Upper Perk's John Olson rushes with the ball in last Friday night's first annual breast cancer awareness game played against Owen J. Roberts at Upper Perk. Olson had 14 carries, for 32 yards and scored once.
The look on Ronnie Gillespie’s face, as well as the expressions on the rest of his fellow teammates, said it all after Friday’s game against visiting Owen J. Roberts.
For three straight weeks, Upper Perkiomen’s football team found themselves on the wrong end of the scoreboard. Two of those losses came by way of a rout at the hands of two very talented teams in the Pioneer Athletic Conference, while the other was a double overtime heartbreaker.
During that time, there was a lot of soul searching, questions of what the source behind the struggle was and a host of challenges issued by Indian head coach Keith Leamer.
But on Friday night, all of that took a backseat as the Indians held on to defeat Owen J. Roberts 14-13 in the Tribe’s first annual breast cancer awareness game. Wearing pink jerseys and with pink ribbon stickers on their helmets, the Tribe denied the Wildcats on a pivotal two-point conversion, then made a key interception in their own territory to seal their first PAC-10 win of the season.
For Gillespie, the win was especially rewarding. While his speed may have surprised some last year, defenses have played plenty of attention to the Temple-bound senior this season in the way of double coverage.
Friday, Gillespie found some breathing room and made the most of it as he caught six passes for 132 yards and a score – his first of the season – as he also helped set up a later touchdown. On defense, Gillespie tracked down an underthrown pass with less than two minutes left and pulled down an interception to turn away a Wildcat (0-4, 1-5) drive in Indian territory.
“It just feels good to get back on track,” Gillespie said after the game. “It definitely builds us up and gets us back on track and helps us build our momentum.”
Upper Perk (1-3, 2-4) trailed early in the second quarter as OJR went on a sustained drive after the Tribe had a touchdown called back and then fumbled at its own 36. The Wildcats converted on a fourth-and-four play on the drive and then scored on a naked bootleg to go ahead, 7-0.
Upper Perk answered on its next offensive possession as junior quarterback Dylan Wesley (11 of 19, 161 yards, TD, INT) hit Gillespie in stride down the right sideline on a 53-yard scoring strike.
“All I want the kids to do is do what they’re coached to do – and we still don’t do that,” Leamer said. “And we will continue to struggle until we do. It’s the little things we need to get under control.”
The score stayed knotted at 7-7 until early in the fourth when Gillespie pulled in a 36-yard pass from Wesley to the OJR 4-yard line. John Olson (14 carries, 32 yards), did the rest from there as he took three handoffs before getting across the goalline.
Undaunted, OJR’s defense forced a fumble and returned it to Upper Perk’s 9-yard line, eventually scoring on a one-yard run. With the Wildcats not sure of the extra point attempt, they went for two. The ensuing pass was batted away by Dalton Fleming (two sacks), with some heavy pressure from fellow senior linebacker Jody Peart.
“A win is a win is a win,” Leamer said. “But as a team, we’re still just making too many mental mistakes. I’m happy with the way we kept battling until the end. OJR took a gamble for the win and we were able to hold on.”
Fleming led the defense with eight total tackles as Kyle Fox had seven and Cody Caciolo notched five stops. James Clingman, Devon Moll and Peart (tackle for a loss) all finished with four tackles apiece and Zach Chatman added a sack and a tackle for a loss.
“We still need to clean things up, I thought we would control the line of scrimmage much better than we did,” Leamer said. “But it was nice to finally get Ronnie untracked, and Dylan is getting better every week.
“You can win ugly and lose pretty, but we’ll take the win and get ready for Pottstown.”