Cheltenham >> After Kennett’s football players shook hands with the victorious Cheltenham gridders following the top seeded Panthers’ 42-20 win in the District `1 5A football semifinal Friday evening, the entire Blue Demon squad walked over to the visitors’ stands, where a packed crowd of Blue Demon fans lauded their heroes with one long, last resounding cheer, accompanied by spirited music from the school band.
“I’m at a loss for words to describe how proud I am of our players,” said Kennett head coach Lance Frazier. “To come as far as we have in the past couple of years is unbelievable. It’s a testament to the young men that we have and the coaching staff. I mean, these guys are warriors – they love each other, and they love the game.
“There are a lot of positives that we can take from this season – I mean, who would have thought we would have come this far, nobody believed in us [at first] but our guys wanted to be great, they wanted to be successful, they wanted to have a [coaching] staff that believed in them, and they reaped the benefits from that. I’m so proud of them.”
One of the Kennett standouts Friday evening, senior running back Garrett Cox, said, “It was great having all these [Blue Demon] fans here tonight; I even saw some fans here from other schools, like Upper Dublin. I’ve grown up with a lot of my teammates ever since we played football for the Kennett Titans youth football program when I was 10, 11 and 12 – a lot of them are my neighbors, and a couple of years ago, we really wanted to [improve] the football culture here. My freshman and sophomore years with Kennett, we had two different coaches, then last year [after Frazier took over], we played in our first district playoff game ever.”
The 5-foot-11, 215-pound Cox was a potent weapon for the Blue Demons Friday evening at Cheltenham, rushing for more than 100 yards for the sixth straight week, catching several passes for solid gains, and scoring on an 18-yard run.
“Garrett is a definition of an all-season football guy,” said Frazier.
The Kennett head coach also lauded the Blue Demons offensive line, which triggered two long touchdown drives – a 13-play, 63-yard march (12 of which were running plays) and a nine-play, 74-yard TD drive to start the second half. Kennett’s offensive line included senior center John Colamarino, senior guards Sam Davidson and Shawn Carroll, junior tackle Matt O’Keefe and senior tackle James Freebery.
“These guys aren’t very big – when you see them in the hallways at school they might look unassuming – but they’ve got huge hearts,” said Frazier. “They’re always in the weight room, working harder than everyone else, all determination and heart, and when they go up against the Rustins and the Unionvilles of the world, they hold their own.”
Although Kennett fell behind 20-0 early in the second quarter Friday, the Blue Demons’ offensive line helped to put together an eight-minute, 13-play touchdown drive that put the visitors on the scoreboard for the first time. And even though top seed Cheltenham pulled off a few big plays to produce a touchdown just before the first half ended, putting the hosts ahead 27-7, the Kennett stands remained packed for the second half.
At halftime, Kennett cheerleading senior co-captains Dessa’Rae Bolton and Genna Eisel pointed to the packed Blue Demon fan section – there were at least three busloads of Blue Demon fans who came to the game, plus two busloads of Kennett band members – and reflected on the visiting fans’ spirit.
“I’m excited to see so many people coming out to see this team – our team has worked so hard this season,” said Bolton.
“It’s like an emotional rush of excitement every time we see our team,” noted Eisel.
Frazier said, “It’s unbelievable to see how our community has been awakened – from not being a football school, to now, when our fans didn’t leave at halftime tonight. It’s been really fun to ride this wave of excitement. I can’t wait to start next season (laughs).
“The work we did in the past off-season had a lot to do with our leap forward this year. If there’s no [coaching] consistency in the program, the kids lose out in the know-how. And our seniors were a huge reason for our success this season. What a tremendous class, they really stepped up and led the way to keeping our focus. This is a special group of seniors – I wish I had them for four years.”