Football Preview: Stingy defense isn’t only reason Bonner-Prendergast is excited

Bonner-Prendergast’s 2019 resurgence to nine wins was rooted squarely on the defensive end: When the Friars were at their best, it all started with the defense creating space for them to win games.

In 11 games last year, the Friars allowed 144 points, an average of 13.1 per contest. Take out the two playoff games, including a season-ending loss to powerhouse Imhotep Charter, and Bonner conceded just 90 points in nine regular-season games. They held eight opponents to two touchdowns or fewer and pitched two shutouts.

So a shutout in the 2020 opener, a crossover contest with Roman Catholic won by a 21-0 margin last Saturday, should’ve surprised no one who was paying attention.

Archbishop Carroll quarterback Nick Lamey isn’t going anywhere as he is hit by Bonner-Prendie’s Nasiim Rhodes-Nelson in a game last year. (Pete Bannan/MediaNews Group)

“It was kind of what we expected,” head coach Jack Muldoon said Saturday. “We are fine-tuning some things, but it was good to get off to a fast start.”

Playing fast is the mantra for the defense. They’ve got playmakers all over the field, led by All-Delco defensive back Ayden Garnes. Fellow All-Delco Oscar Uduma, a master disruptor at defensive end, graduated last year. But there are plenty of talented players in the defensive unit vying to fill the void this season.

Garnes and Derrick Jackson both had interceptions in the opener. David Kpeglo, Devon Harris and Ethan Cottrell (when he returns to health) are playmakers and gap-fillers on the line. Gaven Hunt and Nasiim Rhodes-Nelson got plenty of experience in the secondary last year, and the strong safety Rhodes-Nelson in particular has the speed and size to make plays wherever he is put on the field. The combination of talent and experience is hard to beat for a team looking to build, in this abbreviated campaign, on last year’s 9-2 record.

The continuity applies to the offensive end, too. Kyle Lazer returns for another season under center, having thrown for 1,014 yards last year. He tossed 15 touchdowns against nine interceptions (the latter number inflated by three picks in the desperation comeback attempt against Imhotep). With a defense that creates a ton of turnovers and gave them a bevy of short fields to work with, the yardage number is underwhelming, but Lazer has developed an ability to make clutch throws, as the touchdown number illustrates.

He’s got a pair of All-Catholic League Blue Division second-team weapons at his disposal in tight end James Welde and running back Mason Peterson. Welde, a lanky end with good hands, caught 26 balls for 369 yards and eight touchdowns last year, including a nine-catch, 122-yard performance with three touchdowns against Lansdale Catholic in Week 6. He hauled in seven catches for 109 yards and one of Lazer’s two scores against Roman last week.

Peterson started his sophomore season as the second option to senior Charles Ingram but blossomed into the Friars’ leading rusher last year. He ran for 604 yards and five touchdowns, with three 100-yard games, including a Week 10 win over West Catholic and also the District 12 semifinal victory over Archbishop Carroll. Peterson started his junior campaign with 22 carries for 130 yards and a 21-yard touchdown against Roman.

The returning talent has Bonner-Prendergast dreaming big this season.

“This is our year, we’ve been training for this since entering freshman year,” Garnes said Saturday. “We knew this group (could) be the one to win a state title, and that’s what we’re going for.”

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