PHOENIXVILLE - On a night when Phoenixville honored its military heroes as well as policemen, firemen and emergency workers as part of Operation American Pride night, the Phantoms also took charge on the football field.
The Phantoms executed well at both ends of the field in defeating Pope John Paul II, 27-6, for Phoenixville's third straight victory in the Pioneer Athletic Conference after starting the year with two non-league setbacks.
Phoenixville forced and capitalized on six turnovers - three interceptions and three fumble recoveries - in keeping the Golden Panthers off the scoreboard until the fourth quarter.
The Phantoms opened the scoring with a safety as defensive tackle Paul Hossler tackled Kirk Cherneskie in the end zone. The Phantoms made it 15-0 by halftime as Rahim Beasley darted 35 yards for a touchdown and Zach Gallow caught a 19-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Kyle Karkoska. Alex Wertman kicked the point after following the second touchdown.
Phoenixville's Justin McDougal rushed for two touchdowns, one an 80-yard burst, and 130 yards on 17 carries as Phoenixville rolled up 296 yards on the ground. Karkoska, Matt Palubinsky and Donnie Jackson, who played taps on the trumpet during the opening ceremonies, also took turns running the ball behind an effective offensive line.
Damien Davido intercepted two passes and Karkoska had one interception. Jackson and Karkoska also had fumble recoveries.
Cherneskie scored the Golden Panthers touchdown on a 16-yard run. He finished with 77 yards rushing on 13 carries. Nick Howarth added 48 yards on seven tries and also recovered a pair of fumbles.
Dave Moerman had an interception for the Golden Panthers (1-3, 1-4).
PJP quarterback Matt Mesaros completed 7-of-20 passes for 60 yards. John Bacchi had three receptions for 27 yards.
Karkoska was 6-for-13 for 50 yards with all of that output coming during the first half. Gallow, Jackson and Beasley each had two grabs.
Both sides were hurt by penalties. PJP was flagged 10 times for 81 yards and the Phantoms had 10 penalties for 85 yards.
"I think our defensive line stepped up tremendously,' said McDougal, who doubled at linebacker. "And our inside linebackers and outside linebackers played the sweeps and options to number four (Howarth) well.'
The running of McDougal, Beasley and Karkoska for starters kept the Pope John Paul II defense off balance. Beasley ended the night with 77 yards rushing on 12 attempts.
"We've really created chemistry for each other,' said McDougal. "We block for each other and it is fun to run the ball together up the middle. We were all fired up on all cylinders tonight.'
The Phantoms were happy to play well at home on a special night.
"That (Operation American Pride) helped us a lot,' said McDougal. "We had a lot more confidence with a purpose to play for our heroes. We thank the vets of the past and present. It was a great time.'
Interim head coach Chris Alston was also pleased by the Phantoms' showing.
"I think our kids did a magnificent job,' said Alston. "They played hard for all four quarters. I am proud of them for what they did with me the last couple weeks.
"It was such a special night for our heroes. That truly resonates for our heroes. They gave an A-plus effort. We came out ready to play.'
PJP coach Mike Santillo felt his team turned the ball over too often and made too many mistakes with penalties. They fell behind early because of those miscues and could not recover.
"Turnovers and penalties,' said Santillo. "Good football teams don't make those mistakes. You can't expect to win when you run 11 plays in a half and want to be in a football game. We can't throw the ball that many times this year. We are asking for trouble.'
Pope John Paul II 6
Pope John Paul II 0 0 0 6 — 6
Phoenixville 2 13 6 6 — 27
Phx-Safety, Hossler tackled Cherneskie in end zone
Phx-Beasley 35 run (run failed)
Phx-Gallow 19 pass from Karkoska (Wertman kick)
Phx-McDougal 80 run (pass failed)
PJP-Cherneskie 16 run (kick blocked)
Phx-McDougal 1 run (kick failed)
First Downs 15 15
Rushing yards 146 296
Passing yards 60 50
Total yards 206 346
Passes C-A-I 7-20-3 6-13-1
Fumbles-Lost 5-3 3-2
Penalties-Yards 10-81 10-85
Punts-Avg. 2-39.5 4-36.5
Pope John Paul: Cherneskie 13-77, 1 TD; Howarth 7-48; Mesaros 5-20; Marazas 2-1.
Phoenixville: McDougal 17-130, 2 TDs; Beasley 12-77, 1 TD; Palubinsky 4-66; Jackson 3-15; Karkoska 10-8.
Pope John Paul: Mesaros 7-20-60, 3 INTs.
Phoenixville: Karkoska 6-13-50, 1 TD, 1 INT.
Pope John Paul: Bacchi 3-27; Marazas 2-19 Howarth 2-14.
Phoenixville: Gallow 2-26, 1 TD; Jackson 2-13; Beasley 2-11.
Interceptions: Pope John Paul-Moerman. Phoenixville-Davido 2, Karkoska.