Upper Perk's Jody Peart reaches for the ball in an interception attempt on a throw to an Upper Moreland receiver in Friday's game.
For the better part of last Friday night’s home non-league tilt against Upper Moreland, it looked like déjà vu all over again.
Much like Upper Perk’s home opener a week ago against Quakertown, the Indians answered from a lackluster defensive effort in the first half with a second-half shutout. And just like the game against the Panthers, the Tribe yielded a big kickoff return for a score that helped the Bears get right back into the thick of it.
But fortunately for the Tribe, the offense provided the answer down the stretch to secure the 36-25 victory to even its record to 1-1.
Make no mistake about, that 11-point margin of victory doesn’t quite tell just how close the game actually was. It took three lead changes before Upper Perk went ahead for good with just 5:52 remaining in regulation as Dylan Wesley rushed his way in from one yard out and Taylor Gregory pulled in a pass from Kyle Fox for the two-point conversion.
That gave the Indians a little breathing room to make it 29-25, and John Olson opened things up a bit as he capped the scoring with a four-yard touchdown run with just over two minutes left.
“I’m proud of the way we battled, but we still haven’t found a way to put together four solid quarters of football,” Upper Perk head coach Keith Leamer said. “We found a way to get it done. We struggled in the first half with our defense, but we’ve been good in the second half.”
Olson again proved the Tribe’s workhorse. The senior lugged the ball 20 times for 158 yards and two scores, accounting for all but 51 yards of the Indians’ rushing yardage. Junior quarterback Dylan Wesley looked more poised from his first start last week as he completed over half of his passes (9 of 16) for 116 yards and two scores.
His favorite target, senior speedster Ronnie Gillespie, caught five passes for 85 yards. Running back Dalton Fleming took advantage of the double coverage on Gillespie in the red zone as he pulled in two passes for 33 yards, both of which were for six.
And not to be outdone was the Upper Perk defense.
The team cranked out an impressive five interceptions, one fumble recovery and all but made everyone, including Upper Moreland, forget the latter’s 14-play, 82-yard march that opened the scoring in the first quarter and chewed up nearly eight minutes.
Kyle Fox and Jesse Freer accounted for two picks apiece as Robert Brett added an interception as well. Olson, seeing double duty at corner, also recovered a fumble to account for the sixth turnover.
Fleming led the Indian defense with 11 tackles as Marshall Henry tallied nine and Fox and Jody Peart both had six stops apiece. Cody Caciolo and Freer both had five tackles, as Matthew Beidler had four and Zach Chatman, who saw limited playing time due to a knee injury, had three.
While Upper Perk provided the late surge, it was Upper Moreland who had the early momentum. Their opening score and two-point conversion wasn’t answered until late in the first when Olson scored his first touchdown on a one-yard run. Upper Moreland took the ensuing kickoff, though, 94 yards to the end zone to open up a 15-7 lead.
Fleming caught the first of his two touchdowns early in the second quarter to put the Tribe within one, and then later helped his squad go ahead with his second with 5:20 left before half. Upper Moreland answered with just 59 ticks with a 22-yard field goal.
The Bears went right back to work in the second half, scooping up a fumble for an 11-yard score. But scoring runs from Wesley and Olson gave Upper Perk the lead for good, and the defense made sure there would be no letdown.
“If we just get rid of those little mistakes ... and we have to cut the mentals, take care of the football,” Leamer said. “If we do that we’ll be fine.”