Spring-Ford running Jarred Jones (6) tries to break a carry to the outside while being pursued by Dakota Clanagan (3) and other Perkiomen Valley defenders
Spring-Ford running Jarred Jones (6) tries to break a carry to the outside while being pursued by Dakota Clanagan (3) and other Perkiomen Valley defenders during Friday's PAC-10 football game at Coach McNelly Stadium. (Photo by Tom Kelly III)

Over the past couple of years, it has quickly developed into the marquee regular season football matchup in the Pioneer Athletic Conference.

Pottsgrove vs. Spring-Ford.

The Falcons and their basic, old-school, hard-nosed brand predicated on strong line play, repetition and assignment-based schemes.

The Rams and their creative offensive philosophy coupled with a collectively stout defensive effort and a roster laden with depth.

In each of the last two seasons, the winner of the Week 5 showdown between Pottsgrove and Spring-Ford went on to claim the PAC-10 title.

Pottsgrove’s Marquis Barefield steps in front of PJP’s John Bildstein for an interception that went for a touchdown. (Photo by Tom Kelly III)
Pottsgrove's Marquis Barefield steps in front of PJP's John Bildstein for an interception that went for a touchdown. (Photo by Tom Kelly III)

And tonight at Coach McNelly Stadium, the Falcons (3-0 PAC-10, 4-0 overall) and Rams (2-0, 3-1) will get it on again in a highly-anticipated contest that should be oozing with dominant defense, though there are several offensive playmakers on each squad with the potential to deliver game-changing moments.

"Pottsgrove has had a lot of success through the years, and we've been fortunate enough to have some success recently,' Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker said. "That essentially makes the game. They're undefeated, and we have one loss. Any time that's the case people have expectations for a good game.'

"First, you've got two good teams playing each other every year,' echoed Pottsgrove coach Rick Pennypacker. "And that's a compliment to both programs. We have a lot of respect for Spring-Ford and what they do over there.'

Since the beginning of the 2011 season, Pottsgrove has compiled a gaudy 20-1 mark in league play — with the lone blemish a 49-35 loss two years ago to the Rams, who went on to win their first PAC-10 title in 13 years.

Over the same span, Spring-Ford has gone 18-2 in PAC-10 games, suffering only a 26-0 defeat to eventual league champ Pottsgrove last year and a 49-0 Thanksgiving Eve loss to Phoenixville in last season's league finale when the JVs suited up due to the Rams having a District 1 playoff game three days later.

Both squads enter tonight's clash with a number of similarities — each has a stingy defense, an offense that has been a bit inconsistent and a kicker (Jon Klinger for Pottsgrove and Dave Gulati for Spring-Ford) that has been a quiet weapon.

The Falcons are allowing an area-best average of just 111.8 total yards per game thanks to a front led by Jeff Adams, Anthony Pond, Patrick Finn, Sene Polamalu and Nico Demetrio. They collected seven sacks in last week's 28-7 victory over Methacton, two by nose guard Demetrio.

Their secondary, spearheaded by Michael Fowler, Marquis Barefield, Riley Michaels and Jalen Mayes, has given up a total of 139 passing yards all year.

"They're a typical Pottsgrove team,' Brubaker said. "Their offensive and defensive lines come off the ball hard, they have man coverage in the secondary, and they try to bring one more guy than you can block.'

Offensively, halfback Barefield has rushed for 458 yards and five touchdowns, with quarterback Michaels (184 yards, four TDs) and fullback Polamalu (168 yards, five TDs) also playing major roles in a ground-oriented attack that has put the ball up just 12 times this season.

"We want to see more consistency,' Pennypacker said. "We know what our limitations are, and we don't want to try and do more than we what we know we can do. I think our offensive coaches have a tremendous game plan; we just to execute it and see what happens.'

What happens with the Spring-Ford offense usually starts with standout senior tailback Jarred Jones, who ran wild for a career-high 243 yards and four touchdowns in last week's 41-14 victory over Boyertown — the Rams' third straight win since a season-opening 37-21 defeat at Whitehall (which is 4-0, by the way).

The 5-11, 190-pound Jones leads the area with 545 rushing yards and has amassed eight TDs in just three games. He enters the game 20 yards shy of 3,000 for his career.

"He's a special type of player that only comes around once in a long time,' Pennypacker said. "You see a kid like him, you just give him the ball and good things usually happen.'

Spring-Ford has also gotten some good things from wide receiver Gary Hopkins, who has a TD grab in each of the past three games. Though the Rams have had somewhat of a revolving door at the quarterback position, Brubaker appears to have settled on junior Brandon Leacraft (9-for-24, 131 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT last week) as the starter.

On the other side of the ball, the defensive line of Robby Varner, Mason Romano, Alec Vagnozzi and Matt Daywalt has been wreaking havoc in the trenches with a combined 10 sacks over the past four games.

"They're big and physical; that's what jumps out at me the most,' Pennypacker said. "The other thing that scares me is they go two-platoon. They don't have too many kids that go both ways.'

Linebackers Jake Leahy and Connor Murphy had 13 and nine tackles, respectively, for the Rams in last week's win, while corners Joe Bush and Jared Shoemaker have been integral in a pass defense that's allowed an average of 85.7 yards over the last three games.

"We took some steps against Boyertown, but we have some more steps to go,' Brubaker said. "We made some critical mistakes on offense that our defense was able to clean up, but against the better teams you play, those become more magnified and you can't have them. We need to maintain our concentration level throughout the entire game, and offensively we have to do a better job of executing.

"A big game like this with two good defenses, a lot of times it comes down to field position and who can avoid the critical mistakes. Whoever makes the fewer mistakes is probably going to come out on top.'

And have the inside track to the PAC-10 title.

"We're excited about playing this game, believe me,' said Pennypacker, a 1972 Spring-Ford grad. "I'm sure the atmosphere is going to be electrifying.

"It's a great challenge for us, but our kids are looking forward to that challenge.'

AROUND THE AREA

Tonight's Pottsgrove at Spring-Ford game will be NBC-10's High School Football Blitz "Game of the Week.' The NBC-10 crew was at Spring-Ford Thursday filming a feature that will air on the show Saturday at 7 p.m. ... Pottsgrove is ranked No. 9 in the state in Class AAA in the latest Pennsylvania Football News state poll, while Spring-Ford is among the honorable mention squads PFN's Class AAAA poll. ... Methacton might be 1-3, but consider that the Warriors' losses came to Bayard Rustin (4-0), Perkiomen Valley (3-1) and Pottsgrove (4-0).

DISTRICT 1 DOINGS

It will be a showdown of unbeatens tonight in West Chester, when Great Valley (4-0) visits Bayard Rustin (4-0) in a Ches-Mont tilt. ... On Saturday, Coatesville (4-0) travels to Bishop Shanahan (3-0). ... Upper Merion, which had been 6-37 in its previous 43 games heading into this season, is off to a 3-1 start.

PIAA POTPOURRI

After beating Keystone Oaks 52-0 last Friday, Quaker Valley is 4-0 for the first time since 1983. ... James Wheeler of West Mifflin leads the state in rushing yardage with 946, while Anthony Isabella of Brockway has a state-best 34 receptions, according to easternpafootball.com. ... With Clairton's 66-game winning streak being snapped by Monessen last week, the longest current streak is 19 by Erie Cathedral Prep.

Follow Darryl Grumling on Twitter at @MercSmokinD.