ROYERSFORD — Jeff Adams stood alone near the far 30-yard line at a virtually empty Coach McNelly Stadium Friday night.
Dried blood decorated the white uniform pants of the Pottsgrove senior linebacker, and a look of exhaustion adorned his face.
It was about as appropriate of an image to sum up what had just transpired on the football field between the Falcons and Spring-Ford.
"They rocked us a couple plays,' said Adams. "But we rocked right back.'
In the end, Pottsgrove came away from the highly anticipated showdown of Pioneer Athletic Conference powers with a hard-fought 14-7 victory over the Rams.
In a game defined by trench warfare, flying yellow flags (Spring-Ford was whistled for 18 penalties for 159 yards) and the absence of Rams star tailback Jarred Jones (who Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker termed "unavailable'), the Falcons got a go-ahead 6-yard TD pass from Riley Michaels to Michael Fowler with 2:54 left in the third quarter.
From there, a typically rugged defensive effort — led by a 13-tackle, three-sack performance from Tyrone Parker and a game-sealing fumble recovery by Adams just outside the red zone with 1:25 left in the game — closed out the 18th straight PAC-10 regular season victory by Pottsgrove (4-0, 5-0).
"The kids played well; I'm very proud of them,' Falcons coach Rick Pennypacker said. "It was a very tough game. An emotional game. A hard-fought game between two good football teams. What else am I going to say?'
After both teams felt each other out with a combined four three-and-outs to begin the contest, Spring-Ford junior quarterback Brandon Leacraft hooked up with wideout Danny Matthews for a 38-yard scoring strike that put the Rams up 7-0 with 4:02 left in the first quarter. It was only the second touchdown allowed by Pottsgrove's first team defense all year.
"We knew we had to bounce back,' Parker said. "When adversity faces you, you have to bounce back.'
The Falcons began to do that late in the first quarter, beginning a 12-play, 80-yard march that culminated in Sene Polamalu's 2-yard TD run 7:55 before the half. And though the extra point was no good, the momentum gradually began to shift to the visitors.
The game-turning drive took place midway through the third quarter when, after Polamalu was stopped for a 3-yard gain on a second-and-10 play from the Pottsgrove 46, the Rams were whistled for a personal foul on the tackle. Four plays later, when Michaels was stopped for a short gain on second-and-7 from the Spring-Ford 23, the Rams were hit with consecutive personal foul penalties — putting the ball on the 6.
Two plays later, Michaels — on his only completion of the night — found Fowler in the right flat to put Pottsgrove up to stay and Jalen Mayes ran in the two-point conversion.
"We have to control the game,' Brubaker said. "We let the game get out of our hands, and that's all I'll say about that.'
There was plenty to say about the defense of both teams.
Spring-Ford forced four turnovers (getting two fumble recoveries by Andy Lovre-Smith, one fumble recovery by Cody Davis and an interception from Jared Shoemaker) and held the Falcons to a season-low 178 total yards.
Pottsgrove, which got an interception from Marquis Barefield and blanket coverage by Fowler on Rams deep threat Gary Hopkins, held the Rams to 213 total yards. That was no doubt made much easier by the absence of Jones, who entered the contest as the area's leading rusher with 545 yards and eight TDs.
"We found out in warmups he wasn't here, but we didn't believe it until the first snap,' Adams said. "We were able to get our calls down defensively, able to spot their inside zone and hold them on their passes. Sometimes it was hard to hear calls on the field because of how loud it was. It was extremely tough tonight, you've got to give (the Rams) credit.'
"I'm so proud of my team,' said Parker. "The defense stayed strong, the coaches had a great game plan and it worked out really well for us. We're a family. We stick together. Our bond is strong.'
That showed in the late going, after Lovre-Smith gave the Rams one last shot by recovering a Pottsgrove fumble at the Spring-Ford 37 with 5:38 left in the game.
Behind the bullish running of Jake Leahy (17 carries, 96 yards) — who delivered a 5-yard run on a fourth-and-1 play from the Falcons' 29 with less than two minutes left — the Rams appeared to be setting the stage for a fantastic finish.
Three plays later, though, Leahy slipped on a draw play attempt, fumbled and Adams fell on it.
"We shot ourselves in the foot all night,' Brubaker said. "Our guys played hard, we just told them that in the locker room, but we just had too many dropped balls. There were plays to be made, but we didn't make them.'
Barefield ran for a team-high 88 yards for the Falcons. His interception was his league-best third of the season. Polamalu rushed for a hard-earned 64 yards on 18 carries. ... Fowler has five catches this year, four of them for touchdowns. Michaels has completed eight passes on the season, five of them going for scores. ... Matthews had four catches for 71 yards for the Rams, including a highlight-reel grab on the near sideline in the second quarter.
Follow Darryl Grumling on Twitter at @MercSmokinD.
Pottsgrove 0 6 8 0 — 14
Spring-Ford 7 0 0 0 — 7
SF-Matthews 38 pass from Leacraft (Gulati kick).
PG-Polamalu 2 run (kick failed)
PG-Fowler 6 pass from Michaels (Mayes run).
First Downs 14 11
Rushing yards 172 87
Passing yards 6 126
Total yards 178 213
Passes C-A-I 1-5-1 9-22-1
Fumbles-Lost 3-3 2-1
Penalties-Yards 3-25 18-159
Punts-Avg. 4-32.3 5-33.2
Pottsgrove: Barefield 14-88, Polamalu 18-64, 1 TD; Toomer 1-10, Mayes 2-5, Michaels 9-4, Team 1-1.
Spring-Ford: Leahy 17-96, Daywalt 2-12, Furhmeister 6-9, Matthews 1-2, Leacraft 5-(-32).
Pottsgrove: Michaels 1-5-6, 1 TD, 1 INT.
Spring-Ford: Leacraft 8-19-108, 1 TD, Daywalt 1-2-18, Scarcelle 0-1-0, 1 INT.
Pottsgrove: Fowler 1-6, 1 TD.
Spring-Ford: Matthews 4-71, 1 TD, Hopkins 2-10, Vagnozzi 1-19, Shoemaker 1-18, Davis 1-0, Fuhrmeister 0-8.
Interceptions: Pottsgrove-Barefield; Spring-Ford-Shoemaker.
Sacks: Pottsgrove-Parker 3, Demetrio 1; Spring-Ford-Romano 1.