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All-Delco Football: Player of Year Poles always clicked with his ‘brother’

Penn Wood senior Kennedy Poles is the 2018 Daily Times Player of the Year

All-Delco Football: Player of Year Poles always clicked with his ‘brother’

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LANSDOWNE — It’s impossible for Kennedy Poles to reminisce about his days as a youth football novice without talking about one person.

Penn Wood’s star senior wide receiver can remember he was six and seven years old, throwing the football around in the backyard with Desman Johnson Jr., in recent years his high school quarterback and best friend.

“That’s my brother, that’s my blood,” Poles said of Johnson, the 6-foot-2, 240-pound junior who set school and county records in 2018. “He sprout up out of nowhere. We used to call him Baby Des.”

Penn Wood’s Kennedy Poles, a four-year varsity player, smashed records at the school this season en route to being named the Daily Times Player of the Year. (PETE BANNAN/DIGITAL FIRST MEDIA)

Poles can recall when he and Johnson were teammates for the Colwyn Comets in the Delaware County Youth Football League. Back in those days, Poles was the QB and Johnson was his tight end.

As they got older, Poles realized Johnson was getting bigger and stronger than all the other boys in the neighborhood.

“I saw it in middle school, then we got to here (to high school) and he started growing even more. But, yeah, I was always faster than him,” Poles said, smiling. “We would play backyard football and I was probably the only one who could tackle him.”

Poles and Johnson made plenty of magic together for Penn Wood the last two years. When it came down to selecting one over the other for Daily Times Player of the Year honors, it was hard to go wrong with either choice. Both shared equal responsibility in leading the Patriots to their second straight Del Val League title, the first two District 1 playoff victories in program history, and an 11-2 overall record.

“Priceless times, priceless moments,” Poles said. “I really don’t want to play with no other quarterback. I’ll take Des in my college years and NFL years. That’s how I feel about him.”

By shattering Delco’s career and single-season receiving records, Poles is the 2018 Daily Times Player of the Year. He is only the second player in school history to earn the award (Aaron Mackrey, 1994).

Joining Poles on the All-Delco offensive team are quarterback Desman Johnson (Penn Wood), running backs DeeWil Barlee (Episcopal Academy), Zack Hussein (Strath Haven) and Kareem McAdams (Upper Darby), wide receiver Colin Ferry (Marple Newtown), and linemen Louie Perri (Cardinal O’Hara), Kyle McCullough (Garnet Valley), Asim Richards (Haverford School), Anthony Laudicina (Radnor) and Tom Bramwell (Ridley).

Defensively, All-Delco selections were claimed by linemen Jack Purcell (Episcopal Academy), Cade Brennan (Garnet Valley), Mike Moore (Interboro) and Da’Shawn Brickle (Penn Wood), linebackers Richie Kimmel (Archbishop Carrol), Aliyoh Turay (Penn Wood) and Pat Clemens (Springfield), and defensive backs Dan Bradley (Garnet Valley), Trey Blair (Haverford), Omar Ba (Penn Wood) and Edmund Dennis (Penn Wood).

Sun Valley’s Julz Kelly and Ridley’s Elijah Yakpasuo were selected for their all-purpose abilities, while Radnor’s Dylan Van Dusen is the kicker/specialist.

The All-Delco team is selected after consultation with local coaches.

• • •

Poles set the Delaware County single-season and career receiving records in 2018.

In his senior campaign, Poles caught 60 of Johnson’s passes for 1,335 yards and 17 touchdowns, breaking a record (1,266) that had stood since 2000. A varsity player since freshman year, Poles amassed 3,102 receiving yards during his time with the Patriots. The previous mark of 2,851 yards, held by Sun Valley’s Ray Withelder, had stood since 1999.

“It’s everything a senior wants, to help your team go as far as possible,” Poles said. “But after it’s done, it’s like … man, it’s really over? Can I rewind time? Can I play another game at Kerr? I want to play under the lights a couple more times.”

In his final home game, a come-from-behind victory over Interboro in the district quarterfinals, Poles had nine catches for 207 yards and four TDs. Unfortunately for Poles and the Patriots, it turned out to be the final time they would play at a place the team calls “The Graveyard.”

One week later, Poles walked off the field at West Chester Rustin High School in disbelief following a 10-8 loss in the district semifinals.

“That’s not how it was supposed to end,” Poles said.

In a controversial decision, No. 1 Penn Wood agreed to relinquish home-field advantage and move the game to fourth-seeded Rustin. Kerr Field was simply unplayable following two days of heavy rain. So, Rustin had lucked into a home game.

“You can’t take a No. 1 seed and just give it away to someone else. I mean, we worked hard for that,” Poles said. “There was nothing else we could do about it, but we should’ve played on Sunday. If that was the case, the players … we could’ve went over to Kerr and cleaned the field. It even could’ve been played on a neutral field, but you don’t go to their home field and take that away from us.

“If they came down here, it would’ve been different. I can tell you that.”

Understandably, Poles still harbors ill will about the entire situation. And he makes salient points as to why.

Penn Wood quarterback Desman Johnson, left, and wide receiver Kennedy Poles made a plenty of magic together the last two seasons. (Digital First Media/Pete Bannan)

Ultimately, what upsets Poles the most is knowing the Patriots “didn’t play at our best.” He added they plenty of points on the field. 

“We had a great year,” he said, “and it was was hard to go out like that.”

Poles has standing offers from two colleges, Morgan State and Stonybrook. He’ll keep busy in the winter with the varsity basketball team. He’s a defensive specialist “and I do whatever the team needs me to do,” he said.

He just wishes he could catch passes from Johnson one more time. When Poles was a freshman, the Patriots went 3-7 and were at the beginning of a rebuilding phase. After three straight District 1 playoff appearances and two Del Val crowns, the Penn Wood program is in far better shape today than when he found it.

In that regard, Poles leaves behind a winning legacy.

“Kennedy and the seniors changed the culture here,” Penn Wood coach Ato Troop said. “It just goes to show what happens when you stick together. Kennedy is a local kid who came up playing for Colwyn and developed into a great player. You hear the phrase ‘trust the process’ a lot, but I truly believe he’s a kid who trusts the process, trusts the coaching. And he allowed the coaching to let his talent show what he can do.”

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