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An historic home win for Penn Wood in districts opener

Kennedy Poles broke the career receiving record in Delaware County and helped Penn Wood roll to a 40-6 triumph over Kennett in the first round of the District 1 Class 5A playoffs Friday.
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YEADON — It was a much anticipated night for the Penn Wood football program in more ways than one. For starters, the Patriots were hosting their first home district playoff game in school history after having played on the road in each of the last two seasons. Additionally, wide receiver Kennedy Poles was on the cusp of breaking the Delaware County receiving record.

Torrential rain rolled through the area for much of the game turning Kerr Field into slop but Poles and the Patriots used the weather to their advantage to make history.

Poles caught three passes for 31 yards and two touchdowns, breaking the county record for receiving yards in the process as Penn Wood rolled to a 40-6 victory over Kennett in the opening round of the District 1 Class 5A playoffs. Needing only 13 yards, Poles caught a 29-yard touchdown from quarterback Desman Johnson Jr. to open the scoring and eclipsed the record at the 5:36 mark of the first quarter. He passed former Sun Valley wideout Ray Wilthelder (1999), who previously held the record with 2,851 career receiving yards.

Poles noted that he expects a lot from himself and the emergence of Johnson Jr. under center has been a major factor in accomplishing this feat.

“That’s No. 7 for you,” said Poles, whose career receiving yardage now stands at 2,869. “With Des, he’s unbelievable. I don’t know how he makes the passes he throws. I just get under it, go up top and do my thing from there.”

The win sealed the first district playoff triumph in Penn Wood (10-1) football history and comes after two brutal defeats at the hands of Perkiomen Valey over the last two seasons. Last year, the Patriots gave up 24 unanswered points to the Vikings before suffering an eight-point loss. Head coach Ato Troop, who has been at the helm of back-to-back Del Val League titles, said the driving force for his team’s run to this point as been that defeat.

“That was our motivation all season,” Troop said. “We wanted to get a home game in front of our fans. I can’t express it in words what it means for the community and the alumni who have played here.”

Johnson Jr. was 10-for-18 for 210 yards and five total touchdowns (three passing, two rushing). On Penn Wood’s second drive of the game, Johnson Jr. completed a 12-yard pass to running back Elijah Gleplay and a 36-yard connection to Tayshon Harmon before rumbling in from the goal line. His second scoring hookup with Poles gave his team a 24-0 advantage of Kennett (4-7) heading halftime.

The Blue Demons stacked the box once the rain began to pick up but Johnson Jr. stressed that Troop didn’t try to deviate from what has given the Patriots offense success all season.

“They were anticipating we were going to run the ball but we threw the ball, even though the field wasn’t as we had wanted with the rain,” Johnson Jr. “We just played our game.”

Two quick scores on its first two possessions of the second half, including a 58-yard strike from Johnson Jr. to Michael Dargan Jr., put Penn Wood in the driver seat. The Blue Demons, making their first-ever trip to the district playoffs, were limited to 97 total yards but did find some success in the fourth quarter as Sam Forte found receiver Mitch Kosara for a 20-yard connection for their lone score of the game. Kennett head coach Lance Frazier, whose team was held to minus-6 rushing yards and allowed three sacks, continued to implore his team to battle despite the mounting deficit.

“That was my message to them,” Frazier said. “I said, ‘Guys, we’re still in this.’ Keep slugging and doing what you’ve been doing all year. We’ve been persevering all year and we’ve been through a lot.”

Penn Wood will host Del Val League rival Interboro, who downed Upper Merion, 33-22 in the first round, at home next week.

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