the defense with five solo stops apiece, as Noah Lichtenwalner tallied four. Gavin Weiss and Chidike Eruba (tackle for a loss) both notched three tackles.

            Offensively, Upper Perk's passing game showed big strides. Senior quarterback Mike Boyle was an efficient 9 of 13 for 203 yards and two touchdowns. Eruba (three catches, 162 yards, TD) was his favorite target, with receptions of 93, 34 and 35 yards. Hontz credited the guys up front– center Jonathan Strohl, guards Matt Delzingaro and Tice Hallman (frosh), and tackles Josh Hill and Gabe Carducci–for the balance.

"Having a passing game is huge," Hontz said. "It helps to keep the defense honest so they cannot load up against the run. Mike is a real talent, but he needs the consistency of the line and his receivers to be successful. Friday night we had that consistency."

             Upper Perk opened the scoring in the first quarter as Schwartz pulled down a tipped pass from Gavin Weiss and returned it to the Panthers' 16. Carino capped the drive on a five-yard slant. Eruba's 93-yard scoring sprint made it 14-0, and Schuylkill Valley answered on its next drive to cut the lead in half. Upper Perk took a 21-7 lead into halftime as Schwartz scored on a counter off the left side from 11 yards out.

            Undaunted, the Panthers scored on the opening drive of the second half, which was answered by a 35-yard field goal from Logan Watkins, and a 42-yard touchdown from Schwartz, who took a handoff up the middle and then emerged from the pile and pulled away to the end zone.

            Upper Perk will travel to Fleetwood tomorrow night to take on the Tigers in their home opener. Fleetwood is 1-1 and coming off a 28-21 loss to Conrad Weiser. Its win came in week 1 against rival Kutztown.

            "They will really attack us with the passing game as they have a pretty confident and talented young quarterback," Hontz said. "We need to put pressure on him and maintain our discipline in coverage. Offensively, they will bring pressure and blitz frequently. We will need to be prepared for that pressure."


 

 

 

 

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