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FOOTBALL: PCL Red Division Preview – Built on Toughness

09/04/2019, 12:00pm EDT
By John Knebels - Video by Chris Williams

PCL Red - "Built on Toughness"


Dillon Trainer, senior MLB, La Salle College HS - Casey Stephenson, senior OL, St. Joseph's Prep - Shane McGovern, senior WR/S, Father Judge HS - Ryan DiVergilis, senior RB/S, Archbishop Wood - Bill Martelon, senior OL/DL, Roman Catholic HS - Julian Jones, senior RB/LB, Archbishop Ryan - In the huddle with Archbishop Ryan! 

By: Chris Williams & Angelise Stuhl

By: John Knebels


PHILADELPHIA –Some of the scores are close. Some are lopsided. The one common denominator when football teams from the Catholic League Red Division face each other head to head? 


While the talent levels might be disparate, the willingness to play to the whistle remains ubiquitous. In post-game speeches by coaches, rarely are players’ collective effort and desire questioned. 

Below is a glimpse of the Red Division’s recent past and present, which includes four new head coaches. In addition, various players from each of the six teams from the Catholic Red were asked to briefly reflect on what “toughness” means to them. 

St. Joseph’s Prep left Hershey last December and returned to North Philly carrying the school’s fourth PIAA state championship trophy in six years. Most of those Hawks have graduated. 

New coach Tim Roken, however, will rely on eight returning All-Catholics – five of them first-teamers in junior quarterback Kyle McCord, senior running back Kolbe Burrell, junior wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr., senior linebacker Liam Johnson, and senior offensive lineman Casey Stephenson. Second-teamers include senior offensive lineman Matt McGeary, senior defensive lineman Anthony Leneghan, and junior linebacker Jeremiah Trotter Jr.

McCord was the Red Division Most Valuable Player after throwing for 2,883 yards and 35 touchdowns as a sophomore. Burrell rushed for 923 yards and 12 touchdowns. Harrison snared 50 of McCord’s 201 completions (in 302 attempts) for 724 yards and eight scores. 

St. Joseph's Prep first year head coach, Tim Roken, talks about his key objectives:

St. Joseph's Prep senior captain, Casey Stephenson, is short and sweet when discussing the Hawk's season outlook:

The Hawks will once again be the team to beat. They are coming off a 13-0 season – their sixth perfect record – and have amassed an astounding overall record of 40-1 since the beginning of 2016. 

“Mental toughness means being a mature football player,” said Leneghan. “Being mentally tough is staying focused when you are tired . . . knowing the difference between being injured and being hurt, and knowing your limits and pushing yourself to those limits.”

La Salle finished 3-2 in the division and 5-6 overall, but the Explorers displayed their mettle in the 6A Catholic League championship. After losing 49-12 during the regular season, they put a major scare into heavy favorite St. Joseph’s Prep, leading late before succumbing, 23-13. 

Five Explorers – junior offensive lineman Ryan Wills, senior defensive lineman Ryan Savage, senior linebacker Dillon Trainer, junior defensive back Zaire McLauren, and senior kicker Jake Gandolfo – were first-team All-Catholics. Senior defensive back Tyson Goldstein and sophomore running back Sam Brown (43 carries for 438 yards and five touchdowns; 13 catches for 164 and two touchdowns) were second-team selections.

La Salle's senior captain, Dillon Trainer, looks for the Explorer's to be "Back on Top" this season:

Senior Jack Machita returns at quarterback after missing all but two games following an injury. Senior TJ Meachum intercepted three passes, returning one for a touchdown.

“As a football team, I think toughness is how we handle each opponent,” said Trainer. “We don’t care who we are playing, what their record is, or who they have on their team. We go out and treat every team like a faceless opponent. 

“We are really beginning to develop an attitude among our players that I think is becoming an edge, and kids are willing to do whatever it takes to win.”

Archbishop Wood placed second in the division with a 4-1 record and advanced to the 5A state semifinals before losing to Penn Hills, 20-13. Among their main cogs, senior Tom Santiago gained 1,695 yards and scored 16 touchdowns, and at safety was credited with 21 solo tackles and six assists, two interceptions, two forced fumbles, and two sacks.

But Santiago will be playing at William Tennent this fall. Likewise, most of the Viking starters graduated, though senior defensive back Ryan DiVergilis returns following a stalwart season (24 solo tackles, 13 assists, two interceptions, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, and two sacks).   

“Toughness in my eyes has to be the fact that I played varsity as a sophomore,” said junior wide receiver/defensive back Ryan Woertz. “Most players that I've played against have been bigger and more physical than me. 

The Vikings are primed and ready for the season:

“Toughness is defined as the ability to deal with hardship or to cope in difficult situations. I've had to deal with a groin injury and overcome the hardships that came with it. Coaches are tough on us so that we work hard during practices and it all comes together during games. I see myself as a tough player because of all the things I've overcome.”

Wood junior running back/receiver/defensive back A.J. Minners can relate.

“When I think of toughness, I think of a person being able to get up after being hit over and over again or failing on a play and still getting up,” said Minners. “Toughness is being able to fight through the walls being put in front of you.”

Archbishop Ryan has a new man in charge – Chris Lampart. Among his most dependables, senior defensive lineman Chris Brown, senior offensive lineman Kyle Davis, and junior wide receiver/defensive back Tyreek Chappell were named first-team All-Catholic (Chappell was also second team on defense). 

Senior Julian Jones rushed for 924 yards and seven touchdowns while catching nine passes for 107 yards for the Raiders, who ignited last season with six straight wins before losing four of their last six.  

“As soon as I heard toughness, I thought of Ryan football,” said senior running back/linebacker Nathan Kennish. “The main thing at Ryan is toughness. To even be able to play at Ryan, you need to be tough and determined to succeed.

“Toughness to me is playing through adversity. Being able to still give it your all at the end of the game no matter what the score is. To be tough is a commitment. It’s not for everyone.”

Archbishop Ryan first year head coach, Chris Lampart, expects to compete and improve each week:

Ryan senior, Julian Jones, says the Raiders are ready to bring the toughness:

Father Judge also has a new coach, but a familiar one to Catholic League zealots. 

Frank McArdle, formerly of Archbishop Ryan for the past decade, inherits a Crusaders squad that struggled to a 1-4 mark. Making matters more muddled is that months after the season concluded, 1,337 rushing yards, 1,800 passing yards, and 18 touchdown tosses graduated.

But all is not lost. Far from it. 

Senior wide receiver/cornerback Darrell Tripline scored a combined six touchdowns. Senior receiver Dan Foy caught 24 passes for 260 yards and three touchdowns. Senior receiver/safety Shane McGovern converted 35 catches into 350 yards and two scores; he also intercepted two passes and took one to the end zone. Senior safety Kevin Kelly added two picks. 

“I think of our toughness as being mentally and physically strong,” said McGovern. “Our toughness around the school is revolved around remembering the 27 war vets who were brave enough to put their lives on the line at such a young age. 

“Our toughness as a football team, in my view, comes from each individual being from and around the same neighborhood, because we all grew up watching Father Judge and all the other Catholic League teams go head to head, which made us believe that one day we could all be out there together playing as one team.”

Father Judge's first year head coach, Frank McArdle, talks about staying competitive this season:

Father Judge senior, Shane McGovern, talks about developing the Crusader's younger players:

Roman Catholic first-year coach Rick Prete retains several valuable contributors from last year’s 1-10, 0-5 team. Senior linebacker Jerome Best and senior punter Ryan Flaherty were named second-team All-Catholic. Senior running back/linebacker Brian Burton collected 493 yards and five touchdowns on the ground and caught 13 passes; he added an interception-return touchdown.

Junior Ivan Thorpe caught 11 passes for 169 yards and scored three total touchdowns. Junior Shemar Ellis gained 90 yards in a 26-14 loss to La Salle. In sporadic quarterbacking duty, junior Rhyme Robinson completed 33 passes for 343 yards and two touchdowns. 

“Toughness is a perfect word to describe my experience with Roman football over the past four years,” said senior two-way lineman Bill Martelon. “We’ve had a tough three seasons on the field, but this team never quit. We push through. We stuck together. We picked each other up. We did not let the negativity pull us down. We use it to motivate us. That to me is toughness. 

“Mental and physical toughness not only comes from within yourself, but from the people you surround yourself with – my coaches and teammates. Roman football both inspires and pushes me every day to have the toughness needed to perform on the field. 

“This year, Roman football is one word – tough.”

First year head coach, Rick Prete, talks about developing Roman Catholic's younger players and overcoming adversity:

Roman Catholic senior, Ahmir Adams, talks about what it means to wear the "Purple and Gold":


(John Knebels can be reached at

Tag(s): Home  Schools  Philadelphia Catholic  Football  Red Division  Father Judge Football 6A  La Salle Football 6A  Roman Catholic Football 6A  Saint Joe's Prep Football 6A  Arch. Ryan Football 5A  Arch. Wood Football 5A