UPPER CHICHESTER >> At the start of Friday night’s non-league contest between Chichester and Pope John Paul II, Eagles’ defensive back Jahrod Jennings-Perry made an immediate impact.
Much to the chagrin of the Golden Panthers, Jennings-Perry would also play a vital role later in the game to help Chichester secure a 30-15 victory.
In between Jennings-Perry’s playmaking, the Eagles played a very solid game overall.
Of his first bit of heroics, Jennings-Perry said, “I stayed in my zone and I saw the ball pop to me, so I took it as many yards as possible.”
Luckily for the Eagles, the defensive back rambled 42 yards to set up a touchdown pass from quarterback Andrew Rodriguez to Rashaad Shaw to put the Eagles up 6-0.
The big contribution allowed Jennings-Perry to reflect on how the team rebounded from a disappointing loss last week to Kennett and regained form by game time. Chichester was still feeling the sting of losing a 12-0 lead against the Blue Demons and eventually dropping the contest 24-12.
“We started a little off this week,” said Jennings-Perry. “Monday and Tuesday were off, but as Wednesday and Thursday came, we became a team and remembered last week where we were up 12-0 and lost. We were up 12-0 again tonight and we needed to maintain our composure and our focus and keep playing hard.”
In the second half, Jennings-Perry helped seal the game with a timely interception. It was the Eagles second interception of Golden Panthers quarterback Matt DeLaurentis, as Eagles’ linebacker Quinten Haynes also had a second half pick.
“Jahrod is a playmaker and we’ve known that for a while about him, but we need him to realize it,” said Eagles’ coach Ryan Smith, whose team improved to 2-1.
Later, Ishaad Maultsby scored on a dazzling 20-yard run to give the Eagles a convincing 12-0 lead.
The Golden Panthers, however, were not just going to submit. DeLaurentis hit Ryan Kormos with a 33-yard pass to set up a five-yard touchdown by Dan Cirino to cut the Chichester lead to 12-7.
Blaine Lewis-Thompson, who was a consistent force in the first half for Chichester, did not want to give the Golden Panthers a chance to build momentum in the second half. The Eagles made a strong defensive stand to hold off Pope John Paul II to open the second half before Lewis-Thompson dashed 60 yards for a touchdown and an 18-7 Eagles lead.
“I looked back to what we did last week and we really didn’t have many rushing yards last week, so this whole week at practice we just kept getting reps, reps, reps,” said Lewis-Thompson, who finished with 129 yards on 12 carries. “To tell you the truth, when we got up 12-0, I had flashbacks to last week. I knew I would have to come back strong in the second half.”
Smith was equally impressed by the play of his offensive line as he was with the running of Lewis-Thompson and Greg Allman (78 yards, touchdown).
“It sounds cliché, but this is a group that is starting to get an identity,” Smith said. “I’m really happy for them that they were able to put the game in the second half on their shoulders and let our running backs move with it. My hat is off to them. I’m really proud of them.”
Pope John Paul II made its second consecutive trip to Delaware County, having dropped a 40-25 decision to Sun Valley last Friday night. After falling behind the Vanguards 33-0 at halftime, the Golden Panthers made some serious adjustments to battle back and outscored Sun Valley 25-7 in the second half.
Pope John Paul II didn’t quite achieve the full second half surge they needed against Chichester, however. DeLaurentis thinks some internal focus and hard work at practice will have Pope John Paul II headed back in the right direction.
“We just need to stay positive and trust ourselves,” said DeLaurentis who was extremely impressive with his arm, accuracy, and pocket presence. “We have a good group of guys and we’ve just got to figure out a way to come all the way back in the second half. We just have to somehow learn how to win. We’re conditioned, we’re physically fit, and I think it’s all mental stuff that we have to work on.”