Jones, Iglesias power Lower Merion over Delco Christian

LOWER MERION >> Lower Merion hasn’t celebrated many wins in the last decade. Consider the Aces have been through six head coaches since 2007 and haven’t had a winning season since 1992.

Bryan Scopelliti took the helm last year, led the Aces to two wins and started building a foundation. While nobody is predicting a Central League title, the progress Scopelliti has made in his brief tenure is evident.

It helps that the Aces have an athletic quarterback in senior Brandon Jones, who is learning the position under the guidance of offensive coordinator Andrew Pidgeon, a former Ridley High great and All-Delco quarterback. Jones put his passing skills on display in Saturday’s 36-25 victory over Delco Christian, completing 9-of-13 attempts for 129 yards and two touchdowns.

With Jones calling the shots behind center, the Aces (1-1) defeated a reigning District One champion.

“It’s a different feeling around here,” said Jones, who engineered two scoring drives late in the second quarter, turning a three-point deficit into a 22-11 lead at halftime.

For the second week in a row, the Aces proved that they can hang. Their players believe they should’ve defeated Chichester a week ago, but the Aces allowed a late lead to fall by the wayside. The loss was hard to swallow, but it wasn’t a debilitating setback by any means.

“It was motivation,” Jones said. “After that game, we had a ton of confidence and we knew we could compete with anyone because we were in that game, we should have won that game. Mistakes happen in football, so it was important for us to forget about it. Today we came out and put up 36 points. That’s a lot for us. It’s how we’re going to play this year.”

Jones handed the ball off to running back Isaac Iglesias, who rushed for 105 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The offensive line, including Tommy Tice, Ryan McConnell and Randy Cheloha, provided ample running room. Athletic wide receiver Rashon Cooke (four catches, 71 yards, TD) and tough-to-tackle tight end Mike Berg (three catches, 39 yards, TD) did damage in the passing game. Sophomore kicker Sophie Riverso showed the boys how it’s done by converting all four of her extra-point attempts.

“It was a team win,” said Scopelliti, a product of Scranton High School. “I’m sure every kid on the team felt like they got punched in the gut after last week. We knew we played better than we had in the past, but there was still a zero in the win column. We said we had to figure out how to finish football games. … At the end of the day, we got one and it feels a lot better than last week.”

It was a tough loss for the Knights (1-1), who played near-flawless football in their 39-13 rout of Kutztown in Week 1. The Knights fumbled the ball four times and had trouble operating their run-first offense against an aggressive front seven of Lower Merion. A normally potent ground attack mustered 180 yards on 45 carries.

But the Knights had trouble pinning down the Aces on the opposite side. The Aces converted a 3rd-and-21 at DC’s 22-yard line when Cooke hauled in the first of Jones’ two TD passes. To worsen matters, the Knights fumbled the ball away on the ensuing drive. Jones and the Aces took over on offense and scored instantly. Jones found Berg across the middle and the senior tight end rumbled 30 yards to the end zone to give Lower Merion a two-touchdown advantage.

That was a backbreaker for the Knights.

“Up front, in the second quarter, they took control from an offensive standpoint,” DC coach Drew Pearson said. “We had them and they beat us. They scored two touchdowns in (25) seconds. You have to congratulate them. I was so proud of our guys last week with how we executed, but we didn’t execute today.”

A good kick return set the Knights up with terrific field position. With time ticking off the second-quarter clock, Dan Poirier, who snared a touchdown pass from quarterback Devin Hill in the first quarter, fell three yards shy of the end zone as time expired.

That last-ditch effort to put points on the board would haunt the Knights. They botched the kick return to open the third quarter and the Aces made them pay when Iglesias scored from 7 yards out, extending the lead to 29-11.

“You have to convert on the other team’s mistakes and we have to limit our mistakes. That’s how you do it,” Jones said. “We win because of our line. They did a great job this week and did a great job last week. It showed on the scoreboard in this game.”

While the Knights struggled to move the ball on offense, they thrived at times in the return game. After the Aces scored 13 seconds into the third period, Poirier took the ensuing kickoff 79 yards to paydirt. Later in the fourth, running back Nazim Trammell-Wells (65 yards, 12 carries) had a 59-yard kick return for a touchdown.

“Our kick return did some good things, but we just didn’t execute in other areas,” Pearson said. “When we have a fourth (down) and a foot and we don’t get the first down … that’s who we are. You have to give Lower Merion credit because they played us tough, but there was just too many things that were uncharacteristic of who we are and how we play. It’s still early, but I was a little disappointed after seeing how well we executed last week.”

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