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Hero Bowl: Ngaima, Del Val ‘teammates’ leave West stars in dust in

MARPLE TWP. >> For all their clashes on autumn Fridays, one might expect members of the Del Val League to be at each other’s throats whenever they find themselves in close proximity, especially on a football field.

But that’s just not the case. There’s a camaraderie that defines the league, and it was on full display Thursday night as the East All-Star Team (Del Val, Inter-Ac, Catholic leagues and Sun Valley) defeated the West All-Star Team (Central League schools, Delco Christian) 27-7 in the 41st Annual Hero Bowl at Cardinal O’Hara High School.

A bevy of East tacklers bring down the West’s Kareem Bernard of Haverford High Thursday. East turned up the defense in a 27-7 win in the 41st annual Hero Bow. (Digital First Media/Pete Bannan)

The chemistry was particularly evident on a defensive line that featured All-Delco players Kenny Ngaima of Penn Wood and Togba Porte of Academy Park.

“It was amazing,” Ngaima said of playing alongside his one-time rivals. “I’ve seen these guys. I’ve argued with these guys. But they’re some of the best players in the county. The Del Val is a tight league. We fell in love with each other at the first practice.”

Ngaima and cohorts, with no blitzes per Hero Bowl rules mind you, sacked the West quarterbacks five times. The Air Force commit had four himself.

“Our D-line, we knew we were the heart of the team,” said Ngaima, who took home defensive MVP honors for the East. “Everyone there is exceptional. We just used our strengths.”

Ngaima’s performance was made more impressive when he revealed after the game that he had been fasting for Ramadan. Halftime brought his first sustenance of the day as the sun had set. If Ngaima lacked energy, he certainly didn’t show it. Nor did Porte or any of their defensive teammates. Ed Fields III of Penn Wood and Daily Times Player of the Year Teddy Wright each came up with interceptions.

PHOTO GALLERY: 41st annual Hero Bowl

Wright gave a little shake and bake on the return and celebrated on his way back to the sideline, things that may have drawn ire from the East players in the fall but were now happily welcomed.

“They already know we have fun,” Porte said of the Academy Park contingent. “We were having a lot of fun. We made practice fun. We made the game fun. And we back it up.”

One player who enjoyed being allied with Ngaima and the Knights was Interboro’s Chris Thomas.

“I’ll tell you what,” Thomas said. “As much as I love playing the best competition, I’m glad they were on our side. Them dudes are some athletes. I felt bad for the other team.”

Thomas set the tone with the East’s first carry of the game. He took an inside handoff and sprinted up the middle for a 78-yard score. He added a second touchdown with 6:43 to play in the half as the East pounded the ball, and the West struggled to find a rhythm.

Ridley’s Cade Stratton was the offensive MVP for the West at the Delaware County Hero Bowl high school all-star football game at Cardinal O’Hara Thursday evening. (Digital First Media/Pete Bannan)

By the time Tommy O’Hara, playing on his home turf, found Chester’s Davouge Hopkins over the middle for a 31-yard pass-and-catch, it was 20-0. The West had two turnovers and three first downs to show for its efforts.

“We thought they would press more,” Haverford wide receiver Chris Trainor said. “But they were softer on coverage. It makes it a little trickier.”

Trainor also acknowledged that his coach, Joe Gallagher, runs an offense that isn’t exactly conducive to all-star games: pass happy and quick moving. Trainor had the luxury of working under Gallagher with the Fords, so he lent a hand when needed to his new teammates.

“It was fun to help out with guys who had questions,” said Trainor, who finished with six catches for 122 yards. “It’s definitely an adjustment.”

Trainor accounted for the West’s lone points, when he snared a pass from Ridley’s Cade Stratton early in the third quarter. But that was the West’s only trip to the red zone in the game.

On the other side, Jamir Green completed the East’s scoring with a sterling 44-yard sprint off a swing pass.

The game closed with little more action or drama, save for a few yaps from both sides as well as Ngaima’s last two sacks. Porte added one as well.

“I think we all had that intensity,” said Thomas, who carried six times for 92 yards, earning the East’s offensive MVP award. “We came here and the competitiveness was already there. Our side came together. We wanted it.”

***

NOTES >> Stratton was named the West’s offensive MVP. He finished 8-13 for 111 yards and a touchdown. Obadiah Asare of Upper Darby was the West’s defensive MVP.

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