POTTSTOWN — For the better part of the past three weeks, Owen J. Roberts coach Tom Barr had stressed to the Wildcats the importance of looking forward as opposed to dwelling on the past.
To that end, Thursday's Thanksgiving Day Pioneer Athletic Conference battle against Pottstown wound up being a perfect teaching opportunity.
Instead of brooding over the fact that Owen J. Roberts had won just twice in 11 tries, Barr got his squad to focus on the present and future.
"We looked at this game as our bowl game,' Barr said. "The last game for our seniors, and a good way to send our underclassmen into next year.'
Suffice it to say the Wildcats heeded the call.
Owen J. Roberts got 40 carries for 198 yards and four touchdowns from workhorse senior tailback Wyatt Scott — made possible by a dominant effort from its offensive line — to go along with a season-best performance from its defense en route to a 27-6 victory over the Trojans at Grigg Memorial Field.
"We definitely wanted to end it on a good note for our seniors and lead the underclassmen into next year with a win,' Scott said.
The 5-foot-9, 175-pound Scott more than did his part to ensure that would happen in finishing the season with 1,365 rushing yards (fourth in the area).
After a scoreless first quarter, Scott recovered a Pottstown fumble at the Trojans 17 with 6:51 left in the second quarter and scored on a 1-yard plunge five plays later.
Pottstown's John Charles recovered a muffed punt to give the Trojans the ball at the OJR 29. Five plays later Gary Wise scored on a 1-yard TD run with 2:56 left in the half, but a personal foul after the play led to a missed extra-point attempt and that was as close as things got.
Matt Lenge returned the ensuing kickoff to the Trojans' 49 and Tyler Reitnour ripped off a 32-yard run on a fourth-and-4 fake punt from the 43 to set up Scott's 4-yard TD run that put the Wildcats (3-6, 3-9) up 14-6 just 13 seconds before intermission.
Thanks to big plays from Will Dawson, Bill Scherfel and Steve Myers, the OJR defense stopped Pottstown (1-8, 1-11) to open the second half, and the Wildcats seized command with a methodical 14-play, 60-yard drive that consumed 7:14 and was highlighted by 10 Scott runs — capped by his 2-yard TD with 46 seconds left in the third.
Running behind the finally healthy offensive line of Myers, Dawson, Eric LeVan, Luke Torrens, Kolten Hainsey and Anthony Acree, Scott, Reitnour (54 yards) and quarterback Mitch Bradford accounted for 263 combined rushing yards as the Wildcats ran the ball 55 times.
"They came to play,' Pottstown coach Don Grinstead said. "Their line came off the ball well. Scott plays well, but he plays well because they play well. I think as the game wore on and started to churn some yards, we got tired. We have nine guys going both ways, and they kind of wore us down.'
"It makes a big difference when they're 100 percent,' Scott said. "The cut backs are open, the holes I'm supposed to be hitting are open, and they're just bigger holes in general.'
Scott's 17-yard TD run with 26 seconds left in the game provided the final margin as the Wildcats — who have gone 3-3 since an 0-6 start — snapped Pottstown's two-game streak in the series and took an overall 33-21-1 advantage in the traditional rivalry.
"We've all been focusing on the same stuff, and just repeating it until we get it right,' Scott said.
That goes for the defensive side of the ball as well, where OJR (which had allowed averages of 373 yards and 35.7 points per game) gave up season-low in total yards (101) and points.
"We really played our kind of defense,' Barr said. "We made the ballcarrier bounce to the sideline. That was our whole philosophy: jam up holes and make the ballcarrier bounce, especially since their guys were faster than us. We had good defensive practices and concentrated a lot on their jet sweeps and quarterback keeps.'
"We have a lot of juniors,' said Dawson, who is one of them. "So we wanted to set the tone for next year. Our team's been battling nagging injuries all year. It's been a hard season. But this (win) feels amazing. We proved what we're capable of.'
And laid the groundwork for next year while successfully sending off the Wildcats seniors.
Each team completed one pass, with Bradford connecting with Reitnour for 15 yards for OJR and Wise hooking up with John Charles for 15 yards for Pottstown. ... Wise rushed for a team-high 46 yards and Denzel Harvey ran for 34 yards for the Trojans. ... Jimmy Jordan recovered a fumble at the Pottstown 2 to stop an OJR drive early in the second quarter. ... Prior to the game, former Owen J. Roberts star Dennis Laws, former Mercury sports editor Don Seeley, longtime former Pottstown coach Bill Rogers and former Pottstown standout Job Price — who all passed away in the past year — were remembered with a moment of silence. ... Scott finished the season with an area-high 311 carries, nine more than Boyertown's Cody Richmond.
Follow Darryl Grumling on Twitter at @MercSmokinD.
Owen J. Roberts 27
Owen J. Roberts 0 14 7 6 — 27
Pottstown 0 6 0 0 — 6
OJR-Scott 1 run (Gift kick)
P-Wise 1 run (kick failed)
OJR-Scott 4 run (Gift kick)
OJR-Scott 2 run (Gift kick)
OJR-Scott 17 run (kick failed)
First Downs 14 7
Rushing yards 263 91
Passing yards 15 10
Total yards 278 101
Passes C-A-I 1-2-0 1-6-0
Fumbles-Lost 3-2 1-1
Penalties-Yards 8-50 4-40
Punts-Avg. 3-24.7 5-27.8
Owen J. Roberts: Scott 40-198, 4 TDs, Reitnour 7-54, Bradford 7-11, Scherfel 1-0.
Pottstown: G.Wise 14-46, 1 TD, Harvey 14-34, Tinson 3-8, B.Wise 1-3.
Owen J. Roberts: Bradford 1-2-15.
Pottstown: G.Wise 1-6-10.
Owen J. Roberts: Reitnour 1-15.
Pottstown: Charles 1-10.