Phantoms put up battle but fall to Falcons

Photo by Barry Taglieber Phoenixville running back Sean Hesser (27, with ball) is tackled by Pottsgrove's Anthony Pond (66) as Nick Brennan (32) moves in to assist on play during last Friday night's PAC-10 contest at Washington Field.

PHOENIXVILLE - Both sides handed out lavish praise to one another following Friday night’s Pottsgrove-Phoenixville football game at Washington Field.

First of all, the visiting Falcons completed a perfect run through the Pioneer Athletic Conference with a 24-7 victory over the Phantoms.

However, Pottsgrove (9-0 PAC-10, 10-0 overall) accomplished the monumenal feat despite a stern test from a Phoenixville ballclub riding a three-game winning streak and observing its Senior Night, and one that will join the Falcons in the District 1-AAA playoffs starting next weekend.

Pottsgrove led Phoenixville (5-3, 6-4) by a 7-0 score at the end of the first period and 14-0 at halftime. The Phantoms closed to within 14-7 by the end of the third quarter before the Falcons outscored the hosts 10-0 in the final stanza to post the victory.

“We knew it was going to be a battle,” said Pottsgrove star senior offensive tackle Madison O’Connor. “It always is when we come down here. I remember my freshman year we came down here. They play the same style and it was a battle. They are a good team. Number 77 (Brian Hyland) is the best lineman I have played against all year.”

Pottsgrove quarterback Tory Hudgins passed 30 yards to Michael Fowler for one touchdown and scored himself on a 1-yard plunge for the final Falcon touchdown following a Phoenixville fumble. Mark Dukes scored the first Pottsgrove TD on a 14-yard run, and Jon Klinger booted a 35-yard field goal to go along with three placements. Nick Brennan led the Falcons’ ground game with 115 yards rushing on 12 carries.

Fowler also had the game’s lone interception, and Maxton Wickward had a sack for the visitors.

Phoenixville recovered a fumble to set up its touchdown, a nine-yard run by Ryan Yenchick, who finished the night with 92 yards rushibng on 17 attempts.

“We didn’t play a perfect game,” said O’Connor. “We have to get better and better (in district playoffs). We can’t have games like tonight. But I am so proud of the way we played. I would not want to play for another team.

“The PAC-10 (title). it’s bittersweet. It is my last year. It is a great accomplishment. We started coming back from last year. We played very well.”

The Falcons finished with a 285-189 advantage in total yardage on a night with the wind howling that made it difficult to establish a passing game. Dukes finished with 69 yards on 22 tries, and Hudgins ended up with 54 yards on 16 plays as the Phantoms ganged up on the Pottsgrove ground game at the line of scrimmage.

Hudgins completed all three of his aerials for 52 yards and the one score. Pottsgrove coach Rick Pennypacker said he would have liked to throw more but was inclined not to with the way the wind was blowing.

“I hate to play Phoenixville,” said Pennypacker. “Bill (coach Bill Furlong) is a great coach. He and his coaching staff do a great job. This is how it is every time we come down here. Give them the credit. They had a tremendous game scheme for us. They have a good team and they will represent the league well in the playoffs. I don’t think we played a bad game. It was more what they did to us. But for those kids (Falcons), I am so proud of them to go undefeated in this league is a heckuva accomplishment. We only have two seniors on defense so we are young. We have thrown them into the fire and I am just proud of them.”

Pottsgrove fumbled the pigskin five times, but the Falcons were fortunate to just lose one of them. Still, it was uncharacteristic for Pottsgrove to put the ball on the turf like that.

Phoenixville finished the night with 165 yards rushing, including 54 by quarterback Chris Demey, who had one 38-yard scamper.

Furlong praised his players for their competitive fire in a rematch of last year’s District 1-AAA championship clash.

“Our kids played really hard, and they played well a lot, most of the night,” said Furlong. “Pottsgrove’s kids are good. It was a good, old-fashioned war for a while. But give their kids credit for pulling away at the end. Our kids played hard, and I am proud of their effort.”

Phoenixville moved the football well right from the outset. The Phantoms took the opening kickoff and marched from their own 24-yard line to the Pottsgrove 18. But there, on a fourth-down play that went for a first down, the Phantoms were flagged for a costly holding penalty, and the drive stalled.

Pottsgrove proceeded to drive 72 yards in seven plays for a TD with Dukes circling the left side at the 2:56 mark of the first quarter that enabled the Falcons to take a 7-0 lead.

Fowler made his interception on the final play of the opening period.

Hudgins found Fowler on a 14-yard completion on the third play of the second quarter, and the TD came on the ensuing play at 10:04 with the catch made in the left side of the end zone.

Furlong still felt that with the exception of two or three plays, Phoenixville still made Pottsgrove earn everything it got with some stunting on defense as well as good pressure up front as well as from linebackers Ryan Pannella, Brian Madden and Zack Gallow.

Furlong is confident that if Phoenixville plays as well next weekend in districts, the Phantoms will make another stiff challenge and possibly come out on top.

“It was Senior Night (for 13 players) and this is a good group,” said Furlong. “They have worked and they have been through a lot. A lof of them started as sophomores. They have been through the hard times and the good times. They don’t quit.”

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