Q’Town Football Mercy Rules Methacton in Opener
By Don Leypoldt
To run in the September 9th Bucks County Herald
Bold things are expected of the Quakertown Panthers this year.
It’s bold when the Philadelphia Inquirer proclaims you as one of the top dozen AAAA teams in the region. It’s bold when they put two senior Panthers- running back Tony Latronica and linebacker Rob Basile- on their pre-season All-Area team.
And ten seasons ago, the Arizona Wildcats were pre-season national title contenders. They didn’t even make a bowl. Pre-season predictions mean nothing the nanosecond the opening kickoff lets fly.
But on Friday night in Quakertown, as the Panthers opened their season hosting Methacton, it took 14 seconds for the predictions to look brilliant. That’s how long in took Quakertown to get their first score en route to a 39-0 domination of the Warriors.
“We played them last year but we also played them my freshman year and it ended badly,” commented Basile, who described some of the bad blood from that game. “We have a history with these guys so this meant a lot to us.”
Tyler Burke fielded Methacton’s opening kickoff, handed it off to Latronica at the 17 and watched his teammate race 83 yards through a gap in the middle of the wedge for a touchdown.
It was nice for Burke- who picked up 84 yards on six carries- to be that courteous; he’d score his own two touchdowns soon enough.
Defensively, three drives later Basile snuffed out a third and short with a YouTube-worthy sack of Warrior quarterback James McHugh. He would later stuff Methacton running back Russell Bryant on a fourth and inches late in the first half..
“It was the first tackle I had,” Basile observed on the sack. “You’re always nervous until you get the first one. I’d been locking on my guards. My linemen in front of me got a good push and I just knifed in there. I like it because it got the butterflies out of my stomach.”
With the gift of a short field, Quakertown capitalized with a workman-like 10 play, 40 yard drive. Ryan Tincknell’s one yard touchdown quarterback sneak capped it.
Short fields were a theme of the game. Quakertown’s average starting field position was its own 49, compared to Methacton’s at their own 29.
Kurtis Roberts’ interception killed a penalty-aided Methacton drive, giving the Panthers the ball at their 33. Latronica (nine carries for 110 yards), helped by a late hit call, moved the ball to the Warrior 16 on two tough runs. Two plays later, Burke swept right for 13 yards and hit pay dirt to make the score 21-0.
Burke offered what he worked on during the offseason: “Lifting and getting stronger,” the senior said. “Getting quicker. Last year I was a little sick. This year, I’m healthy.”
The run was practice for the Panthers’ next drive; a Burke tackle-breaking right side run for a 38 yard touchdown.
“We want to run hard, put our heads down and hit the holes. We just wanted it,” noted Burke.
After holding Methacton to a three-and-out in the opening drive of the second half, Quakertown responded with a three-and-in; Latronica burst 37 yards around the right side of the line on the drive’s third play for a touchdown. The blocked point after try made the score 33-0.
Quakertown’s offense forced the mercy rule when running back Joe Able scampered 28 yards for a touchdown to open the fourth quarter. Five strong Nick Perrine runs set up the score, which made the game 39-0 after the missed PAT attempt.
The hosts ran for 302 yards compared to Methacton’s 57. Five Panthers each rushed for over 25 yards, giving coach John Donnelly an embarrassment of riches at the running back position.
“During camp I said to George Banas our running backs coach that we really have a stable of guys here who can get it done,” Donnelly recalled. “They proved it tonight. We’re deep there. The great thing about is that they’re very unselfish guys. If they don’t get the carry, they’re blocking their butts off. It’s certainly a luxury.”
Bryant’s six carries for 42 yards paced the Warriors. A scrambling McHugh, under duress all night, completed six of his first eight passes and was sacked just once.
Methacton next goes on the road to play neighbor Kennedy-Kenrick (0-1), who fell to Bristol.
Quakertown also opened their 2008 campaign against the Warriors, when they went on the road to beat Methacton 13-6. Edwin Gonzalez’s 13 tackles paced the stoutest defensive effort of Quakertown’s season.
Methacton went 5-6 last year; Donnelly’s troops finished 2008 with a 9-3 mark.
The Panthers had big losses coming into 2009. Literally. Standout linemen Josh Barndt and Ryan Beach, along with tight end Eric Fath, all graduated. Those three represented over 750 pounds of football player.
But juniors made significant contributions to the Panthers’ last year. Latronica ran for over 1,300 yards and scored 20 touchdowns- just one of seven returning Southeastern Pennsylvania players to do so. Burke averaged nearly six yards per carry on his 62 attempts. Tincknell threw for 1,550 yards. Roberts, and his 18 yards per catch average, came back.
The 2009 Panther offensive line still averages nearly 240 pounds despite the aforementioned losses. Defensively, Donnelly returns both Gonzalez and his leading tackler, Basile. Per Donnelly, Basile- who forced several incompletions because of his pressure on McHugh- is even more commendable in the classroom than on the gridiron. The 215 pounder has an Ivy League-level SAT score.
The Panthers travel to the Main Line this Friday to take on SOL American foe Upper Merion. Quakertown won last year’s game with the Vikings 31-22, a victory highlighted by both Latronica and linebacker Geoff DeLan returning interceptions for touchdowns. Donnelly knows that tonight’s impressive win aside, there is still work to do.
“We said before the game, we’ve been saying it during camp and we said it after the game that we’re still the hunters. We’re not going to get complacent as coaches,” he remarked. Perhaps he was referring to the 104 yards of Panther penalties that was the cloudburst on the otherwise sunny win.
“We won’t allow it to happen as players,” Donnelly continued. “They know better. We still have a lot to prove and we look forward to Upper Merion next week.”
The season is early, but if this trend continues Quakertown fans will have something to look forward to every week.
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