Royals’ strength lies in their experience
UPPER DARBY >> Upper Darby head coach Rich Gentile likes the idea of being first, whether it pertains to the Central League standings, seeding for the district playoffs, or christening a new playing surface at Memorial Field.
“There’s something about being the first in whatever it is,” Gentile said, as talk after a recent practice session turned to the new turf field his players will call home this season.
“Having this new field will be great for the teams that get to use it, for the players who play on it, for our school, and for our community. In the past, if we had rain we couldn’t go outside to practice because we’d be slipping all over in the wet grass. Now we’ll be able to go out on the turf field and get our work done.”
Gentile, who is in his 25th season as the Royals’ head coach, also is looking forward to having a large group of experienced players who helped the 2018 team to seven wins as well as a district playoff spot back in uniform this summer.
“There’s enough of them,” the coach said. “And there’s players who don’t have that much varsity experience, but who did a good job for our JV team last year.”
In statistical terms, you can’t get much closer than the contributions All-Delco running back Kareem Adams (5-11, 215 pounds) and returning starting quarterback Kevin Kerwood (5-8, 160) made during their junior seasons.
Adams’ numbers included 251 carries for 1,377 yards (5.5 average) and 16 touchdowns. Kerwood was 76-for-148 passing (51.4 percent) for 1,388 yards and 14 TDs.
“We worked hard to get ready for this season,” Kerwood said.
Among the other key senior veterans are defensive backs/wide receivers James Tuayemie (6-0, 185), Jacob Gouch (6-2, 160), and Fakur Stewart (6-1, 180) and offensive lineman/linebacker Delva Jean-Baptiste (5-10, 235).
“We did a lot of lifting and played in 7-on-7s,” Gouch said. “We knew we’d have to be ready when we came back when practice started.”
Among the top varsity newcomers will be senior Kevin Redden (6-2, 280), an offensive and defensive lineman, and juniors Darrell Farmer (5-8, 165), a running back and defensive back, and linemen Josh Dennis (6-3, 250) and Pat Kerwood (6-1, 225).
“Our experience will be our strength,” Gentile said. “We didn’t have to change much around because we have the people coming back that we do. We’re counting on some linemen who moved up to replace those we lost from last year’s team.
“But the biggest thing is that we need to stay focused. We know things won’t always go well and there might be times we get behind and have to come back to try to win a game. We need to maintain that mental toughness and want to do it.”
Upper Darby’s non-league schedule includes a showdown with neighborhood rival Bonner & Prendergast to open the season and a match-up against defending Del Val League champion Penn Wood three weeks later.
Midway through the Central League portion of the schedule, the Royals have a three-game challenge in which they will face Ridley, Radnor and Garnet Valley on successive weekends.
Thanksgiving Day will bring the 98th Turkey Bowl meeting with Central League contender Haverford High.
“We play good non-league teams, and having a Central League schedule is always tough,” Gentile said. “But we want to be competitive in every game and have the opportunity to win at the end.”
Upper Darby 2019 Schedule
Offensive Player to Watch
Kevin Kerwood, Quarterback >> He begins his second year as a starter. “My job is to make sure everything is OK out on the field, know the plays, and then go out there and execute,” he said. “I have to do whatever I can to make sure we get a touchdown.”
Defensive Player to Watch
Jacob Gouch, Defensive back >> In his third year as a defensive starter. “It’s also my first season playing any offense,” he said. “I know defensively we want to always be aggressive and get to the ball. I didn’t have any interceptions last year, but I know once the first one comes this year, others will follow.”
By Harry Chaykun, For MediaNews Group