By Barry Sankey
PHOENIXVILLE — Spring-Ford's solid defense set the tone that generated another highly successful football season for the Rams.
From the beginning of the season right up until the end Thanksgiving Day morning against Phoenixville, the Rams' defense laid the foundation for victories. On Thursday, the Rams even took two pass interceptions to the house as part of Spring-Ford's 39-0 Pioneer Athletic Conference victory over the Phantoms at Washington Field.
Senior linebacker Andy Lovre-Smith returned one interception 14 yards for a TD that gave the Rams a 13-0 lead early in the second quarter. Then defensive tackle Robby Varner rumbled 37 yards with another pick that helped give the Rams their 33-0 halftime bulge.
The two thefts were part of an overall convincing performance by Spring-Ford, which closed out the 2013 campaign with an 8-1 record in the PAC-10 (10-3 overall). The 10 victories enabled these Spring-Ford senior players to finish their careers with the best three-year team mark with 33 victories as opposed to just eight setbacks.
"They ended their career with 33 wins over three years, which is our winningest class,' said Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubaker.
The Rams finished 11-2 two years ago, 12-3 last year and this year's 10-3 log accounted for that total. Also included were three trips to the District 1-AAAA playoffs, including last year's march to the district finals.
"They have a lot to be proud of,' said Brubaker. "The big thing about this group is their effort on the field. They gave a great effort all year. "
Spring-Ford senior running back Jarred Jones completed his marvelous career with 152 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 18 carries. He scored on runs of three and 51 yards. Cody Davis scored the first TD on a 41-yard scamper. Senior quarterback Zac DeMedio threw a 12-yard scoring pass to senior tight end Alec Vagnozzi.
"It was a great end,' said senior defensive end Mason Romano, who had a stellar day up front to close out his scholastic career. "Offensively and defensively, we played as a unit. We got huge turnovers. We had another trip to the playoffs. It was awesome. We had a good team. We played well. That is how we played every year. I couldn't ask for better.'
Spring-Ford's defense limited the Phantoms to 70 yards rushing and 83 yards of total offense.
"Defensively, we played really well all year,' said Brubaker. "Our defense set the tone for us this year. They were consistent and solid throughout the year. Throughout the year we won the turnover battle most of the time. Obviously, against Neshaminy we didn't. But we did a pretty good job of getting the ball back to the offense. Today , they didn't give it back. They scored themselves, which is fine.'
Offensively, the Rams put up 251 yards rushing and 279 yards of total offense.
Despite the outcome, Phoenixville still closed out a decent season that included its third straight trip to the District 1-AAA playoffs, a first for the Phantoms. It was accomplished despite a lot of youth on the field and numerous injuries throughout the season.
Senior Justin McDougal was the Phantoms' top rusher with 51 yards on eight carries, including one 22-yard burst. Junior Donnie Jackson and senior Kyle Karkoska, who returned after suffering a broken bone in his leg midway through the year; divided time at the quarterback position.
Senior two-way lineman Colin Mea registered a sack in his finale, and fellow senior two-way lineman Paul Hossler also finished up with an active day. Matt Palubinsky and Tim Alati recovered fumbles for the Phantoms, and Vagnozzi pounced on one for the Rams. Sophomore Ian Brown pilfered a pass for the hosts.
"Early on we let them on the field, and turnovers put us kind of in a hole,' said Phoenixville coach Bill Furlong. "Between injuries and some young kids playing, some of our seniors kept with it. They keep plugging. They kept fighting.'
Cole Luzins boomed one punt 69 yards for Phoenixville and had to kick seven times in the game. Spring-Ford punted once. ... Spring-Ford won the coin toss, but Brubaker had the Rams defer. The Phantoms chose to take the ball, as he hoped they would; and the Rams were able to start the game with a strong wind at their backs instead of trying to move into the wind.