NEWTOWN TWP. >> Nigel Ray had never made a bigger tackle in his life
“No way,” the Delco Christian linebacker said.
To be fair, Ray hasn’t played football for very long. Only a sophomore, Ray is 6-2, 190 pounds, according to the school’s roster. It’s scary to think how big and strong he’ll be in two years.
Saturday afternoon, Ray sacked George School quarterback Chet Kogut and forced him to fumble with a minute to play in the fourth quarter. The Knights recovered the ball and left town with a 27-20 victory.
“I’m rushing almost every time,” Ray said. “One of us had to make a stop.”
— Matt Smith (@DTMattSmith) October 8, 2016
At first, Ray had no idea that he had caused Kogut lose the rock.
“I didn’t know that he fumbled,” Ray said, “until after, when I saw that we got the ball. That was great.”
After four consecutive defeats to begin the season, the Knights have won two in a row and — wouldn’t you know — are back in the conversation for Best Little Team That Could in District One.
The former District One Class A and Bicentennial League champs needed a win like Saturday’s. Last week, the Knights (2-4) earned their first victory by dismantling Lower Moreland, but George School (2-3) was a tougher test.
For the first time, coach Drew Pearson was able to see what his guys were made of under adverse conditions (we won’t mention the lousy weather). It’s the sort of win that Pearson’s teams have been known for over the years.
“We’re so young, so it’s about learning how to fight through the adversity,” Pearson said. “To be in close games and to win close games is very important in the long run. It’s important to these guys this year. Just to see them … move the ball in the fourth quarter, pound it at them and go all the way down and score that late touchdown, that was huge. I just couldn’t be more proud of our offensive staff, just to see how they have got our kids better and more prepared.”
The late touchdown Pearson referenced was a 26-yard scamper by Jalen Mitchell to extend the Knights’ narrow lead to seven points with 2:57 to play. The 12-play, 62-yard drive was defined by tremendous play from offensive linemen Todd Romero, Obinna Nwobado, Tyler Van Eerden, Jake Gutowski and Noah Peddy. The big guys up front showed the way for Mitchell (89 yards, 15 carries) and Chris Chung, who amassed 168 yards on 19 carries.
“We’re starting to play very well as a unit,” said Gutowski, who also excelled at linebacker.
Chung has emerged on the depth chart as the Knights’ go-to running back alongside Mitchell.
“Nazim Trammell-Wells was a workhorse for us last year, so this is my first year taking most of the reps,” Chung said. “I’m getting more comfortable with it.”
Chung laughed when asked about an 89-yard touchdown run that could have been. With the Knights leading 15-12 late in the first half, Chung darted through the line of scrimmage and had a clear path to the end zone … until an official got in his way and slowed his progress. Chung was tackled after a 64-yard gainer.
Mr. Official’s inadvertent interference wasn’t a complete bummer for Chung and the Knights.
“Maybe it was my fault or maybe it was the ref helping them out a little bit,” Chung joked. “We scored in the end and that’s all that matters.”
Indeed, the Knights hit paydirt five plays later when quarterback Elijah Thomas scored on a 1-yard sneak.
Delco Christian rushed 55 times for 327 yards. Defensively, the Knights shut down George School running back Shadimere Coles in the second half (46 of his 61 yards came in the first). The Knights stuffed the middle with great defense by Jake Gutowski, Peddy, Ray, Van Eerden, Luke Gutowski and Eno Umoh.
“We made some adjustments after the first couple of drives and we got better,” Pearson said. “The kids fight, man. You could see how excited they were … and they wanted to play and do it for each other. That’s great to see.”