Heading into the District 1-AAAA football playoffs, a lot of folks wondered — somewhat understandably — whether or not the Perkiomen Valley Vikings had it in them to win the big one.
After all, in their two previous showdown situations against fellow Pioneer Athletic Conference championship contenders Spring-Ford and Pottsgrove, the Vikings didn't seem to handle the glare of the big stage all that well in respective 14-7 and 23-12 losses.
Through two rounds of district playoff action, though, Perkiomen Valley has put that notion to rest in emphatic fashion.
All the Vikings have done in a tremendously terrific two-week span is deliver the first two AAAA postseason victories in school history — highlighted by Friday's incredible 60-20 1-AAAA quarterfinal victory over Central Bucks West.
"Winning the big game was a bit of a monkey on our back,' PV coach Scott Reed admitted, "but I give the kids credit because even after the tough losses in our league they came back to practice ready to work and get better. Pottsgrove and Spring-Ford are two very good football teams. Our kids fought in both of those games. I truly believe playing both of them in a big game atmosphere has prepared us for these playoff games.
"And more than anything, these wins validate the hard work these kids put into our football program.'
Validation. Motivation. Vindication. Satisfaction. However you look at it, the No. 15 seed Vikings (10-2) have been the talk of the district tourney.
They opened a lot of eyes in the first round by dispatching previously unbeaten No. 2 seed Bayard Rustin 26-6, but nobody expected what wound up transpiring at C.B. West's War Memorial Field — a traditional venue considered hallowed ground by a lot of longtime District 1 followers.
Perkiomen Valley quarterback (and reigning All-Area Player of the Year) Rasaan Stewart cemented his legacy as one of the all-time PAC-10 greats with a performance for the ages. The 6-foot-1, 176-pound Stewart threw for a season-high 268 yards and four touchdowns and ran for 96 yards and two more scores as the Vikings racked up 532 yards of total offense.
For good measure, he also returned a kickoff 84 yards for a score while quarterbacking the defense from his safety position.
"Rasaan has elevated his game to a new level the last two weeks,' Reed said. "As good as he has been for us the last three years, he is relishing this playoff atmosphere. This is the stage he wants to perform his best on, and I think he has done that. What many fail to realize — because Rasaan's physical tools are so impressive — is that his mental preparation as a player is second to none. I think he is locked in mentally on both sides of the ball and his preparation for these games is paying off in a big way.'
There were plenty of other stars for PV — including Mark Bonomo, who ran for 133 yards and two TDs, and the receiving tandem of Dakota Clanagan and Clay Domine, who combined for 251 yards and four TDs.
On the other side of the ball, the Vikings got a collectively courageous effort from their defense. Tony Pachella and Luke DiElsi led the charge up front, while corner Kurran "Mook' Holland had a monster game in the secondary and on special teams, according to Reed. Pat Delaney, Danny Light and Anthony Rotunda brought their ' A' games at linebacker, and Sean Sedgewick (starting for the injured Austin Gansz) played with the poise of a veteran.
It all added up to a perfect gridiron storm that culminated in one of the most jaw-dropping halftime scores in district playoff history: Perkiomen Valley 54, C.B. West 14. "We were lucky enough to have things go our way,' Reed said. "I don't think we could do that again if we tried 100 times. We just had players making big plays, the blocking was good, and our defense was getting quick stops.
"I think we had a good plan, but more importantly the players executed that plan. All the game-planning in the world doesn't make up for players making plays, and we made the big plays. It was truly a team win. Our offensive line did a great job protecting Rasaan, and our skill players did a great job playing without the ball. We always talk to our athletes about being great when they are not catching or carrying the ball, and Friday night we got that effort with our perimeter blocking. Our defense also played very well against a team that was averaging 33 points a game. I thought every level of our defense — from the DL, LBs, and DBs — did a nice job.'
The reward is a trip to No. 11 seed North Penn for Friday's 7:30 p.m. semifinal matchup against the traditional power Knights (9-3), who have won nine straight since an 0-3 start.
Though North Penn is deservedly favored by most folks, suffice it to say that anyone who overlooks Perkiomen Valley at this point does so at its own risk.
"The playoffs are the first time all year where we have been in an underdog situation and this Friday is no different,' Reed said. "I think our kids thrive on it. They are playing with a chip on their shoulder. As a 15 seed you have to travel to every game, and I believe it has brought our team together to go into these different venues with only each other to count on.'
And helped them author a new and exciting chapter in program — and PAC-10 — history.
"This team may not have won a PAC-10 championship, but they are pioneering new territory in our school's history,' Reed said. "And for that, they'll be remembered for a long time.'
AROUND THE AREA
By running for 116 yards and two touchdowns in Friday's 56-27 District 1-AAAA quarterfinal loss at Neshaminy, Spring-Ford's Jarred Jones took over the area rushing lead with 1,709 yards. A 5-11, 195-pound senior, Jones has 4,144 career yards heading into the Rams' Thanksgiving finale against Phoenixville. ... Perkiomen Valley quarterback Stewart is 229 yards away from becoming just the fourth area QB to reach the 3,000-yard rushing plateau. Pottsgrove's Terrell Chestnut (3,178), Pottsgrove's Tory Hudgins (3,127) and Daniel Boone's Tommy Bodolus (3,001) are the others. ... Perkiomen Valley's Domine became the seventh player in area history to surpass the 100-reception career mark and currently stands at 111. ... The 512 points scored by Pottsgrove this season are an area single-season record. ... Perkiomen Valley's 10 wins are the most during Scott Reed's 10-year tenure as head coach and match PV's 1998 10-2 squad for the most victories since the Vikings joined the PAC-10 in 1986.
DISTRICT 1 DOINGS
You could say the Dow was up in a big way Friday, as Glen Mills running back Shaheen Dow rushed for 234 yards and three touchdowns and also returned a fumble 91 yards for another score to lead the Battlin' Bulls to a 34-13 District 1-AAA semifinal win over Henderson. ... David Kretschman hit Khari Jefferson with an 11-yard scoring strike with 26 seconds left as No. 8 seed Abington took down top seed and previously unbeaten Garnet Valley 26-21 in a District 1-AAAA quarterfinal. ... In another 1-AAAA quarter, sophomore Nyfease West ran for 173 yards and a touchdowns and QB Austin Shearer threw for three TDs to lead 11th seed North Penn past third seed Pennsbury 31-21. ... Bristol beat Delco Christian 19-6 Saturday for its second straight District 1-A crown, while Imhotep routed West Philadelphia 48-8 for the District 1/12-AA title Friday.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Rasaan Stewart, Perkiomen Valley
Senior quarterback threw for a season-high 268 yards and four touchdowns while also rushing for 96 yards and two more scores to lead the Vikings to a stunning 60-20 victory over Central Bucks West in Friday's District 1-AAAA quarterfinal. The 6-1, 176-pound Stewart surpassed the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the year and is 56 passing yards shy of 2,000 for the season.
COACH OF THE WEEK
Scott Reed, Perkiomen Valley
Directed the No. 15 seed Vikings to likely their biggest win in program history, a 60-20 victory over Central Bucks West in Friday's District 1-AAAA quarterfinal. PV rolled up 532 yards of total offense in its second straight road Quad-A playoff victory.
Pittsburgh Central Catholic (12-0) takes over the No. 1 ranking in the state in Class AAAA by Pennsylvania Football News after limiting Penn-Trafford to just 76 total yards in a 48-10 WPIAL semifinal victory. ... In the other WPIAL semi, Woodland Hills used a late goal-line stand to take down top-ranked Upper St. Clair 28-21. ... Wilson (12-0) got 148 rushing yards and a TD from sophomore Shane Dantzler in a 27-0 District 3-AAAA quarterfinal win over Lancaster-Lebanon Section 1 rival Penn Manor.
Troy Flutie, a senior at Natick (Mass.) and the nephew of former NFL quarterback Doug Flutie, threw for three touchdowns in a 28-14 win over Needham to set the state career mark for TD passes. He now has 105, according to maxpreps.com. Flutie also holds the state career passing yardage mark with 8,698. ... In statistics compiled by maxpreps.com, Grant Sherman of Kenton (Ohio) leads the nation with 4,966 passing yards, while Will Grier of Davidson Day (N.C.) has tossed 70 TD passes. ... Kellen Overstreet of Penney (Missouri) has rushed for 3,116 yards and 51 touchdowns in 13 games this year; Justin Sawmiller of Kenton (Ohio) has 123 receptions; and Elijah Marks of Desert Edge (Ariz.) has 2,044 receiving yards.
Follow Darryl Grumling on Twitter at @MercSmokinD