Thursday, November 8, 2012

Garnet Valley & Spring-Ford Playoff Preview

Yousef Lundi and Spring-Ford face Garnet Valley tonight in a District 1-AAAA opener.
By Don Seeley

ROYERSFORD – Hardly a soul forgets birthdays and anniversaries. Hardly anyone involved in the Spring-Ford football program, from the players and coaches to their diehard fans, forgets last year’s very first venture into the District 1-Class AAAA playoffs.
Coatesville 60, Spring-Ford 28 … only the second time since Spring-Ford kicked off its very first season in 1955 that one of its teams had surrendered 60 points in a game.
While the lopsided loss didn’t erase that perfect run through the Pioneer Athletic Conference for the first time in 16 years or the double digits in the win column for the first time in 12 years, it sure did deposit disappointment in the Spring-Ford memory bank.
And it’s that disappointment – absolute dissatisfaction – the No. 7 seed Rams would like nothing more than to rid their selves of when they line up against No. 10 seed Garnet Valley (8-2) in tonight’s opening round of the AAAA playoffs at Coach McNelly Stadium.
“Last year, making the playoffs was a goal,” said head coach Chad Brubaker, who in three seasons has guided the Rams to 28 wins in 34 games. “This year, the expectations were to get there (again).
“I think it always helps to be familiar with something before going on. (Last year), our kids weren’t sure they could compete in the playoffs. This year, our kids feel like they belong in the playoffs. That’s the big difference, in terms of attitude.”
With only a loss to unbeaten PAC-10 champion Pottsgrove, the Rams (9-1) have certainly played with that mindset. They have punctuated their season with five games of 40-plus points, averaging over 37 points a game behind a balanced offense that has generated a norm of 365 yards every weekend. They’ve also limited five opponents to one touchdown or less, and are a respectable plus-seven in takeaways.
Spring-Ford’s offensive line – featuring Josh Boyer, Zach Dorsey, Mike Gilmore, Justin Meals and Montana O’Daniell – has played big, and aggressively, to provide the necessary space for both Yousef Lundi’s and Tate Carter’s increased running responsibilities. And last week, when junior standout Jarred Jones returned from six weeks on the shelf with an injury, there was a noticeable nudge in the entire offense’s attitude.
“I think any time your team is 100 percent healthy it’s a boost,” Brubaker said. “With (Jones) back, it allows us to utilize Carter more at wide receiver and (Lundi) more at fullback.”
Jones, who returned with 208 yards and a touchdown – not to mention a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and an 80-yard return to set up yet another – has helped opposing defenses cut back on any sack-happy schemes, too. That alone has taken a bit of heat off quarterback Hank Coyne, who has thrown for 1,403 yards and 19 touchdowns while rewriting most of the passing pages in the Spring-Ford record book.
But as productive as the Rams have been on offense, there’s no avoiding the demand to play fundamental football if they’re to move the ball against Garnet Valley or stop Garnet Valley from moving the ball.
 The Jaguars average a half-point more than the Rams scoring and allow three less than the Rams, very similar statistics for sure. But except for their only two losses – a pair of 10-point setbacks to Class AAA qualifier Springfield-Delco (35-25) in Week Five and to unbeaten No. 2 seed Ridley (27-17) – they’ve pretty much quieted the rest of the opposition.
That defense, which allows an average of 197 yards a game, is led by tackle Donte Burgess and linebacker Steve Elk.
Ryan Corkery also contributes on the defensive side, but is counted on to lead Garnet Valley’s no-huddle offense at quarterback. He has run for 895 yards and 12 touchdowns and passed for an additional 703 yards and nine scores. Jake Irving has added 829 yards and 13 touchdowns carrying the ball for Central League runner-up Garnet Valley, which a year ago reached the district semifinals.
Garnet Valley’s offensive line is excellent, especially their guards,” Brubaker said. “They pound the ball and try to wear defenses down.  (Corkery) is a big kid who runs well. We will have to play sound, assignment-based defense.”
That demand falls on Spring-Ford’s defensive front that features Zameer McDowell and R.J. Sheldon at the ends, with Mason Romano and Robby Varner inside at the tackles. Linebackers Ian Hare, Kyle Hoffner and Andy Lovre-Smith have been superb, and the secondary of Jared Shoemaker, Travis Daywalt, Ben Schein and either Joe Sink or Joe Bush has been reliable defending the pass as well as coming up to stop the run.
“I can’t express enough how tough and hard McDowell played last week against Perkiomen Valley,” Brubaker said of his 6-foot-5, 220-pound senior, who knocked down four Viking passes. “He was exhausted and in pain, but kept getting up and going back in. Every time I asked him if he was ready to go back in he told me, ‘I’m ready.’ He had a great game.”
Every one of the Rams will have to be ready tonight.
“We need to execute in all three phases of the game, create turnovers and protect the ball on offense,” Brubaker said. “We must…
“Everyone is good in the playoffs. We’re going to have to continue to get better.”

Tonight’s game is the first between Garnet Valley and Spring-Ford. … The Jaguars are 2-0 against PAC-10 teams in the postseason – defeating Upper Perkiomen (35-7) in 2006 and Pottsgrove (41-22) in 2007 when they competed in the Class AAA bracket. … Pottsgrove  Lundi (886 yards, 12 TDs) and Carter (625-9) ran well in Jones’ absence and still contributed a combined 165 yards and three touchdowns last week when Jones returned. … Gary Hopkins and Carter, with 26 catches each, have been Coyne’s favorite receivers. McDowell and Sheldon, who double as tight ends, have caught 15 and 12 passes, respectively. … Romano, McDowell and Hoffner are first through third in tackles, while Sheldon (5.5), Hoffner (4) and McDowell (3.5) lead the defense in sacks. … Garnet Valley opened with four straight wins before the back-to-back losses, then recovered with four consecutive wins to enter the postseason on a high note.

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