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Charlemagne powers Jenkintown past Delco Christian for District 1-A crown

JENKINTOWN >> Every time he touched the ball, Steve Charlemagne looked poised for the end zone. It made life pretty easy for Jenkintown. The same could not be said for Delaware County Christian School.

“He’s a very special athlete,” said Delco Christian linebacker Jake Gutkowski.

Saturday afternoon, Charlemagne powered Jenkintown to its first District 1 Class A championship since 2008 with a 34-6 victory over Delco Christian. The Drakes (7-2) move into next week’s subregional, a prelude to the PIAA tournament, against District 2 champ Lackawanna Trail.

A senior running back, Charlemagne accounted for 163 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 16 carries. He rushed 35 yards for a first-quarter touchdown, and went 14 yards untouched for a third-quarter score.

“I’ve played against him since seventh grade, and every year he’s a beast,” Gutkowski said of Charlemagne. “It hurts to be on this side, but I’m happy to see him get success, too. He’s able to cut back, get in space, and he’s dangerous.”

Delco Christian (3-7) had opportunities to capture its second district championship in three years, despite what a lopsided final score might suggest.

The Knights capped a surgical, 13-play drive in the second quarter with a three-yard touchdown lunge from Jalen Mitchell to trim Jenkintown’s lead to 14-6. The Drakes tacked another touchdown onto their lead prior to halftime, and Delco Christian missed the chance to add to its score. A potential scoring connection between quarterback Jake Allen and tight end Nigel Ray fell incomplete.

Delco Christian opened the second half with AJ Gerow recovering an onside kick. The ensuing possession, however, ended with a fumble in the red zone.

“They have something to play for next year,” Jenkintown quarterback Jake McGrath said of the Knights. “We got kicked around a lot in my four years. Playing through losses helps. You gain experience, character, and pride for your team. You play with your guys and you improve with them.”

McGrath nicely complemented Charlemagne’s running attack. He carried 10 times for 117 yards and three scores – including a 41-yarder late in the first quarter. Charlemagne and McGrath helped guide Jenkintown to a two-game season sweep of its Bicentennial Athletic League rival. Entering this season, the Drakes had lost all seven prior meetings with Delco Christian.

“We prepared all week for this,” Charlemagne said. “We’ve been playing with these guys for four years, and we know what it’s like to play against them, in the pits with them, and battling against them for four quarters. We were tired of losing. We knew we had to come out here with a new attitude, new intensity.”

Delco Christian did all it could with limited personnel. Allen, a senior, missed two drives in the third quarter after suffering a right knee contusion. And the Knights’ roster, already lean in senior leadership, had two of their five seniors out due to injury.

“Tradition never graduates,” Allen said. “We have the same plan every year – get better, returning guys come back. We have two rules; win the league, and win the district. Obviously that didn’t work out the way we wanted to.”

In the end, the Knights overcame an 0-4 start to win three of their final six and make the district title game for the fourth consecutive year.

“Our coaches told us, ‘We could either wilt, or we could finish the season,’” Allen said. “And that’s what we did. We’re not hanging our heads.”

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