POTTSTOWN — Hill School football coach Grey Simpson pulled out all the stops at the outset of Saturday's Mid-Atlantic Prep League football game against visiting Blair Acdemy.
First, the Rams pulled off a successful onsides kick on the opening kickoff, with Hunter Hudspeth-Blackburn on the recovery.
Then, on Hill's first play from scrimmage, Simpson dialed up a double reverse pass that wide receiver Grant Smith let fly towards the end zone to a wide-open Nik Gjika.
Unfortunately for the Rams, Blair cornerback Anterio Bateman closed on the potential TD pass like Deion Sanders for a highlight-reel interception that pretty much set the tone for the afternoon.
Bateman burning the Rams would become a recurring motif as the Buccaneers came away with a 47-26 victory at Dell Field.
The 5-foot-7, 180-pound Bateman ran for a game-high 175 yards — 144 of them in the first half — and four touchdowns while also amassing 105 receiving yards and another TD on four catches to help Blair Academy remain unbeaten in the MAPL at 3-0 and improve to 4-2 overall.
Bateman's heroics also overshadowed monster efforts by the Hill tandem of quarterback Matt Foltz and Smith. Foltz completed 20-of-30 passes for 310 yards and two touchdowns, while Smith reeled in 13 receptions — along the way shattering Adam Regensburg's single-season mark of 40 — for 207 yards.
"He's a heck of a player,' veteran Blair coach Jim Stone said of Bateman, who also had a 86-yard kickoff return to set up another score. "He makes a lot of things happen. He makes stuff out of nothing.'
Bateman's backfield mate, fullback Quashae Hendryx, provided the thunder to Bateman's lightning — rushing for 106 yards, including a 30-yard touchdown that opened the scoring with 5:59 left in the first quarter.
After stopping the Rams (0-3, 0-6) on downs, the Buccanneers marched 80 yards on 10 plays, with Bateman breaking a tackle en route to a 12-yard scoring run on a third-down play that made it 14-0 with three seconds left in the opening quarter.
With Foltz and Smith playing pitch and catch most of the way, Hill School got on the board on a drive culminating in Foltz's 18-yard TD strike to Brian Bamberger midway through the second period. But the Bucs needed just four plays to answer back, as Bateman turned Kyle Jacksic's short pass into a 41-yard catch-and-run TD to extend the lead to 20-7.
"He's a tough football player,' Simpson said of Bateman. "He can beat you in a lot of different ways.'
Bateman ripped off a 35-yard scoring run with 3:22 left in the second quarer, then scored on a 2-yard run on the final play of the half (after a Hill penalty gave the Bucs one untimed down) to give Blair a 33-7 lead heading into the locker room.
"We did some really good things offensively, but we didn't step up defensively,' said Simpson, whose squad's defense surrendered 324 total yards in the first half. "For us, it was a matter of knowing we had to play a perfect game, and we didn't do that.'
"It's tough when you get down like that,' Foltz said. "I think we're a solid team; it's just the little things that kill us. One little mistake kills us and puts us behind.'
The Rams shored things up defensively in the final two quarters, and started the second half with a 69-yard march capped by Trey Humes' 2-yard TD run.
Once again, though, Bateman came up with a momentum-shifting play. He muffed the ensuing kickoff before finally picking it up at his own 1 and returning it to the Hill 13, where Jacksic immediately hit Demetrius Daltirus for a touchdown that jacked the lead to 40-14.
While the outcome might have been settled by then, Foltz and Smith were far from finished.
Smith, who now has area-highs of 50 catches and 797 yards, snared a fourth-down pass for a 39-yard gain that set up Foltz's 1-yard sneak that got Hill within 40-20 with 4:56 left in the third.
The Rams defense eventually forced a fourth-down incompletion to get the ball back, but Hendryx blunted any last-ditch hopes of a Hill comeback by intercepting Foltz at the Bucs 45 and returning it 23 yards to set up a seven-play drive culminating in Bateman's 2-yard scoring run with 7:49 left in the game.
Foltz found Kurt Neumaier for a 12-yard scoring connection less than two minutes later, but Blair used a heavy dose of the 6-1, 272-pound Hendryx to run out the final 6:26.
"We like to use a lot of people in our offense, and our big ' ol fullback (Hendryx) is doing a hell of a job,' Stone said. "They (the Rams) took some things away from us today, but we still had some things to work with.'
None that worked better than Bateman.
Humes ran for a team-high 52 yards for Hill School, which got a team-high six tackles from John Hill and a sack by Hudspeth-Blackburn. ... Blair held a 441-377 advantage in total yards. ... Jacksic finished 5-for-11 for 118 yards.
Follow Darryl Grumling on Twitter at @MercSmokinD.
Blair Academy 47
Hill School 26
Blair 14 19 7 7 — 47
Hill School 0 7 13 6 — 26
B-Hendryx 30 run (Park kick)
B-Bateman 12 run (Park kick)
H-Bamberger 18 pass from Foltz (Wright kick)
B-Bateman 41 pass from Jacksic (kick failed)
B-Bateman 35 run (Park kick)
B-Bateman 2 run (kick failed)
H-Humes 2 run (Wright kick)
B-Daltirus 13 pass from Jacksic (Park kick)
H-Foltz 1 run (kick failed)
B-Bateman 5 run (Park kick)
H-Neumaier 12 pass from Foltz (kick failed)
First Downs 25 17
Rushing yards 323 67
Passing yards 118 310
Total yards 441 377
Passes C-A-I 5-11-0 22-33-2
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 0-0
Penalties-Yards 3-15 7-63
Punts-Avg. 0-0 0-0
Blair: Bateman 24-175, 4 TDs; Hendryx 16-106, 1 TD; Jacksic 6-29, Ring 3-13.
Hill School: Humes 12-52, 1 TD; Foltz 9-15, 1 TD; Smith 1-0.
Blair: Jacksic 5-11-118.
Hill School: Foltz 20-30-310, 2 TDs, 1 INT; Smith 0-1-0, 1 INT.
Blair: Bateman 4-105, 1 TD; Daltirus 1-13, 1 TD.
Hill School: Smith 13-207, Neumaier 3-22, 1 TD; Allen 2-47; Bamberger 2-34, 1 TD.
Interceptions: Blair-Bateman, Hendryx.
Sacks: Blair-Hendryx, Saylor, Shiffert; Hill School-Hudspeth-Blackburn.