Charlemagne leads Jenkintown past Strawberry Mansion

JENKINTOWN >> Late in the second quarter, the Jenkintown Drakes’ offense was dragging.
Struggling to move the ball, Jenkintown was trailing Strawberry Mansion and backed up to its own 30 facing a 3rd-and-17. So, coach Anthony Owens decided it was time to use Strawberry Mansions’ aggression against it.
A simple screen pass went to Steven Charlemagne and one cutback and 70 yards later, he was in for a touchdown.
“The blocking was incredible,” Charlemagne said. “It was a bit of an iffy pass because (quarterback Andres Madden) was getting pressured but they executed and if they execute than I can.”
Charlemagne’s big play got the Drakes going and a spirited second half carried Jenkintown to a 35-19 win over visiting Strawberry Mansion Friday morning. The junior tailback showed all aspects of his game, from excellent vision to sharp cuts and pure power as he ran for 112 yards and a score to go with his long catch-and-run score.
Junior fullback Jake McGrath also scored twice while new starting quarterback Andres Madden ran for 50 yards and threw for 85 more.
Defensively, the Drakes handily won the turnover battle, forcing the Knights into four lost fumbles and an interception. Though Jenkintown is 1-0, Owens felt is team could have performed better, especially in the first half.
“We thought at the end of the first half we started doing a few things but we weren’t happy with a lot of things overall,” Owens said. “The breakdowns of assignments and stuff like that hurt but when we went to certain steps, we felt it worked to our advantage and we decided we were going to do what we were going to do until they made us change.”
Madden is taking over for Jamie Griffin, and like his predecessor, brought a bit of a dual threat to the position. But, with his line giving some uneven blocking early on and Madden still building a rapport with his receivers, the passing game is still a work in progress.
Fortunately for the Drakes, they have Charlemagne. A 5-foot-9, 170 pound junior, Charlemagne spent his offseason working out and building his strength, speed and stamina. He said one of his biggest focuses was keeping his head up once he got the ball in order to see holes or slivers of space to dance through.
“I just need a little space, a little time like two or three seconds and I’ll hit it as hard as I can,” Charlemagne said. “I tell them if you give me your best, I’ll give you mine. We work in tandem and that’s how things work out.”
J-town scored first on a nine-yard fumble return by Alec Griffin, but saw Strawberry Mansion score the next 13 points with the Knights taking advantage of a Drakes fumble and a couple of big gains by Basil Wilson and Nysiem Parks.
After Charlemagne’s long score, McGrath boosted the lead with a 17-yard run with 30.2 seconds left in the half. However, the Knights’ big-play ability helped them go right back and score on a 50-yard catch-and-run from Parks to Wilson to cut the lead to 21-19 going into the break. Wrapping up on tackles hurt the Drakes on a few of those big plays in the first half, but the team got better as the game went along.
“Gut-check time came on a hot day and give Strawberry Mansion a lot of credit, they played very hard,” Owens said. “They have some very nice players.”
At the half, the Drakes gathered themselves up and returned to the field ready to take over. Jenkintown is no stranger to a small roster and even with roughly 30 players this year, depth is still a challenge.
But Charlemagne said the team puts plenty of work into conditioning and he felt confident that he and his teammates could simply wear down the Knights in the second half.
He was not wrong, either. Jenkintown took the opening kick of the second half and marched right down the field, capping it with a an 11-yard TD from Charlemagne that ended with the tailback diving into the endzone while taking a hit.
“That’s what made this game, the effort,” Charlemagne said. “They had great athletes and if we let up, that’s when they continued to score. We made sure at halftime we weren’t going to let up and we came back strong.”
Another lost fumbled by the Knights led to the final TD drive for Jenkintown, capped off by a nine-yard push from McGrath, who later sealed the game with a fourth-quarter interception.
Charlemagne said the team was excited to start off with a win and could celebrate through the weekend, but come Monday, it would be time to get back to work. With some challenging games left in nonleague and BAL play, the Drakes know they’ll have to stay healthy and clean up their execution to keep finding victories.
“If I started going over what we have to work on, we’d be here until Labor Day,” Owens said. “We have a lot to work on, but they played hard and worked through it. But we’re 1-0.”

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