There have been many success stories in Delaware County over the first three weeks of the season.
Of the 23 schools in the Daily Times’ coverage area, 14 have posted winning records. And of those 14 teams, 10 are unbeaten as we reach the midway point of September.
It’s worth noting that all but four of those clubs have experienced coaching changes in the last three years. Ridley’s Dave Wood is the lone first-year coach of the bunch, but Chris Gicking at Marple Newtown, Chris Britton at Springfield, B.J. Hogan at Cardinal O’Hara, Nick Lincoln at Penn Wood and Ray Gionta at Sun Valley all needed no more than three years to make a visible difference on their respective programs.
Here’s a breakdown of all eight 3-0 teams in Delco. The big question for each squad is whether or not it can sustain the hot start.
Academy Park >> The Knights have been a force in Delco for several years now, so it’s not surprising to see them get off to a perfect start. Winners of two District One Class AAA titles in the last three seasons, the Knights have yet to hit their stride on offense. In many respects, it’s their sheer athleticism that has carried them. Led by two-way star Teddy Wright, who has emerged as a top-flight rusher after earning All-Delco honors last fall for his work in the defensive secondary, it’s easy to imagine the Knights going 10-0 in the regular season for the second straight year. But make no mistake, the Del Val League is no walk in the park.
Cardinal O’Hara >> The Lions have the top-ranked defensive unit in the county, allowing a total of 226 yards in three games. Opposing rushers have gained 0.7 yards per carry. The Lions have found a nastiness on defense that had been missing for years, and a lot of the credit can go to a pair of defensive masterminds — the father/son combo of Jim and Mike Connor. It’ll be interesting to see how the Lions fare against the Catholic League, but they should be a favorite to win their division.
Interboro >> The Bucs have been buoyed by senior Chris Thomas who, with 10 rushing touchdowns in three games, could flirt with the county’s single-season record. But the defense picked up back-to-back shutouts against two rebuilding teams in Norristown and Neumann-Goretti. Matt DiSands, who had three interceptions last week, and Kaylie Kuyateh have excelled defensively for the Bucs, who travel to Sussex Central (Del.) this week.
Penn Wood >> Lincoln’s club has overcome 48 penalties against (most in Delco) thanks in large part to top newcomer Answered Gleplay, who has accrued a 430 yards rushing. Edmund Dennis has been steady in the secondary, Kenny Ngaima has led the defensive line unit and quarterback Javon Lindsey-Terrell has improved from his shaky junior season. The Patriots could be the next Academy Park, and it won’t be a surprise to see them knock off the defending Del Val champs later this year. After convincing wins over Bensalem and Overbook, the Pats earned a gut check win in Week 3, a 14-7 decision over Archbishop Carroll. Lurking next week is Haverford School, the No. 1 team in the county.
Marple Newtown >> Lose two-time All-Delco Abel Hoff and several other key starters from last year’s 9-3 squad? No problem. The Tigers haven’t skipped a beat, as junior quarterback Anthony Paoletti (36 of 58, 661 yards, three TDs) blossoms into arguably the best in the county. The Tigers showed they had a program on the rise last year, and they are in a position to take the next step.
Ridley >> The Green Raiders have hit 3-0 thanks to a stout defense, a nasty offensive line and a slew of athletic skill players, none better than Brock Anderson. Last week’s 28-20 triumph over Garnet Valley was a turning point for a program that hasn’t reached the district playoffs since 2012. Wood and his staff have done an excellent job.
Springfield >> With Joe Kennedy, Dan Strawley, and Ja’Den McKenzie showing the way, the Cougars have dominated their competition. They own a plus-five turnover ratio and their rush defense has been exceptional, limiting their last two opponents to negative yardage. They should be undefeated come Sept. 30, when they travel to Ridley for a big one.
Sun Valley >> Gionta has been impressed with several of his guys, including running back Charlie Wendling and quarterback Gabe Boccella. He has seen good things from wide receiver Ishy Ahmad, among others. Sun Valley is 3-0 for the first time in 10 seasons as it prepares for the meat of its schedule, facing stiff Ches-Mont competition.
Chester coach LaDontay Bell is stressing resiliency this week in practice after his Clippers suffered back-to-back lopsided losses following a dramatic season-opening win at home over Haverford High.
“It’s not just with coaching, you know? We’re trying to build young men through the avenue of the sport of football,” Bell said. “I’m looking for the resiliency from our players… Can they bounce back? I’m looking for some key seniors to step up to really rally their teammates, one being the quarterback, Jamir Green, and another being our wide receiver, Braheem Bishop. There’s so many key elements on our team, but they just have to find a way to put it all together.”
After a four-interception game in a Week 2 loss at Kennett, Chichester quarterback Andrew Rodriguez had a nice bounceback game last Friday night. He led the Eagles to a 30-15 rout of Pope John Paul II with an excellent passing line: 8 for 11, 84 yards, two touchdowns.
Speaking of quarterbacks, Marple Newtown’s Paoletti has thrown for 200-plus yards in each of the Tigers’ first three games. That puts him on an early pace to threaten Dennis Decker’s 26-year-old Delco single-season passing record of 2,737. If you remember, Haverford High’s Jack Donaghy came within 21 yards of tying that longstanding mark last fall.
Penn Wood is bringing in portable lights to Kerr Field Friday, Sept. 30 when it hosts Glen Mills in a Del Val League game. If everything goes as expected, it will be the first time the Patriots have played a home game under the lights.
To contact Matt Smith, email [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @DTMattSmith