Indians runningback, John Olson, enters todays game at Boyertown as the PAC-10 leader in rushing for 1,377 yards. This season he has made it to the endzone 14 times.
Ask any Upper Perkiomen, or Boyertown for that matter, football player about the importance of the Thanksgiving Day game and you’re bound to hear the same thing.
No matter the record of the teams, whether there’s a Pioneer Athletic Conference title on the line or the added motivation of winning a game for a departing head coach – there’s always something to play for.
That’s been the case since the Bears and Indians lined up for the first time in Red Hill in 2000 and every year since. But a change from the PIAA that isn’t formally passed but has shown every intention of doing so could change all that.
Basically, the PIAA, through two favorable readings, has voted to condense the football season into a 10-game duration. What this will do is start the season right after Labor Day and finish early to allow time for playoffs. Proponents say it will help clean up many scheduling conflicts where teams playing on Thanksgiving are forced to play a district playoff game one or two days later.
Phoenixville, for example, will take on PAC-10 rival Spring-Ford on Turkey Day, then be forced to go right back at it against Pottsgrove for the District 1-AAA title this weekend. It’s an athletic director, as well as a head coach’s nightmare, and not quite fair to the players forced to cram two football games in without proper rest.
So, what does this all mean for Upper Perk and Boyertown? From the looks of it, the PIAA will get its way, so it will be up to the two districts if they want to hold a Thanksgiving Day game next season – albeit with a three-week layoff, a layoff that will also hamper starting winter sports on time.
“I’ve asked many players, and most enjoy the game itself on Thanksgiving, but all agree they don’t like the layoff and practices,” said Upper Perk athletic director Steve Perlstein. “That’s the general consensus. It’s not Upper Perk or Boyertown making the decision, it’s something we’re being forced into by the PIAA.”
As far as the game itself, both Upper Perk and Boyertown are looking to finish their seasons with .500 records when the game gets under way today at 10 a.m. in Boyertown. The Bears and Indians, expected to be two of the top tier teams in the league, didn’t quite live up to the expectations and find themselves 2-6 and 3-5, respectively, in the PAC-10.
Boyertown features a pair of running backs in Max Marcus (1,230) and Jon Neiman (1,169) who have gone over 1,000 yards, as well as Jared Von Dohren (496). Marcus is also the team’s leading receiver, thanks mainly to quarterback Griffin Pasik (332 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs).
Upper Perk, meanwhile, which has shown serious improvement down the home stretch of the schedule, counters with running back John Olson (1,377 yards, 14 TDs) and fullback Dalton Fleming (284 yards, 2 TDs). Junior quarterback Dylan Wesley has 99 completions for 1,236 yards and 12 TDs, his favorite target Ronnie Gillespie (44 receptions, 647 yards, 4 TDs) and Devyn Kerr (18 receptions, 208 yards, 2 TDs).
“I know our rivalry with Boyertown doesn’t have the length of some of the other Thanksgiving Day games, but it’s a backyard brawl,” said Upper Perk head coach Keith Leamer. “It’s something the kids look forward to and a tradition. For myself and the kids, it’s a season-ending game and a chance for us to end on a positive note.”