Four weeks isn’t all that much time to determine how good a football team is. The pendulum can swing back and forth wildly in such a short time.
Take Haverford School, which went from being unable to hold onto the ball in a rout of an opening loss to Northeast, then last week took the fight to La Salle for the better part of three quarters. Or Marple Newtown, which carries a 4-0 record but has done so against teams with a combined 1-15 record (and KIPP-DuBois has the win).
Some teams are trying to find an identity. Others trying to figure out execution. Then there are those after something more nuanced: How to take the identity and execution, and adapt it as the schedule ebbs and flows.
A few such challenges will present themselves in Week 5.
Haverford School at Father Judge, 6
The Fords (1-2) have had two straight impressive performances. The win over Archbishop Carroll two weeks ago looks even better, given the Patriots’ triumph over West Catholic. The Fords’ defense was worn down for 523 yards by La Salle last week, but Haverford School was within two possessions of the perennial powerhouse after three quarters.
Judge (1-3) has just one win despite being outscored by a grand total of four points, averaging 31 points per contest. Three of the games have been on the road, and returning home could be a big boost.
Arch. Carroll at Card. O’Hara, 7
A tough schedule is paying dividends for Carroll (2-2). Losses to Seton Hall Prep and Haverford School were shaken off by beating West Catholic, the biggest win for the program under Kyle Detweiler. Russell Minor-Shaw is living up to the promise of a multi-year starter, and his plethora of options will test the O’Hara secondary.
The Lions (1-2) have six points in six-plus quarters since Keed Kpoto’s ankle injury against Father Judge. He gained just three yards on five touches in last week’s 26-0 loss to Bishop McDevitt. Though Cole Sprague battled (10-for-15 for 64 yards, 76 yards rushing), the Lions need consistency in the running game to open up the field for Sprague’s passing game.
Strath Haven at Haverford, 7
The Panthers (4-0) survived a road test last week by edging Radnor, proving they can a win a low-scoring game. Haverford presents a different, and given the classifications, perhaps more desperate challenge. The Panthers have four running backs averaging more than seven yards per carry.
Haverford (2-2) has rallied from an 0-2 start with back-to-back routs, but its district playoff aspirations can ill-afford another slip up. It’ll be tough. Strath Haven is averaging 41 points per game; though the Fords have allowed just 56 points all season, 35 of them to Garnet Valley three weeks ago.
Marple Newtown at Upper Darby, 7
Marple Newtown’s league wins have come against the bottom-dwelling trio of Harriton, Conestoga and Lower Merion. Upper Darby’s wins are against the former two. So neither team has exactly been tested.
The Royals allowed 311 rushing yards to Penn Wood last week. Marple quarterback Joe Paoletti has thrown eight touchdowns and no interceptions the last three weeks.
Massaponax (Va.) at Penn Wood, 7
The Patriots (3-1) don’t face the daunting out-of-state trip that league mate Academy Park does: The Knights visit Martinsburg, the three-time defending West Virginia Class 3A champ that has won 42 straight games, including a 42-20 triumph at AP last year.
But in this Spotsylvania, Va. opponent, PW has a formidable test, too. The Panthers (2-1) are similar to Penn Wood in that their games tend to be for the offensively inclined. Massaponax is scoring 40 points per game; it is giving up 30. Penn Wood is coming off a 44-25 win over Upper Darby and has a 38-35 tilt with Pennsbury under its belt. About the only thing that could slow the teams down is the Kerr Field surface, though it hasn’t hosted football since Aug. 23.