The Pioneer Athletic Conference football championship chase is a veritable trilogy this fall, with Pottsgrove, Spring-Ford and Perkiomen Valley serving as protagonists.
Part one came in Week 3, when a determined defensive effort by the Rams took down the high-flying Vikings 14-7.
The second edition took place two weeks later, as the defending league champ Falcons gutted out a 14-7 victory over the Rams.
Tonight, the much-anticipated finale of a three-episode series fraught with drama takes place at Thomas J. Keenan Stadium, where Pottsgrove (7-0 PAC-10, 8-0 overall) and Perkiomen Valley (6-1, 7-1) clash in a showdown that will — for all intents and purposes — settle the championship picture.
A Pottsgrove victory would allow the Falcons to wrap up the title outright by defeating Boyertown next week.
The Vikings, meanwhile, could set the stage for a three-way tie should they come out victorious against the Falcons, who have won 21 straight PAC-10 regular season games.
"With the exception of hosting a district playoff game in 2007, I can't remember a bigger game on our campus,' Perkiomen Valley coach Scott Reed said. "As far as our league goes, this has to be one of the biggest games ever played at our place.
"We have a monumental task in front of us, but I think our entire football program — from the coaches to the players to the parents to the fans — is extremely excited about this game.'
As are the Falcons, who with a win would clinch at least a share of their ninth league title under veteran coach Rick Pennypacker.
"It's the ultimate test,' Pennypacker said. "The ultimate challenge for our kids.'
Since falling to Spring-Ford 49-35 in Week 5 of the 2011 campaign, the Falcons have turned back every PAC-10 challenge that's come their way.
This year, their calling card has been a stingy defense that's allowed more than 200 yards only once (in Week 5, when Spring-Ford generated 213 yards).
Linemen Patrick Finn, Anthony Pond, Tom Sephakis and Nico Demetrio have controlled the trenches, with Jeff Adams, Sene Polamalu and the rapidly emerging Tyrone Parker forming an outstanding linebacking corps.
The secondary of corners Mike Fowler and Marquis Barefield and safeties Riley Michaels and Jalen Mayes has allowed an average of just 48.1 passing yards per game.
"I don't see any weaknesses on their defense,' Reed said. "We talked to our kids, and everything is going to be harder. Everything's going to be faster. That window is going to be tighter. Every decision needs to be made a split-second faster. With their size and speed, everything's going to be up a level, and we have to be able to match that.'
Since the Spring-Ford loss, Perkiomen Valley has waged a scorched-field campaign, outscoring its opposition 240-13 during the five-game winning streak.
Quarterback Rasaan Stewart, last year's All-Area Player of the Year, has the Vikings' no-huddle offense clicking on all cylinders — passing for 1,059 yards and 16 touchdowns (with just four interceptions) while rushing for a team-high 742 yards and 11 TDs.
Stewart has plenty of weapons at his disposal as well, most notably the trio of running back Mark Bonomo (613 rushing yards, seven TDs) and receivers Dakota Clanagan (28 receptions, 403 yards, nine TDs) and Clay Domine (17-314, five TDs).
"We haven't seen a quarterback like Stewart this year,' Pennypacker said. "We have to keep their offense off the field; that's what teams haven't been able to do.'
Teams also haven't been able to do much against the Vikings defense, which has allowed 4.3 points per game — first in District 1 and fifth in the entire state.
The PV pass defense, led by corners Liam Grande and Kurran Holland and safety Stewart, is allowing just 51.4 yards per game through the air. The linebacking quintet of Danny Light, Anthony Rotonda, Clanagan, Austin Gansz and Pat Delaney and three-man front of Luke DiElsi, Tony Pachella and Tom Jaworski rounds out a unit that's posted four shutouts and allowed more than seven points just once.
"Their defense is tremendous,' Pennypacker said. "They're fast, but physical. They present a great challenge for us.'
That said, the PV defense will be put to the test by a methodical Pottsgrove attack led by tailback Barefield, who has rushed for 976 yards and leads the area with 17 overall touchdowns. Polamalo provides a bruising presence at fullback, and while QB Riley Michaels hasn't thrown the ball much, eight of his 12 completions have gone for touchdowns (six of them to Fowler).
They've done it all behind a typically formidable offensive line composed of Finn, Pond, Sephakis, Max Wickward, Jeremy Cuadrada, Matt Faulkner and Adams.
"It's funny, but the two of us have found success doing very different (offensive) things,' Reed said. "They do what they do, and they do it extremely well.'
A year ago, the Vikings and Falcons took undefeated league marks into their Week 9 meeting, which was one for the ages. Pottsgrove rallied for the game's final 21 points (including a memorable go-ahead 51-yard touchdown run by Tory Hudgins with 1:24 left in the game) for a 42-28 victory.
"I think that (game) has been the fuel to their the whole offseason and throughout the year,' Reed said of his charges.
"They've waited an entire year to play us again,' said Pennypacker. "They have this game circled on their calendar. They are the real deal. They're as good as advertised, and they're going to give us all we can handle. But I don't sell my kids short. They're going to give it their all. Our seniors have lined up and played in some big games. This is just one more.'
One that will likely provide a fitting final volume to a thrilling gridiron trilogy.
AROUND THE AREA
Spring-Ford (6-2) ranks ninth in the latest District 1-AAAA power ratings with 950 points, with Perkiomen Valley tied for 10th at 910. Methacton (4-4) is 24th at 730 and Boyertown 28th at 710. Bayard Rustin (8-0) remains No. 1 with 1,120 points. Pottsgrove still tops the District 1-AAA field with 1,060 (240 ahead of No. 2 Academy Park), with Phoenixville (3-5) eighth at 670. ... Boyertown will play host to Northampton in a Week 11 game Nov. 8, provided both squads fail to make their respective district tourneys. ... Pottstown senior Derrick Wilson has been selected as the recipient of the Sportsmanship Award presented by the Norristown Chapter of Football Officials, and will be honored at the organization's banquet next month.
DISTRICT 1 DOINGS
Neshaminy (8-0) visits Abington (7-1) tonight in a big-time Suburban One League National Conference clash, while in the Ches-Mont League Unionville (6-2) travels to Great Valley (6-2) in a must-win contest for both squads. ... In other key games around the district, Plymouth-Whitemarsh (6-2) plays host to Upper Dublin (8-0) with the SOL American title on the line tonight, while Garnet Valley (8-0) visits Haverford (5-2) and Conestoga (6-2) is at Upper Darby (6-2) in a couple of Central League affairs. ... Ridley is one win shy of 650 in the storied history of its program, with coach Dennis Decker two wins away from 50 for his career.
There are a couple of prime-time matchups over in District 3, as Wilson (8-0) puts its 41-game Lancaster-Lebanon Section 1 winning streak on the line against Penn Manor (7-1) and Bishop McDevitt (8-0), ranked first in Class AAA by Pennsylvania Football News, squares off against Cedar Cliff (7-1). ... Up in District 11, Whitehall (7-1) travels to Easton (7-1) in a battle of Lehigh Valley Conference heavyweights. ... St. Joseph's Prep (6-1) remains atop the PFN state Class AAAA poll, with Upper St. Clair (8-0) second and Coatesville (8-0) third. Perkiomen Valley is listed as honorable mention in Class AAAA with Pottsgrove ranked 10th in Class AAA.
Grant Sherman of Kenton (Ohio) passed for 524 yards and eight touchdowns in last week's 62-6 win over Lima to move to 13th place in state history in career passing yards (8,221) and seventh in career touchdown passes (95). ... Sammy Mireles of Elwood (Ind.) ran for 343 yards last week to break the state career rushing mark. He currently stands at 7,693, according to MaxPreps.com. ... Josh Holman of Woodside (Calif.) scored on kickoff returns of 95, 90 and 65 yards while adding a 4-yard fumble return for TD in last week's 58-24 win over Capuchino.
Follow Darryl Grumling on Twitter at @MercSmokinD.