Pottsgrove’s Marquis Barefield (25) and Wyatt Porter (5) celebrate a touchdown against Boyertown Friday night as the Falcons won the PAC-10
Pottsgrove's Marquis Barefield (25) and Wyatt Porter (5) celebrate a touchdown against Boyertown Friday night as the Falcons won the PAC-10 championship. (Photo by John strickler/The Mercury)

After Pottsgrove had closed out its second straight unbeaten regular season, after the Falcons had wrapped up their second consecutive outright Pioneer Athletic Conference championship and after the squad had been saluted in fine fashion by a multi-horn tribute from the Sanatoga and Ringing Hill Fire Companies (complete with a giant American flag and a host of fans lining an impromptu walk of honor), senior quarterback Riley Michaels talked about the week leading up to Friday night's league finale.

"We were preaching all week at practice that we didn't want to share it (the league title),' Michaels said during an interview outside the school as traffic filed out following the Falcons' 62-29 victory over Boyertown. "We're not sharers at Pottsgrove; we wanted it for ourself. That was our motto.'

Riley Michaels (13) and the Pottsgrove offense have been lighting up the scoreboard averaging 43.7 points per game en route to their championship run.
Riley Michaels (13) and the Pottsgrove offense have been lighting up the scoreboard averaging 43.7 points per game en route to their championship run. (Kevin Hoffman/The Mercury)

That said, the Falcons' insatiable appetite for another PAC-10 crown off the field belied their unselfish attitude on the gridiron.

Thanks to a collective effort, Pottsgrove (10-0 overall) went 9-0 in league play — highlighted by a 14-7 victory over Spring-Ford in Week 5 and a 23-12 win over Perkiomen Valley in Week 9 — to bring home its fourth PAC-10 title in the past six years and ninth overall league crown.

"Our kids worked very hard in the offseason to allow them to have a chance,' Pottsgrove coach Rick Pennypacker said. "They got bigger and stronger and this senior class displayed tremendous leadership for the young kids.'

The Falcons headed into the season knowing their bread and butter would be a stingy defense that returned no fewer than nine starters.

What's more, senior linebacker Tyrone Parker emerged from relative obscurity to become one of the league's most feared players on that side of the ball.

The front four of Patrick Finn, Tom Sephakis, Anthony Pond and Nico Demetrio has held its own in the trenches, with the linebacking corps of Parker, Jeff Adams and Sene Polamalu inflicting a heavy dose of damage on opposing ballcarriers and the secondary of Michaels, Michael Fowler, Marquis Barefield and Jalen Mayes blanketing opposing receivers for the most part.

Offensively, Barefield has developed into one of the area's most dangerous home-run hitters from his tailback position, in stark contrast to Polamalu's battering-ram effectiveness at fullback. Michaels may not have the pedigree of former recent quarterback stars Terrell Chestnut and Tory Hudgins, but the tough-as-nails 5-10, 150-pound senior has managed the offense with maximum efficiency while also developing a sneaky-good rapport with top target Folwer on the rare occasions the Falcons do throw.

The success of the Falcons' skill guys is a direct result of their outstanding O-line composed of Finn, Sephakis, Pond, Max Wickward, Jeremy Cuadrado and tight end Adams.

"I was amazed at that our offense jelled so quickly,' Pennypacker said. "Barefield, Michaels and Polamalu stepped in and played extremely well. All of them got better every week. Our offensive line played very well and some of them really came into their own.'

Though Pottsgrove's special teams play did make Pennypacker cringe early in the year by allowing a two return TDs over the first two weeks, that group gradually improved as the season progressed. Fowler provided a solid presence at punter, with kicker Jon Klinger nailing a huge 39-yard field goal to put the Falcons up to stay late in the first half of their showdown against PV. Barefield, Folwer and Mayes are all top return talents who can tilt the field in an instant.

While most folks that follow the league are familiar with the Falcons' name players, they also got clutch performances from some of their more unheralded guys throughout the year, such as backs Orrin Toomer, Deon Fink and Tyrell Barr and lineman Matt Faulkner.

And it would be remiss to overlook the successful schemes from week-to-week of Pennypacker and his assistant crew that includes Bill Bradford, Bill Hawthorne, Mike Tomasso, Jim Algeo, Preston Moser, Eric Engstrom, Brent Haring, Josh Ford and Josh Lindy.

"All of them bring something different to the table every day,' Pennypacker said. "They are extremely hard workers and four of them are volunteers. I am very blessed to have a great staff that has been together for many years. Two of them have been with me since 1989, three of them played for me at Pottsgrove and know our system. Without such a dedicated and committed staff, we would not be where we are. Our program is very fortunate to have such knowlegeable and intelligent assistant coaches.

"I also give a tremendous amount of credit to our trainer, Jack Thomas. He has done an incredible job keeping our kids healthy and on the field. He deserves a lot of credit for our success.'

The success began with a 41-13 victory over Souderton in Week 1, and a 53-14 rout of Pope John Paul II in the Falcons' league opener the following week.

Pottsgrove's sternest test came against Spring-Ford (the last PAC-10 defeat them, back in 2011) in a knock-down, drag-out brawl at Coach McNelly Stadium. But the Falcons prevailed thanks to 13 tackles from Parker, a go-ahead 6-yard TD pass from Michaels to Fowler late in the third quarter and a game-sealing fumble recovery by Adams just outside the red zone with 1:25 left in the contest.

"That was a big game for us,' Pennypacker said. "I think the kids believe they could play with anyone in the league, but beating Spring-Ford was a huge confidence lift for us.'

Against Perkiomen Valley, Polamalu ran for 154 yards and a TD, Barefield added 110 yards and another score and Parker racked up 11 tackles as the Falcons clinched at least a share of the league crown. Then Friday, they got a monster 294-yard, four-TD outburst from Barefield in running the league (and regular-season) table for the second straight year.

"Our kids knew that every team was out to knock us off and this took its toll as the season wore on,' Pennypacker said. "However, I think our kids are very tough mentally and met the challenge each week.'

Like champions.

 

AROUND THE AREA

Owen J. Roberts senior running back Wyatt Scott surpassed the 1,000-yard mark for the second straight year with his career-high 227-yard, four-TD outburst in the Wildcats' 26-14 victory over Pope John Paul II Saturday. ... Boyertown's Nick Brough broke Ryan Repko's school single-season receiving yards mark in Friday's loss to Pottsgrove. Brough now has 603 receiving yards for the season, two more than Repko. Brough, who currently has 1,116 career receiving yards, also broke Brandon Mason's previous career mark of 1,057. ... Methacton's 48-14 victory over Phoenixville Saturday was the Warriors' fifth in six games after a 1-3 start. The Warriors' four losses (Bayard Rustin, Perkiomen Valley, Pottsgrove and Spring-Ford) are to teams with a combined record of 36-4.

 

DISTRICT 1 DOINGS

Downingtown West defeated Coatesville 24-7 Friday for the Whippets' first Ches-Mont League title since Downingtown split into East and West in 2002. The Red Raiders were playing without Penn State-bound star running back Daquan Worley, who is out for the year with a torn ACL in his right knee. ... North Penn pummelled Souderton 44-14 Friday for its seventh straight win after an 0-3 start. Speaking of the Knights, kicker Matt Ammendola drilled a school-record 56-yard field goal in that game. ... Garnet Valley routed Conestoga 30-0 to win the Central League title, close out its first unbeaten regular season since 1980 and earn the top seed in the District 1-AAAA Tournament.

 

PIAA POTPOURRI

West Mifflin's Jimmy Wheeler ran for 359 yards in Friday's 47-42 victory over Moon, which got 309 rushing yards from Cole Blake. It is believed to be the first time two players have rushed for more than 300 yards in a WPIAL game, according to Mike White of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. ... Lebanon's Mark Pyles threw for 484 yards and six touchdowns in a 45-17 win over Elizabethtown that clinched a District 3-AAAA playoff berth for the Cedars, who were 0-10 last year. ... Schuylkill Valley, coached by St. Pius X grad Jeff Chillot, is 6-4 and received the fourth seed in the District 3-AA tourney and plays host to defending state champion Wyomissing (5-5) in its district opener.

 

PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Marquis Barefield, Pottsgrove

Senior tailback ran for a career-best 294 yards and four touchdowns — all of which were for 45 yards or more — as the Falcons defeated Boyertown 62-29 Friday night to wrap up their second straight outright Pioneer Athletic Conference crown and run their league regular season winning streak to 23 games.

 

COACH OF THE WEEK

Grey Simpson, Hill School

Simpson directed the Rams to a 28-26 Mid-Atlantic Prep League victory over Mercersburg Academy Saturday that snapped an seven-game losing streak dating back to last season. QB Matt Foltz threw for 245 yards and three TDs and also ran for 44 yards and another score, Grant Smith had seven receptions for 170 yards and a TD and the Hill defense stopped a potential game-tying two-point conversion attempt with 27 seconds left to seal the deal.

Follow Darryl Grumling on Twitter at @MercSmokinD.