UPPER DUBLIN >> It’s tough to lose a football game when the other team scores zero points.
Alright, that’s obvious. But it’s also relevant when talking about Upper Dublin, thanks to the fact their defense hasn’t allowed the opponent on the scoreboard yet. The Cardinals’ D has recorded three shutouts in three games so far in 2016.
“It’s exciting. We had to replace 10 out of 11 on that side of the ball and these guys are really implementing what my defensive coaches are putting in front of them,” UD head coach Bret Stover said. “(Dave) Sowers and (Dan) Pring, my two defensive coordinators, are preparing the heck out of these kids. I couldn’t be prouder of the way they’re playing.”
The offense isn’t doing too bad of a job either, which was evident in Upper Dublin’s 33-0 win over Cheltenham Friday night. With the victory the Cardinals are outscoring their opponents 115-0 over the first three games.
“It takes the pressure off of us completely on the offensive side,” running back Phil Butler said about his defense. “It gives us more freedom to have more play calls and almost like save stuff. It helps us with our next week game planning and stuff because we do not have as much pressure on offense. We don’t have to worry about scoring as much because (the other team doesn’t) score.”
The Cardinals outgained Cheltenham by a total of 408-134 in Friday’s contest. That includes a 257-54 advantage in the first half. Upper Dublin also picked off a pair of Panther passes and recovered a fumble in the game.
Picking Up The Slack
Upper Dublin had its best season in school history last year, winning the District-1 AAAA title. There were a lot of reasons for that championship, with stud offensive players Ryan Stover and Kalief Lee being big ones.
Both of those players have since graduated, but the Cardinals’ offense continues to run smoothly.
A lot of that has to do with guys stepping in with what appears to be a seamless transition, most notably Justin Horn and Phil Butler.
“Justin has been doing a heck of a job this year,” Stover said about his quarterback. “We gave him the keys tonight a little bit more…I kind of consider Justin a veteran because he got a lot of mental reps last year behind Ryan and he certainly did his homework. He knows the offense inside-and-out. We just need to bring everyone else along with him. Once we get to that we’ll be able to fire on all cylinders.”
Horn has now thrown for 660 yards, seven touchdowns, and just one interception in his first three starts.
Butler has made the most of his opportunities as well, as it took him just 10 carries to pick up 94 yards.
“Phil, unfortunately (for him) was behind a very good running back last year, or Phil would have had more carries and more experience back there,” Stover said. “He’s been nothing but special back there this year.”
Butler was the one who broke the game open, with a 62-yard touchdown run late in the second quarter to give Upper Dublin a 19-0 lead into the halftime locker room.
“Last year I knew I was playing behind a three-year starter with Kalief Lee so I knew I wasn’t going to get as many reps as I may have wanted to,” Butler said. “But I knew coming into this year I was going to get the opportunities I worked for, I guess, and make the most of them.”
It was always going to be a tough task for Cheltenham, coming into Upper Dublin and trying to come out with a win. That was made much tougher on Tuesday, when head coach Joe Gro found out he would be without his quarterback and playmaker Dylan Jones.
“He’s certainly the main piece. That just is what it is,” Gro said. “We gotta be able to play better than this. We just can’t figure it out right now. I’m struggling with it myself…but we’re gonna come back tomorrow morning and try to make it work.
Cheltenham is currently playing without its starting quarterback, number-one wide receiver, and arguably its best lineman. All due to injury. The Panthers are struggling to find a way to make up for some huge holes, which would happen to almost any high school team.
“(Jordan Gyabaah) can run the run plays, (Taj Devore-Bey) can throw the ball,” Gro said. ” I said ‘if I could put them together I’d have a quarterback.’ We’re gonna work and try to resolve this a little bit.”
The end result was an already elite defense essentially knowing what was coming.
“It’s tough. When you lose your quarterback you know you’re going to struggle,” Stover said. “We were fortunate enough to get on top of them, keep them down, and then put some early scores in the end zone.”