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Southeastern Pennsylvania football rankings: Strange twists in strange season

Undefeated and seventh-ranked Bonner-Prendergast's elimination from state tournament because of coronavirus case underscores the thin ice on which all top teams are skating.

Archbishop Carroll's Darryl Simpson Jr. exults after a touchdown in the Patriots' 34-28 win over New Hope Solebury.  The PIAA Class 3A District 12/District 1 subregional game was played Friday night.
Archbishop Carroll's Darryl Simpson Jr. exults after a touchdown in the Patriots' 34-28 win over New Hope Solebury. The PIAA Class 3A District 12/District 1 subregional game was played Friday night.Read moreJonathan Wilson

As seniors on the verge of the biggest game of their careers, James Welde and Ayden Garnes couldn’t help but look back at their first days as members of the Bonner-Prendergast football program.

“We always knew we could do it,” said Welde, a standout receiver and defensive lineman for the Friars. "We knew when we were freshmen. We knew when we were sophomores and we still were losing games.

“We knew we would be here when we were seniors.”

Garnes, a dynamic defensive back, receiver, and return man, echoed his classmate’s sentiments while standing next to the Friars' field on the afternoon of Nov. 2.

“We knew it was possible from the first day we saw each other as freshmen,” Garnes said.

Welde and Garnes were anticipating the first home state playoff game in Bonner-Prendergast program history, a clash scheduled for last Friday night with District 1 representative Upper Moreland in the first round of the PIAA Class 4A tournament.

But on Wednesday, the Friars were out of the playoffs, thanks to news that a player had tested positive for the coronavirus.

It’s been a fairly common event in this shortest, strangest of high school football seasons. Unionville and Kennett were bounced from the District 1 Class 5A tournament by positive tests. Neumann Goretti was eliminated from the PIAA Class 3A state tournament for the same reason.

The news was crushing for players and coaches from Bonner-Prendergast. The Friars are 3-0, having outscored opponents by 97-6 while rising to the No. 7 spot in the Inquirer Southeastern Pennsylvania Top 10.

And it was another cruel twist for athletes who, like their peers, have been dealing with the impact from sports shutdowns and virtual schooling and social distancing since March.

“I don’t know how many more gut punches these kids can take,” Bonner-Prendergast coach Jack Muldoon said.

The situation has created an uneasy environment for athletes and coaches, especially those from teams that are advancing in postseason play. They spend their time preparing for the next game while holding their breath that there will be a next game, lest a test result comes back with season-crushing news.

Here’s the new Southeastern Pennsylvania Top 10, with last week’s ranking in parentheses:

1. St. Joseph’s Prep (1) 4-0: The Hawks beat Roman Catholic, 42-0, Saturday night as Marvin Harrison became the Philadelphia Catholic League’s all-time leader in receiving yardage, per research by stat maven Ed “Huck” Palmer. Harrison has 2,467 yards, passing the mark of 2,380 set by Roman Catholic great Will Fuller. Harrison also has 33 career touchdown catches, tying the PCL mark set by La Salle’s Jimmy Herron. Quarterback Kyle McCord threw three touchdown passes as St. Joseph’s Prep built a 35-0 lead, marking the third time in three PCL games that the Hawks had started the third quarter with a running clock because of the mercy rule. St. Joseph’s Prep has a bye next weekend and will host the winner of Friday night’s District 1 title game between Souderton and Pennridge in the PIAA Class 6A state semifinals on the weekend of Nov. 20-21.

2. La Salle (3) 5-1: The Explorers move up a spot after an imposing 27-0 win over then-No. 4 Archbishop Wood on Saturday. La Salle’s defense, led by a front line featuring Penn recruit Paul Jennings, held Archbishop Wood to minus-8 yards in the second half before the Vikings put together a pair of first downs on the game’s final drive. Jennings scored on a 1-yard fumble return and quarterback Gavin Daly ran for three scores for La Salle, which is hoping to play one more game this coming weekend, per coach John Steinmetz.

3. Pennridge (2) 6-0: Jack Ferguson’s 40-yard touchdown run with 2 minutes, 44 seconds left rallied the Rams to a 36-33 win over Coatesville on Friday night in the District 1 Class 6A semifinals. Quarterback Bobby Croyle passed for 297 yards and two touchdowns and running back Shane Hartzell busted loose for a 97-yard score for Pennridge, which will make its first appearance in the district finals at home Friday night against Souderton.

4. Malvern Prep (5) 3-0: The Friars broke to a 24-0 lead after one quarter in a 38-6 victory over Valley View on Friday night. Malvern Prep has outscored three opponents by a combined 83-14. The Friars will host Archbishop Wood on Saturday in a clash of Top 10 teams.

5. Coatesville (6) 4-1: The future looks bright for the Red Raiders, who gave Pennridge all it could handle Friday night in the district semifinals. Junior Lebron Bessick returned a pair of kickoffs for touchdowns, although one was nullified by a block in the back, and sophomore Harrison Susi passed for three touchdowns for a team that nearly made the district title game for the fourth season in a row in a so-called “rebuilding year.” Coatesville will not play again this season.

6. Garnet Valley (8) 3-0: Shane Reynolds scored three touchdowns as the Jaguars rushed for 304 yards in a 46-6 win over Upper Darby. Garnet Valley, which along with the rest of the Central League opted out of district and state tournament play, has outscored its three opponents by a combined 156-18. The Jaguars are scheduled to host Ridley on Friday night.

7. Bonner-Prendergast (7) 3-0: Senior quarterback Kyle Lazer is 27-for-46 for 417 yards and seven touchdowns for the Friars. Bonner-Prendergast will be allowed to return to the practice field Nov. 16 and hopes to schedule two more games, according to coach Jack Muldoon.

8. Archbishop Wood (4) 3-2: Injuries are taking a toll on the Vikings, who were without top running backs Kaelin Costello and Ricardo Delgado in Saturday’s setback to La Salle, and also lost quarterback Max Keller for the second game in a row. Archbishop Wood will visit Malvern Prep on Saturday in an intriguing class of PCL and Inter-Ac powers.

9. Souderton (9) 5-0: Elijah Cooks returned an interception for a touchdown and Brayden Porter rushed for 130 yards and two touchdowns as the Big Red beat Spring-Ford, 27-24, in the District 1 Class 6A semifinals. Souderton built a 20-0 halftime lead and held off Spring-Ford’s late charge to advance to meet Pennridge in pursuit of the program’s first District 1 title.

10. Germantown Academy (NR) 2-0: Jordan Longino passed for four touchdowns, including a pair to Jerry Griffin-Bachler, in the Patriots' 42-12 win over Springside Chestnut Hill Academy. Lacey Snowden added 100 rushing yards and Brian Allen returned an interception for a touchdown for Germantown Academy, which will host rival Penn Charter on Saturday.

Under consideration (listed alphabetically): Abington (3-2), Bishop McDevitt (3-1), Bishop Shanahan (3-0), Downingtown East (2-3), Downingtown West (2-2), Haverford (3-0), Neumann Goretti (1-0), Neshaminy (4-1), North Penn (4-1), Pope John Paul II (3-0), Spring-Ford (6-1), West Chester Rustin (4-1).