YEADON >> A police SUV blocked the usual path leading up to Kerr Field, so one by one, cars stopped in front of it and unloaded their cargo.
Doors flung open and Penn Wood students got out, quickly pairing up into groups before starting their walk toward the stadium. Designer’s “Panda” loudly thumped through the air, welcoming visitors, and the delectable smell of grilling meat mixing with a cool fall air highlighted it all.
Penn Wood athletic director Rap Curry bore a wide smile as he fixed a sign on the field as the Patriots and Glen Mills warmed up for Friday night’s Del Val League opener. The smile got bigger when he eyed a nearly-full student section 30 minutes before kickoff, and it sparkled when the topic of the night came up.
For the first time in Kerr Field history, Penn Wood was playing football at night. Lights shined down on the Patriots and Battlin’ Bulls, as Penn Wood claimed a 24-6 win.
“This,” Patriots head coach Nick Lincoln opined, “is how it should be. We’ll deal with whatever we have to deal with. I’ll play Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, whatever, but this is high school football.”
It didn’t take long to notice the difference, and Penn Wood fed off of the extra energy, especially on its homecoming.
The Patriots (5-1, 1-0) took advantage of the adrenaline boost. Answered Gleplay (110 yards on eight carries) broke a handful of tackles en route to a 32-yard touchdown on the game’s opening drive.
The Patriots then forced and recovered a fumble on Glen Mills’ first drive, and when Penn Wood’s ensuing drive stalled, Edward Fields picked off a pass. Two plays later, freshman quarterback Desman Johnson Jr., making his first start, found a wide-open Rahiem Bowens for a 21-yard touchdown.
“Coach Lincoln coached it a lot,” Fields said. “The tight end pop pass was a pass they ran a lot last week. I watched a lot of film. I saw the play coming. He dropped back and I jumped in front of the pass. They were a little desperate. We were stopping the run early on. I knew they were going to go to the air.”
Keon Rantin (13 carries for 114 yards) brought Glen Mills (3-3, 0-1) within a score when he took the Bulls’ third second-half snap from scrimmage 69 yards for a touchdown. Penn Wood quickly corrected its mistakes, though, and
Glen Mills barely threatened offensively the rest of the way.
“We just got a little bit too cocky (after a 30-6 win over Caesar Rodney),” Rantin said. “We’ve just got to have a better week of practice. We pretty much just figured we were going to come in and get a win, but nothing comes easy. We’ve got to learn that.”
It didn’t help Glen Mills’ cause that it was walking into an environment never seen at Penn Wood before. Lincoln had prominent alums, including Olympian Darrell Hill, talk to the team all week. Their messages weren’t lost on the Patriots, least of all dominant two-way lineman Kenny Ngaima.
Ngaima also admitted to being caught off-guard when he first heard that Kerr Field would be lit up.
“I didn’t believe it. I was, like, ‘how are they going to do this?,’” he said. “There was a lot of pressure. We heard the alumni saying, ‘man, I wish I could play. We never had lights.’
“I was so excited. I’ve never seen our neighborhood come out and support like they did today. It was a good feeling. The crowd fed us a lot and we felt love. We wanted to come out here and put on a show and we went out there and balled.”
They sure did.