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Five Games to Watch: Interboro, Strath Haven try to top last year’s classic

Many coaches will tell you that one scrimmage isn’t enough.

When the PIAA shortened the high school football season in 2016, teams were left with little in the way of options. They had to slice into their summer camp time. Instead of three weeks of practice and two scrimmages, teams were limited to two weeks of practice and one scrimmage.

It’s difficult to assess teams based on their season openers. Although the game counts, many teams are still working out the kinks in late August.

But ready or not, a new football season is here.

Here’s a breakdown of five games to watch this weekend.

Friday
Strath Haven at Interboro, 7

A rematch of one of the more memorable games of 2016, when Interboro erased a two-touchdown deficit in the fourth quarter to win, 36-35.

The Bucs, the reigning Del Val champs, feature many new faces. The only returning starters from last fall’s 10-3 squad are senior running back/linebacker Kalie Kuyateh and tight end/linebacker Brett McLaughlin, both of whom are three-year starters.

Strath Haven will lean on veteran starters Ryan Morris (tight end/linebacker), Lee Holbert (offensive line) and Tommy Foster (receiver/defensive back), each of whom earned second-team All-Central League honors last fall. Last year the Panthers finished 4-7 and qualified for the District 1 Class 5A playoffs.

It’s also a chance to watch the two winningest coaches in Delco history, Interboro’s Steve Lennox and Strath Haven’s Kevin Clancy, go head-to-head one more time.

Glen Mills at Springfield, 7

The Bulls, who posted a 5-6 mark last fall, have some experience on their side, a rarity for Glen Mills. Leading rusher Quadir Gibson is a force, and linebacker Tawfeeq Abdul-Lateef can take carries and will be an impact player in the secondary.

The Cougars, ranked No. 14 in the preseason PAPrepLive Top 20, return their entire defensive line from last year’s 12-2 squad, including All-Delco tackle Justin Shields. Offensively, Ja’Den McKenzie amassed 1,280 yards rushing. Philip Shovlin is a hard-hitting fullback and safety for the Cougars, who won a piece of the Central League title last fall. Expect them to be one of the top contenders for the crown in 2017.

Chester at Haverford, 7

Chester and Haverford are competing in the Delco Athletes Hall of Fame Kickoff Classic.

The Clippers upset the Fords in last year’s opener, then lost eight of their final nine games. Second-year coach LaDontay Bell expects big things from senior running back Devan Freeman, who ranked 12th in Delco last fall with 791 yards on the ground. Junior Tahree Fuller-Bryan takes over at quarterback.

Junior Jake Ruane is back following a strong first season as the Fords’ No. 1 quarterback, throwing for 2,100 yards and 16 touchdowns. Wide receiver Jordan Mosley, a Maryland recruit, will be one of the best two-way players in the area this fall.

Bonner & Prendergast at Upper Darby, 7

The Friars make the short trip up Lansdowne Ave. to face their neighborhood rivals. Bonner & Prendie looks to improve on a 4-7 record. Senior wide receiver Kyrie Jackson and junior linebacker David McMullen are players to watch.

The Royals posted a 5-7 mark in 2016, their first losing season since 2012. Quaran Davis will be a difference maker in the backfield. Derrick Korboi is one of the top defensive linemen in the county.

Rustin at Garnet Valley, 7

Last year’s District 1 Class 6A finalists, the Jaguars are the No. 1 team in the Daily Times preseason Super 7 and fifth in the PaPrepLive Top 20. Matt Lassik and Danny Guy will highlight a run-heavy offense that produced 3,886 rushing yards last fall. Jon Ricci is a top target for first-year starting quarterback Ryan Hamby.

Rustin, a perennial Ches-Mont American Division power, endured just its second losing season in program history in 2016. Senior Nick Benoit could be a difference maker in the backfield.

The rest of the Week 1 schedule includes …

Pennsbury at Academy Park >> The Knights, led by All-Delco defensive back Jermal Martin and running back Kareem Burton, are the reigning District 1 Class 5A champions. A traditional Suburban One League power, the Falcons are coming off a rare down year (5-5).

Marple Newtown at Florida State University High >> Fresh off a program record 11 wins and a share of the Central League title, the Tigers (No. 11 in PAPrepLive top 20) open the season at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex. Delaware-bound senior quarterback and All-Delco Anthony Paoletti set the county’s single-season passing record last fall.

Father Judge at Ridley >> The Green Raiders grabbed a share of the Central League title and finished with an 11-2 record last fall. Ociele Miller, a senior running back, is a game changer. The Crusaders are young (28 sophomores), but they have a formidable rushing attack led by Tim Weldon, who amassed 711 yards and 12 touchdowns last fall.

Olney at Archbishop Carroll >> Dan Connor begins Year 2 of the process at Carroll. Dahmir Ruffin is an exciting two-way skill player for the Patriots (1-10 in 2016).

Kipp-Dubois at Cardinal O’Hara >> Last year’s Catholic League Blue Division champs (10-1) will look to senior wide receiver/defensive back Justin Santilla to fuel the offense.

Pottstown at Sun Valley >> The Vanguards have the pieces to improve upon a 6-6 campaign. Senior tight end/linebacker James Gines and leading rusher Charlie Wendling will show the way. Running back Anthony Wiggins is a player to watch for the Trojans, who went 2-9 last fall.

Chichester at Lower Merion >> The Eagles (4-7) travel to Lower Merion for a 3:30 start. Cody Profitt is a playmaker at linebacker. The Aces will look to wide receiver Deion Davis to spark the passing game.

Penn Wood at Souderton >> The Patriots are coming off a 7-3 season and a trip to the District 1 Class 6A playoffs. Answered Gleplay is one of the premier rushers in the county. Junior running back Troy Moklok leads a Souderton team that finished 6-5 overall last year.

Penncrest at Pope John Paul II >> The Andrew Pidgeon era begins at Penncrest, which travels to PJP for a 1 p.m. kickoff Saturday. Chris Mills returns behind center for the Lions (3-8).

Delco Christian at Strawberry Mansion >> The Knights travel to Chalmers Park in North Philadelphia for a 1 o’clock kickoff Saturday. Keep an eye on senior running back Jalen Mitchell.

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