Upper Darby defense keeps turning the Page

UPPER DARBY >> When Upper Darby tweaked defensive schemes prior to the season, ditching an odd-man front for a 4-3 base, coach Richie Gentile believed it was the best way to get the most out of his talented core of linemen.
The kinks are still being worked out, but the Royals defense has come a long way since summer camp. Cast aside a Week 3 loss at State College, the Royals have been steady on that side of the ball.
Sure, they were tested two weeks ago against Ridley, a monstrous 32-29 triumph for the Royals, who had a tough time containing fleet-footed quarterback Cade Stratton, who ran for 100 yards. But in their four wins in 2015, Gentile has seen his defense mature and gain confidence.
The Royals defensive front has been tough to crack as rushers are averaging just 2.6 yards per carry in games that Upper Darby has won.
It helps that the Royals have plenty of depth on the line. Powered by Shawn Page, James King, Zeno Temple, Evans Cabral, Derrick Korboi, David Fuller and Chris Smith, the Royals limited Penncrest to just 21 yards on the ground in last Friday’s 34-0 victory.
“The whole scheme of our defense is to have down linemen that are good and who can control gaps,” Gentile said. “If you don’t have linemen who have that athletic ability, you go to an odd-man front. We’re fortunate enough where we probably have six guys and you can rotate those six people in.
“The big thing that we did going into the Penncrest game was that instead of putting our tackles on shoulder, we put our tackles straight up on the guards. So we took their guards and drove them back, and what that does is enable you to attack that double-team a lot better. That’s what we want to continue to see from our linemen.”
Page is, arguably, the best of the bunch. He’s a two-way lineman at offensive tackle and defensive end, playing just about every snap with the first-teamers. He’s garnering college interest from Delaware, New Hampshire and Villanova, and it’s easy to see why. Page is a real difference maker and the engine of Upper Darby’s defensive line.
“We started out a little slow this year because we had a lot of new faces on the defense, but we kept improving together,” Page said. “We’ll motivate each other by talking trash to each other. A lot of us go both ways, so we’re always talking trash. Me and James King were going at it (Wednesday) in practice. I’ll say something like, ‘You can’t get past me, I’ll put you in the ground.’ It’s fun competition.”
Page has earned rave reviews from his coaching staff for his performance on both sides of the ball. Offensive coordinator Eric Ruffenach called Page a “great kid and a hard worker.” Page’s max effort during games is always visible during film review.
“He’s always going and never leaves the field,” Gentile said. “If you look at the film, the scheme of the defense for Shawn is outside contain, which he’s quick enough at.”
The Royals (4-1, 2-0) look to build on their hot start Friday night when Conestoga (3-2) comes to town. The Pioneers defeated Harriton last week, 49-8, and have always given Gentile’s teams fits.
Having a player like Page on the field eases his concerns.
“Conestoga runs counter-power and they like to kick out,” Gentile said. “Well, Shawn’s a guy who can kick out as well as Chris Smith. In the last couple of years, we’ve had issues with that. With Shawn, he never gets tired. That’s sort of his thing. He plays offense and defense and he doesn’t get tired.”
In addition to their potent ground assault, the Pioneers have a solid quarterback in Tim Miller, who passed for 204 yards and two TDs in Conestoga’s 43-27 decision over Upper Darby last season.
Page and the Royals’ D-line are ready for another challenge.
“We prepare like we do every week and that’s to prepare for the run,” Page said. “They’ll be a tough team. For us on defense, our goal is to stop the run and have at least two sacks. Last week Chris Smith alone had two sacks. We all want sacks and we all want to stop the run. That’s what we practice for every week, to get better in those areas.”

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