by Aaron Glatter
For the first time since 1996, Upper Dublin has finished off the football season alone atop the Suburban One League American Conference.
A 41-21 win over Hatboro-Horsham on October 24 guaranteed the Cardinals at least a share of the Conference Championship, but they needed one more win to claim the outright title.
It came down to a cool Halloween night at Cardinals Stadium against the Vikings of Upper Merion. Upper Dublin jumped out to an early 7-0 lead on a 10-yard run by John Lee. Lee then added another two touchdowns in the second quarter, one being a run from 30 yards out, and the other, a defensive fumble recovery in the end zone. Kaleif Lee had a big day, too, with an 11-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, and a 1-yard touchdown run in the third. John Barrett caught a 10-yard, fourth quarter touchdown from quarterback Ryan Stover, to cap the Cardinals 42-0 route that made them the sole Conference Champions. Upper Dublin’s defense also played exceptionally well, giving up only 127 total yards of offense, not allowing a completed pass, recording five sacks, and forcing three turnovers.
Now that the regular season is over, it is onto the playoffs. Upper Dublin will host Council Rock North on November 7 in the first round of the District One AAAA football playoffs. At 6-4, you may think Council Rock North is nothing compared to a 9-1 Upper Dublin team whose only loss came in a fourth quarter heartbreaker. Think again. The key for Upper Dublin to win is containing Council Rock North’s quarterback. Taking the snaps for Council Rock North is junior Brandon McIlwain. ESPN.com ranks McIlwain as the best Class of 2016 football player in the state, and the second best Class of 2016 quarterback in the country. As a junior, McIlwain already has received offers from powerhouses across the country including Auburn, Florida, Penn State and UCLA. Upper Dublin’s defense will have their hands full with the ever-so-dangerous Brandon McIlwain. If Upper Dublin expects to come out of this game with a win, they are going to have to stop him.
Upper Dublin’s offense also will have to play well on Friday. It is super important that Upper Dublin keeps both Kaleif Lee and John Lee involved in the game. They combine for nearly half of the touchdowns Upper Dublin has scored all season. The offensive line must also do a good job of protecting quarterback Ryan Stover. Stover has performed exceptionally well this season, averaging almost two touchdowns per game, and more than 14 yards per completion. Stover’s favorite targets, Matt Thompton and Gary Fields, need to get open often, create big plays to keep the offense moving, and spread out Council Rock North’s defense. Kicker Cole D’andrea needs to have a successful night as well. D’andrea has made 80 percent of his extra point attempts this season, and a close game would make his extra points vital.
The winner of this game will move on to play either Conestoga or West Chester Rustin. Let’s hope Upper Dublin takes advantage of their home field advantage, and puts on an exciting show for their fans.