It isn’t easy when everyone is gunning for you. Gabe Infante, however, doesn’t really mind.
The St. Joseph’s Prep football coach always says that if every team considers defeating you as the pinnacle to their season, you must be doing something right. Plus, it makes his players work that much harder because they can’t ever rest on their laurels.
With three PIAA state titles in the past five years and a loss in the final on a frigid night in Hershey last December, the Prep remains the marquee program in the entire state of Pennsylvania.
According to senior running back Marques Mason, the past is the past.
“We’re excited and hungry,” said Mason. “We’ve put in so much work this offseason. Everyone is all in with what we’re doing and ready to have an amazing season.”
After entering the season ranked 17th by USA Today, the Prep has played twice. The first contest versus eighth-ranked St. Frances Academy of Maryland ended in the third quarter because of lightning. The Hawks trailed, 13-7, at the time; there has been no update regarding the completion of the contest.
Against St. Peter’s Prep (N.J.) at Rutgers University, the Hawks trailed early before rebounding for a 35-27 victory. Behind a line led by senior All-Catholic center Anthony Cerrutti, sophomore quarterback Kyle McCord fired a pair of TD passes while junior Kolbe Burrell rushed for 111 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries. Burrell and Mason combined for 1,627 yards and 28 touchdowns last year.
The Hawks’ deep roster includes the return of sophomore Jeremiah Trotter (son of former Eagles linebacker Jeremiah Trotter) and the addition of sophomore transfer Marvin Harrison Jr. (son of NFL Hall of Fame receiver Marvin Harrison, a Roman Catholic alum), who scored six touchdowns at La Salle as a freshman.
La Salle was decimated by graduation and so far it’s been a grind discovering momentum. The Explorers have lost three games by a composite 90-46, albeit against rugged competition. In a 35-23 loss to Malvern Prep, senior Manny Quiles (342 yards, nine TDs last year) rushed for 78 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. All-Catholic wide receiver Brett Mallee is fresh off a solid 386-yard, four-touchdown campaign and figures to be junior QB Jack Machita’s top target.
After winning the Class 5A state title, its fourth in five years and fifth in seven, Archbishop Wood has entered a new regime behind a new coach, 24-year-old former Wood and Ursinus College standout Kyle Adkins.
The Vikings are still looking for their first victory after two tough defeats. Wood dropped a 16-7 bout against McDonogh of Maryland, then lost to Bergen Catholic (N.J.), 21-7. Against McDonogh, seniors Leroy Pendleton and Chris Blackstone (touchdown and interception) combined for 100 yards on 19 carries. Against Bergen, junior Tom Santiago carried 16 times and amassed 109 yards and a touchdown.
Three-year starting quarterback Jack Colyar returns at quarterback after compiling 1,169 yards and 11 touchdowns passing. The senior said the Vikings don’t plan to change much even with a different, much younger person at the helm.
“We have all maintained the same attitude as years’ past for the most part,” said Colyar. “We all are going to continue to work extremely hard and keep a great attitude. There isn’t a lot of pressure because it’s just a game and all you can do is prepare your best every day. The feeling is the same. Everyone wants to win another state championship, and that’s what we are working towards.”
On defense, senior twin brothers Kevin and Brad Otto man the secondary after intercepting a combined seven passes last fall. Senior Brett Gross is strong at middle linebacker.
“Graduations are part of football. It happens every year,” said Gross. “We did lose talented players, but we also have talented players who have been waiting for their shot to prove themselves.
“Attitude has been on point. Everyone is excited about the new season. Coach Adkins has been with us for years and he received Coach (Steve) Devlin’s blessing. I think it was an easy transition for him and us. No more pressure than there has been is the past. Wood football is and will always be Wood football. The bottom line is still the same. Our goal as Wood football players is to get better every day and work towards a state championship.”
Archbishop Ryan has been on fire. The Raiders opened with a 38-30 slugfest victory over Bartram, followed by blowouts over Frankford (41-0) and Interboro (41-14). In the latter, returning senior QB Jahlil Sanders enjoyed one of the best-ever performances by any Raider. He completed 15 of 25 passes for 263 yards and five touchdowns, giving him eight in the past two games. On the ground, Sanders added 172 yards on 15 carries.
Highlight-reel sophomore Tyreek Chappell enjoyed a sensational debut with 71 yards receiving, 35 rushing, and two TDs. As a receiver, Chappell has snared 10 catches for 262 yards and five touchdowns. He has also scored on a kickoff return.
After stopping Ridley, 35-21, behind second-year senior QB Shane Dooley (10 completions for 235 yards and three TDs; 84 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries), Father Judge dropped a defensively challenged, 56-46 decision to Springside Chestnut Hill Academy in the first varsity game at Ramp Athletic Complex across the street from Father Judge High School.
Against SCH, all-Catholic senior wide receiver Katob Joseph, who last year caught 42 passes for 705 yards, gained 413 yards on the ground, and tallied nine total touchdowns, displayed similar fervor. Joseph rushed for 241 yards on 20 carries and caught three passes for 115 more, ending the night with five touchdowns (three receiving, two rushing), this after grabbing four passes for 117 yards and two scores against Ridley.
Roman Catholic is 0-3, including a 38-20 loss to Blue Division representative Conwell-Egan and a 49-17 loss to Malvern Prep. In the former, sophomore quarterback Rhyme Robinson completed 10 of 21 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns while sophomore Ivan Thorpe caught four passes for 129 yards and a touchdown. In the latter, junior Brian Burton finished with 116 yards and two touchdown runs and also added an interception.
John Knebels can be reached at Jknebels@gmail.com.
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