The Bok Tech Wildcats celebrated last Thursday’s 8-6 win over Bartram High with leaping high-fives and thunderous cheers that could be heard blocks away. It was like the local team had just won the Public League football title.
That’s the atmosphere these Bok-Bartram games generate. It’s like the Philadelphia Eagles playing the New York Giants. Over the last four years, the rivals separated by the Passyunk Avenue Bridge have had some heated contests over the Division D crown.
Two years ago, Bok dominated Bartram 20-0 to win its third straight Division D crown. Last year, the teams needed two overtimes to declare Bartram the 20-14 winner.
When the Bok players opened camp this season, the Oct. 10 league-opener against the Bartram Braves was highlighted on the schedule.
"Last year was a close game," said senior Akeem Green. "We had to get them back this year."
Many of the Bartram players, including senior center-defensive tackle Roy Malcom, were equally pumped to play Bok.
"This is one of our biggest rivals," he said. "It’s a thrill to play Bok every year."
Getting muddy is no obstacle to the football foes, but the steady rain last Thursday created very slippery field conditions and led to the low-scoring game.
The Bok players came prepared after losing 13-8 to Martin Luther King in the rain in last month’s non-league opener.
"It’s hard with traction and stuff," Green said after rushing for 62 yards.
"We got more towels out here. We were drying our hands a lot."
Bartram senior Richard Mink said the weather conditions didn’t make much of a difference for him.
Heading into the contest, Bartram’s offense was averaging 21 points per game, while its defense was coming off back-to-back shutouts over Edison and Overbrook. Bok’s eight points might not seem like a lot, but it’s more than the Braves’ first three opponents have managed together.
Last week, both teams struggled offensively. Bok junior quarterback Allen Major scored the game’s first touchdown on a 5-yard run in the first quarter. Sophomore halfback Ralik Charity scored the two-point conversion via a reverse handoff.
Trailing 8-0, Bartram established its running game early, but ended up killing its momentum on penalties. A 33-yard run by senior halfback Chironn "Goober" Davis was wiped out by his personal foul at the end of the play. On second down, senior quarterback Todd McCoy saw his first-down run erased by a holding penalty. After regrouping, the Braves finally scored on Davis’ 44-yard touchdown run.
At that point, it made sense for Bartram to go for two points and attempt to tie the game. Coach Frank "Roscoe" Natale opted to kick the extra point, which went wide right, and ended up making the difference in the game.
Natale said he was confident his team was going to score more points in the contest.
One of those opportunities came in the second quarter when Bartram had the ball on Bok’s 13-yard line, but McCoy fumbled the snap and Bok senior Michael Zanghi recovered to end the drive. It was a big stop for Bok, who didn’t get any first downs in the second half.
Divisional rivalries call for a climatic finish, and this game was no exception. The Braves were going for a game-winning touchdown while Bok was trying to make another defensive stand. It looked like Bartram was going to pull it off as the squad drove down to the Wildcats’ 9-yard line with 1:11 left on the clock. When McCoy threw the ball to Mink, an ineligible receiver, the Braves were forced to attempt the game-winning field goal.
The 36-yard field-goal attempt was short, and all Bok had to do was take a knee.
"We were pretty confident," Green said of pulling out the win.
If the Wildcats win their next four games, they’ll most likely be calling themselves the division champs next month. At least for one week, Green and his teammates had a lot more to smile about as they boarded the team bus.
"We showed them that we are the top dog in the division now," Green said. "We got the edge to win our division."
Rams out of rut
The South Philadelphia High Rams can finally call themselves winners again.
Their 14-game losing streak came to an end in last Thursday’s 6-0 win over Edison. By winning its league opener, Southern is in an unfamiliar place — first. Junior Mark Lee scored the game’s only points when he returned an Edison fumble 55 yards for a touchdown.
The win serves as a much-needed confidence booster for the Rams, who scored eight total points in three non-league games this season. Their schedule will get a lot tougher today when they visit John Bartram High, 58th Street and Elmwood Avenue.
The Neumann Pirates dropped to 1-3 in Blue Division play after losing 35-28 to Bishop McDevitt Sunday. The local squad trailed 21-0 early in the game, but cut McDevitt’s lead to eight in the third quarter. Just as the South Philly squad was making its comeback, McDevitt increased its edge to 35-13. But thanks to a 71-yard touchdown run by Jimmy Porreca and a 20-yard touchdown reception by Jack Hatty, Neumann made a valiant comeback effort. Billy Canady’s 92-yard kickoff return and Richard McMickens’ 68-yard touchdown run also were big contributions.
The Pirates will attempt to end their three-game losing streak Saturday night when they visit 0-4 Cardinal Dougherty.