WILLOW GROVE — At the start of the Suburban One League American Conference matchup between Upper Merion and Upper Moreland, Vikings coach Harold Smith instructed his players to do one thing, "set the tone right now.'Three plays into the game, Vikings running back Jaquan Mitchell rushed for a 59-yard touchdown, but to his dismay as he turned to celebrate with fellow teammates, yellow flags painted the field. It was the first of many penalties the Vikings would suffer on the day, and the first of two that would negate scores on the board.Neither team was short of offensive production, not by a long shot, but the Golden Bears found winning prowess behind stud, junior running back Tyler Whitmore and exploded in the second half to a 55-34 victory over the visiting Vikings. While the Golden Bears fought for a memorable win, the only memory the Vikings will retain is a bad taste in their mouths from a loss marred by turnovers."It was a tight game, back and forth,' said Upper Merion coach Harold Smith. "We just didn't get it done. As a staff we didn't have a good day, as a coach I didn't have a good day and our kids did not have a good day.'As the score is indicative of, Upper Merion quarterback Carmen Fortino came out guns blazing in the first quarter. Three of the first plays were pass completions that moved the chains rapidly with the sole running play was Mitchell's touchdown run negated by a holding penalty. Moving deep into enemy territory, the Vikings were knocked back another notch by another costly holding penalty and were forced to punt.
On the defensive side, the Vikings caused a quick Bears turnover and were able to put together a 65-yard drive concluding with Mitchell walking into the end zone for a touchdown.
However, the Bears didn't wait long to strike back, Whitmore found his legs and charged 55 yards for the score.
"Tyler Whitmore is a special kid,' said Upper Moreland coach Adam Beach. "He's got a lot of speed and he's got some power ... [we just] gave him the ball to see what he could do.'
Whitmore's standout performance caused many headaches for the Vikings defense. Running for 268 yards on 25 carries, an average of 10.7 per carry, he had four touchdowns on the night including an 80-yarder that capped off the win for the Golden Bears.
"He's an explosive kid, we talked about it all week,' said Smith. "You try to grab him and he's going to run through those tackles.'
The Vikings managed to take a 21-14 lead late in the second quarter, but on three straight 20-yard runs, Whitmore tied the game a 21 a piece. Three plays into the return drive, Fortino threw his first of two interceptions to set up Bears first and goal, which on the first play from scrimmage Bears QB Charlie Hooker ran a fake toss and ran in for the score.
It took a little more than two minutes for a 14-point swing.
"When you're able to get turnovers and put those kind of points on the board, it's deflating for a team,' Beach said. "We get those interceptions and we're able to put them one score behind ... for them it was something to overcome and all we had to was sit back and play good defense.'
In the Vikings first possession, Fortino threw his second interception that lined up 65-yard touchdown run by Bears' Nick DeLucas. Continuing through the second half, the Bears defense broke up an sort of rhythm the Vikings tried to find. Upper Merion relied heavily on Mitchell, but his touchdown and 128 yards rushing was not enough to overcome 85 yards in penalties, including two which negated touchdowns.
"When run to the end zone and turn around and see the flag on the field ... that's the worst thing,' Mitchell said. "It's really deflating, it's a killer.'