GRATERFORD – Perkiomen Valley’s defense set the tone immediately for a 40-0 runaway over Pope John Paul II in the Vikings’ homecoming game at Thomas J. Keenan Stadium Friday night.
“This defense is, by far, the best defense I’ve ever played with in my life,” said Perkiomen Valley’s Liam Grande.
The Vikings crowded the box with nine players much of the night and dominated the line.
When Pope John Paul II quarterback Matt Mesaros attempted to throw, he either had no time or Perkiomen Valley’s secondary was perfectly positioned.
“Our defense is very fundamentally sound,” Grande said. “Our defensive backs, I haven’t played with defensive backs like this in I don’t know how long. They’re phenomenal.”
Grande contributed to that, getting Perkiomen Valley’s second score of the night on an interception he took 35 yards for a touchdown.
“You can’t give a team a pick,” said Pope John Paul II coach Mike Santillo. “We had the wrong read on that.”
“It looked like he was running the hitch and usually I have good vision on that,” Grande said. “I just came up and jumped the route and just started going.”
“The big plays killed us,” Santillo said. “Unfortunately, with that kind of team, and it was both sides of the ball, big plays killed us.”
Both coaches agreed the muddy field played a factor in the game.
“With both teams, the conditions played a lot (into it),” said Perkiomen Valley coach Scott Reed. “PJP always does a nice job of throwing the ball and with conditions like this, that’s got to be difficult.”
Pope John Paul II mustered just nine passing yards on two completions, airing the ball out four times Friday night.
In addition to Grande, Taiyir Wilson played key pass defense, knocking down a long pass late in the game. He also did a good job of manning the flats for any runs or passes that went that way.
“They do a nice job,” Reed said. “Defense is a team thing. Every level, from the lineman to the linebackers to the secondary, you know, I say it every week, they trust each other where they’re going to be.”
Rasaan Stewart played centerfield on many plays, staying back at safety for any deep passes and frequently getting involved on runs along the sidelines.
“It certainly helps to have Rasaan back there,” Reed said.
Stewart was very much himself Friday night, serving as a catalyst for the team in every phase of the game.
Late in the contest, Stewart took a punt — which skittered on the ground — at his own 10 yard line, and ran it back 90 yards for a touchdown.
Reed said his team wasn’t even in a return formation, but playing a punt safe with a Cover 3 defense in case the Golden Panthers decided to run a fake.
“We don’t really have a return on but I guess he made it a return,” Reed said. “Once he started making some moves, I guess the rest of our defense was like, ‘Alright, let’s find somebody to block.’ He made a heck of a play and he’s a dynamic athlete.”
Stewart also ran for 41 yards and a touchdown and passed for 80 along with two touchdowns, going five-for-eight throwing.
Ryan O’Donnell made the biggest splash on offense, taking the ball on an off-tackle rush 71 yards midway through the first quarter for Perkiomen Valley’s first touchdown.
Not long later, he took a similar play 32 yards.
“The blocks were all there, everybody did their job” on the line, said O’Donnell, who averaged 29 yards a carry on Friday. “I just followed the lead blocks. The hole was there, you could drive a truck through it.”
“Off-tackle and the kid goes,” Santillo said of O’Donnell’s four-carry, 116-yard performance.
“Obviously that was a commitment we made early in the week, we’re going to need to ground and pound with the wet field. We knew (the weather) was coming,” Reed said. “(O’Donnell) happens to be the guy that got the biggest carries.”
Reed gave the Pope John Paul II defense credit for stopping a few drives.
“They gave us a couple of drives where we bogged down and we have to be better,” Reed said.
“The kids played hard all night,” Santillo said.
The Golden Panther troika of Nick Howarth, John Bildstein and Kirk Cherneskie combined for 62 hard yards on the ground.
O’Donnell said he and his teammates, who chattered through most of the game on the field, were ready to take it to Pope John Paul II for homecoming.
“We were hyped for the game,” he said. “It was home field, homecoming. Who can’t get hyped for that?”
Senior Ellen Habard was named Perkiomen Valley Homecoming Queen at halftime Friday night.
Perkiomen Valley 40
Pope John Paul 0
Pope John Paul 0 0 0 0 — 0
Perkiomen Valley 14 13 13 0 — 40
PV- O’Donnell 71 run (Genuardi kick)
PV- Grande 35 interception return (Genuardi kick)
PV- Clanagan 15 pass from Stewart (Genaurdi kick)
PV- Domine 54 pass from Stewart (kick missed)
PV- Stewart 90 punt return (kick blocked)
PV- Stewart 4 run (Genuardi kick)
First Downs 4 12
Rushing yards 64 252
Passing yards 9 80
Total yards 73 332
Passes C-A-I 2-9-1 5-8-0
Fumbles-Lost 2-0 1-1
Penalties-Yards 5-50 13-62
Punts-Avg. 7-33 3-34.3
Pope John Paul: Howarth 12-38; Cherneskie 10-19; Bildstein 7-5; Mesaros 6-2.
Perkiomen Valley: O’Donnell 4-116, TD; Bonomo 9-46; Stewart 8-41, TD; Clanagan 6-34; Foley 2-17; Williams 1-1; Arch 1- -3.
Pope John Paul: Mesaros 2-4-9, INT.
Perkiomen Valley: Stewart 5-8-80, 2 TD.
Pope John Paul: Chereneskie 1-9; Bildstein 1-0.
Perkiomen Valley: Domine 3-62, TD; Clanagan 2-18 TD.
Interceptions: Perkiomen Valley—Grande
Sacks: Pope John Paul—Kushnerick. Perkiomen Valley—Rotonda.