The Upper Dublin football team, it seemed, faced an uphill battle before the first snap in Friday night’s PIAA Class 5A semifinal game.
Its opponent, the Manheim Central Barons, has just placed seven players on the first-team Section 2 all-star team, and three of them were up for player of the year.
As it turned out, all that talent was too much to overcome, and the Cardinals fell to the District 3 champions, 34-12, at Wissahickon.
Some of the Barons’ success, however, was due to mistakes made by Upper Dublin, especially in the third quarter. The Cardinals committed seven penalties, including a hold that wiped away a 74-yard kickoff return by Lucas Roselli to start the second half. They also had two punts blocked and dropped an interception.
“They forced those mistakes on us. It wasn’t like we just gave them the ball,” said Upper Dublin coach Bret Stover, who just finished his 16th season. “But we didn’t play our ‘A’ game tonight, and you have to play your ‘A’ game if you’re going to beat a team like that.”
Upper Dublin got off to a good start in the first seven minutes of the game when Jason Scott intercepted Evan Simon, who is Manheim’s record holder for touchdowns. That big play halted a nine-play drive for the Barons.
But Manheim Central benefitted from a blocked punt that gave the Barons the ball at Upper Dublin’s 45-yard line. Four plays later, after Simon’s 34-yard run, Tyler Flick opened the scoring with a 4-yard touchdown run.
The Barons got tremendous field position again when Tyler Hartl recovered another blocked punt at the Upper Dublin 6-yard line. Simon punched the ball in from five yards out to go up 14-0.
Upper Dublin cut Manheim Central’s lead to 14-6 when Scott hauled in a 15-yard touchdown pass on a 4th-and-12 that was tipped with 2 minutes, 10 seconds left in the first half.
Then the Barons started to impose their will as they drove down the field in 45 seconds to extend their lead to 21-6 when Simon tossed a 11-yard strike to Ben Wagner.
Will River opened the floodgates when the senior broke several tackles on a short pass from Simon for a 78-yard score from Simon to make the score 28-6.
Upper Dublin finished the season with a record of 13-2 and were the winners of the District 1 Class 5A bracket.
“These seniors continued the legacy of Upper Dublin football,” Stover said. “From where we came from in my second year, when we were 0-11, to where we are now is incredible."
Upper Dublin 0 6 0 6 - 12
Manheim Township 7 14 10 3 - 34
MC: Tyler Flick 4 run (Niko Gavala kick)
MC: Evan Simon 5 run (Gavala kick)
UD: Jason Scott 15 pass from Mike Slivka (pass failed)
MC: Ben Wagner 11 pass from Simon (Gavala kick)
MC: Will River 78 pass from Simon (Gavala kick)
MC: Gavala 37 field goal
MC: Gavala 25 field goal
UD: Lucas Roselli 4 pass from Slivka (kick blocked)