Aces adjust without O’Connor’s arm
Lower Merion >> Youth is the key word for the Lower Merion football squad this fall, as the Aces lost 22 players to graduation last spring.
One of those seniors was quarterback Matt O’Connor, who threw for 2,006 yards, the most in the long history of LM football. O’Connor, who finished his LM career with 3,446 yards in 23 games (also a school record), is now on the Villanova University football squad.
“We threw the ball a lot last year, and rightfully so, we had the best quarterback in the school’s history,” said Lower Merion football head coach Evan Breisblatt. “We also had four of the best wide receivers in the school’s history [including Jalen Goodman, also now with Villanova].
“This year, we have a lot of good running backs, and our quarterback, Rodger Roberts, is a good runner, so we’ll probably be very multiple in our offense. Our running attack will depend on the guys up front, of course, but our running attack looks more solid now than I thought it would be.”
Roberts, a 6-foot-1, 180-pound senior signal-caller, gives the Aces some offensive versatility.
“Rodger is a very athletic quarterback with the ability to throw,” said Breisblatt. “He will be a true dual threat quarterback. Rodger has done a nice job taking on a leadership role throughout the summer and in camp.”
Roberts said, “I’ve got to step up this year because I know we don’t have a lot of seniors this year. I’ve got to be a team leader; we’ve got a lot of incoming freshmen and incoming sophomores this year. We have a lot of freshmen who might be [reluctant] to take that one step up and be leaders, but everybody can be leaders on this team, it doesn’t have to be just me [at quarterback].”
In preseason, the top Lower Merion running backs were junior fullback D’Shawn Jemison (5-11, 200), junior Abdoulie Sahor (5-9, 150), sophomore Jay Zheng (5-5, 170), sophomore Kaden Blackwell (5-9, 170), senior Brandon Desper (5-9, 185) and sophomore Isaiah Scott-Deshields (5-9, 145).
Jemison said, “We have a lot of guys who have been working out in the weight room and have come back bigger and stronger than last year. We don’t have a lot of seniors this year, we have a lot of young guys, so we’re looking to get better, get stronger in the weight room so we can make a difference.”
Breisblatt is accentuating the positive with his youthful squad.
“We have some kids in here [during Heat Acclimation Week] that want to be part of the program, and we have some kids in here that we thought we lost that are back in the program, so athletically, we are pretty good,” said Breisblatt. “But we are very young. We only have five or six seniors, and they’ll probably all going to play, play, they’ll all be significant players, but we’ll see how long it takes the young guys to get acclimated.”
Lower Merion’s leading wide receivers are senior Jaden Holder (5-9, 150), sophomore Jack Lledo (5-7, 130), junior Niakia Allen (5-7, 135) and junior A.J. Haynes (6-0, 175).
Up front, the Aces will be led by junior left tackle/defensive end Elijah Phillipe (6-5, 225), junior center/defensive tackle Ari Charmont (6-2, 230), senior right tackle/guard/nose guard Noah Prichard (6-1, 215), senior guard Phil Cook (6-1, 215), sophomore guard/nose guard James Dougherty (5-8, 175) and freshman tackle Xavier Archawski (6-3, 220).
“Our line is really coming into its own and has been the biggest surprise in [pre-season] camp,” said Breisblatt. “Elijah saw some action as a sophomore last year, and could be an FCS/FBS prospect in my opinion after this season. Noah is a returning starter who brings experience with some a tough demeanor to the line. Ari brings size and athleticism to both sides of the ball. James is very strong and Xavier has to the potential and frame to be a big time college prospect in a couple of years. He will be a force in the years to come.”
Leading the defense will be the 5-foot-11, 200-pound junior D’Shawn Jemison at either defensive end or outside linebacker.
“D-Shawn is very quick and explosive – he has that ‘it’ factor about him,” said Breisblatt. “He has the potential to be an elite college prospect.”
The Lower Merion linebacking unit will be led by Sahor, Zheng and Desper, with Cook at middle linebacker.
“Phil is a big, strong athlete who played a lot last season and solidifies the middle,” said Breisblatt.
The secondary will be led by Holder, Lledo, Allen and Haynes.
The Aces will kick off the season Aug. 23 at Upper Merion.
“In our Heat Acclimation Camp, we had a lot of surprises, both good and bad – fortunately for us, more good than bad,” said Breisblatt. “Our line went from very young and inexperienced to becoming a bright spot so far. They have the potential to be a very good group over the next 2-3 years.”
Lower Merion 2019 Schedule
Offensive Player to Watch
Rodger Roberts, quarterback >> Roberts, a 6-foot-1, 180-pound senior signal-caller, gives the Aces some offensive versatility. “Rodger is a very athletic quarterback with the ability to throw,” said LM coach Evan Breisblatt. “He will be a true dual threat quarterback. Rodger has done a nice job taking on a leadership role throughout the summer and in camp.”
Defensive Player to Watch
D’Shawn Jemison >> defensive end/linebacker >> The 5-11, 200-pound junior gives the Aces a potential star on defense. “D-Shawn is very quick and explosive – he has that ‘it’ factor about him,” said LM head coach Evan Breisblatt. “He has the potential to be an elite college prospect.” Jemison also will play fullback for Lower Merion.
By Bruce Adams; email@example.com