[tps_title]Bonner-Prendergast Friars [/tps_title]
Friars expect booming numbers to manifest into more wins
UPPER DARBY >> When Bonner & Prendergast lined up to stretch to kick off a recent preseason practice, the Friars aligned in five rows with about eight or so players per row.
Considering it was just the varsity, that number of more than 40 players spoke volumes of everything that has gone on in the past few years under Jack Muldoon. When Muldoon took over as the Friars’ boss, there were a few players shy of 40 in the entire program, and now, his program can boast of having twice that.
It’s a great step forward for the Friars, at a school that nearly closed not that many years ago due to enrollment challenges. This pumped up football team now knows it’s time to show tangible progress in the win column.
Bonner & Prendie hasn’t produced a winning season since 2014, managing a mere 12 games in the past four seasons. The Friars haven’t secured a win over rival Cardinal O’Hara since 2015.
It never gets easier, considering the Friars have to navigate through a treacherous Catholic League slate, but there’s a renewed sense of optimism that this could be a team that finds a way to put aside the struggles of the past few years.
“It drove us all offseason,” center and defensive tackle Anthony Cinaglia said. “It’s very tough to swallow that because you put so much work in the offseason for three wins. We lost a lot of close games. There were a lot that we could have won. Be together. Be more of a family. I feel like that’s what we didn’t do last year. We weren’t close, so this year, I feel like we’re more of a team. When you’re more of a team, those close games get a lot easier.”
“The losses have made everybody hungry and ready to win,” added running back and strong safety Charles Ingram. “Since we lost our last game, we’ve been working hard in the weight room all offseason.”
Ingram, a second-team All-Catholic League Blue Division selection a year ago at running back with 519 rushing yards and 134 receiving yards, won’t suffer for a lack of carries. The 5-10, 205-pounder has plenty around him to work with, too. Quarterback Kyle Lazer (6-2, 175) is back as the signal-caller after throwing for 654 yards and six touchdowns and rushing for 191 yards and three scores.
He’ll often target wide receiver/tight end James Welde (6-3, 190), who was also a second-team All-Catholic Blue pick last year with 264 receiving yards and three touchdowns.
“I feel pretty comfortable knowing that we can hand off to Chuck and he’ll do a lot of the work, and it opens up things for everybody else,” Lazer said. “We’ve been really young the past couple years and we’re a lot better now. I definitely feel more comfortable.”
Cinaglia (6-2, 295) is the headliner on the line, which will not lack for size with blockers like Brian Friend (6-6, 295), Chile Adele (6-0, 275) and Ethan Cottrell (6-1, 310), among others. It’s a younger group, but one loaded with potential, and it’s always easier to block for skill guys like Ingram and running back/linebacker Derrick Jackson III (5-10, 210).
Defensively, it’s a lot of the same faces, but you can also expect Ian Edwards (5-6, 175), Jared Nesbit (5-8, 180) and Ayden Garnes (6-0, 180) to make a big impact in the secondary. Muldoon and his staff are particularly high on Garnes’ potential, as the long, lanky safety has had a tremendous offseason after moving over from cornerback. Ingram drops into the secondary after playing linebacker last year, and a few FCS schools have expressed interest in him there.
“I really like it because at the next level, they want to see me at safety, so I’m getting used to that,” Ingram said. “I feel like I’m going to do well at strong safety. I think I adapted fast.”
As usual, the schedule opens up with a date with neighborhood rival Upper Darby, which has usually served well as a barometer for both teams. The Catholic League slate is its usual daunting self, but one thing’s for sure: Bonner & Prendie isn’t about to be anybody’s punching bag.
“I think we started worrying about details more this year, little things like ending practice on time, stuff that keeps the team motivated,” said Welde, who also plays defensive end and punts. “I think we’re a lot more prepared now than we were last year at this time.”
OFFENSIVE PLAYER TO WATCH
James Welde, Wide Receiver >> The 6-3, 190 pound junior can double as a tight end, and provides a mismatch wherever he lines up. It took him a while to find the end zone a season ago, but he finished the year with touchdowns in three straight games.
“We played Carroll last year and I had a catch in the back of the end zone that was pretty good, and that’s when I got a little bit of confidence going,” he said. “Hopefully, I don’t let it go to my head and I still work hard.”
DEFENSIVE PLAYER TO WATCH
Ayden Garnes, Free Safety >> The light came on for the six-foot, 180-pound Garnes at the end of his sophomore season. He’s blown up in winter training and has been a stalwart on the national 7v7 circuit, earning invitation after invitation to FBU camps, culminating in the final one in Austin, Texas.
“He’s just shot through the roof,” Muldoon said. “He was phenomenal in our last three games of the year and we think he’s going to have a great year.”
By Matt Chandik, For MediaNews Group