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Delco Football Friday: Turay, Penn Wood say they’ve learned from Rustin mistake

Penn Wood's Aliyoh Turay, right, and Anauri Hankey celebrate Turay’s interception and touchdown return against Oxford earlier this season. Turay believes the Patriots are prepared to avenge their only loss of the year when they host West Chester Rustin Saturday night at Kerr Field.
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LANSDOWNE — Penn Wood’s Aliyoh Turay remembers the pain and frustration of watching a second-half lead slip away against West Chester Rustin in September.

The Patriots’ only loss of the year was to the team they’ll see Saturday at Kerr Field in a District 1 Class 5A semifinal game. Kickoff is 6 p.m. Originally scheduled for Friday night, the game was postponed a day due to the worse-than-expected snowstorm that blasted the region Thursday.

“For me, I’m excited to play them again,” Turay said at practice Wednesday. “In that first game, it was ours but we beat ourselves mentally. It’s great to have a second chance to play them.

“Also, the last time we played them, I pulled my hamstring … and just tried to play through it. But I knew I couldn’t sit down and watch. I had to get out there with my team.”

Turay, a talented senior linebacker, was dealing with another injury that limited his practice time this week. Don’t worry, he said, because there’s not a chance he’s missing this one.

“Oh, I’ll be playing,” said Turay, who leads the top-seeded Patriots in total tackles (127) and tackles for loss (six).

Penn Wood’s defense is among the top units in the county. Dashawn Brickle, with 12 sacks, has been a monster in the trenches. And the secondary is second to none in Delco, led by Edmund Dennis and Omar Ba, who have blanketed opposing receivers all season long.

Rustin had the Patriots’ number in the second half of a comeback win in September. It was a bitter result, one that knocked Penn Wood off its tracks. The Patriots (11-1) rebounded from that defeat, winning every game since. They captured their second straight Del Val League title and became the first team in program history to win a district playoff game.

“For us it’s more about the mental than it is the physical. We know how good we are, physically, but when you understand something mentally you become dangerous,” Turay said. “(Rustin’s) speed on offense is really good … but we refuse to get blocked by anybody. We know how to recognize plays. One thing I realize about Rustin is they like to use No. 2 (Michael Covert) a lot with their jet plays, so we’ll be ready.”

Covert scored four touchdowns (two runs, two catches) in No. 5 Rustin’s 42-6 shellacking of fourth-seeded Academy Park last week.

“As long as we know their tendencies and all of that, and everybody knows what they’re doing, we’ll be good,” Turay said.

The Patriots overcame the initial shock of a 21-0 deficit to No. 9 Interboro last week. Three touchdown passes to Kennedy Poles from Desman Johnson Jr. in the third quarter enabled the Patriots to recover. They came back to score a 44-28 victory.

“That shows a lot about the character of the team. If that happened in the beginning of the season we would probably be arguing and start to fall apart,” Johnson said. “In the first half, we were down but nobody was blaming each other. We came back out and came together as a team, got the momentum back. Nobody wanted to go home. We are having the best season ever at Penn Wood.”

As Johnson noted, the first game with Rustin and last week’s contest against Interboro are comparable in some ways.

“Similar to the Interboro game. When we heard about Rustin, we didn’t think they would be a big factor,” Johnson said. “We had a good lead (against Rustin), then they basically did to us in the second half what we did to Interboro. We were winning at halftime, people thought we got this game in the bag, but they came back out and put up a couple of touchdowns. They stopped us a couple times and we lost.”

The Patriots feel that Rustin didn’t beat them the first time. Rather, they beat themselves.

“We had a couple drives in that first half where we were in the red zone and didn’t finish. In the second half, we lined up wrong a lot and we lost discipline,” coach Ato Troop said. “Our two worst halves of football this season were the second half against Rustin and the first half of last week against Interboro. We came out last week and we were flat and Interboro played really well. We fixed some things and were able to come back. We can’t do the same thing this week.”

Rustin, after all, loves to play possession football as evidenced by its domination of Academy Park’s defense last week. The Golden Knights (9-2) held the ball for 36 plays in the first half.

“We have to come out and be ready to play well all the way through. The first time against Rustin, we were up two scores going into halftime and we ended up letting that slip,” Troop said. “You never want to lose any game, but I think we learned from it. We were kind of arrogant in that game, but the players learned.”

Johnson is on the verge of breaking Delaware County’s single-season passing record. It’s not a matter of if, but when he will take down Anthony Paoletti of Marple Newtown’s record of 2,793 yards. Johnson (2,771) is 23 yards away from setting the mark.

Poles has both the county’s single-season and career receiving records. Penn Wood has made plenty of history in 2018, from a program and an individual level. None of the records personal accolades will matter very much to the Patriots if they fail to extend their season beyond this weekend.

“Even though Kennedy has a couple of records, and I might break a record soon, it would feel so much better to have a district and state championship with all of that,” Johnson said. “That is our main goal as a team.”

In a District 1 Class 6A semifinal Friday:

Garnet Valley (12-0) at Coatesville (12-0), 7

This is the rematch a lot of Delco fans have been anticipating.

The third-seeded Jaguars and No. 2 Red Raiders slugged it out in the 2017 district final. Avery Young’s pick-six in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter was the difference in a 35-28 Coatesville win.

Many of Coatesville’s star players from last season’s champion squad are back and better in 2018. Led by outstanding junior quarterback Ricky Ortega, the Red Raiders are averaging 46.5 points per game. They scored their fewest points of the season in last week’s 38-19 trouncing of Downingtown East.

Garnet Valley’s defense, which is led by All-Delco lineman Cade Brennan (7.5 sacks) and Evan Hrvinak (9.0 sacks), is capable of limiting Coatesville’s high-powered offense. 

Offensively, the Jags will rely on a stellar line headed by senior Kyle McCullough, senior quarterback Cole Palis, and a balanced rushing attack that produced 455 yards in a 49-14 thumping of Quakertown in the quarterfinals. Colin Robinson, Dom LaBricciosa, Dan Bradley and Greg Reynolds have all thrived in the Jags’ run-heavy system.

The winner plays either No. 4 Downingtown West or top-seeded North Penn in the district final.

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