By: Rich Flanagan
Photos: Mike Nance
RADNOR, PA – When Kyle Detweiler looked up into the stands, they were nearly empty. Aside from the Archbishop Carroll school band, there was no one in attendance. All the work that he, fellow coaches, administrators and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia had done to just be able to have both teams on the field at the same time finally came to fruition on Saturday but constraints brought on by the coronavirus kept fans, for the most part, at home.
Some parents and students ushered in during the Patriots season-opening contest against the Archbishop Ryan Raiders, but this season is going to be all about how a team and its coaching staff come together and realize that, in plain football terms, it’s only them and the opponent.
The COVID-19 pandemic brought about a cancellation to the football season for Archdiocese of Philadelphia programs but that course was reversed on September 25 and play was allowed to begin. There was no training camp and very few teams to get ready to play.
For Detweiler, beginning his third season at the helm of the Patriots, safety was paramount and he knew his team was going to be ready to play from the first snap.
“We’re definitely behind with the actual football stuff, especially schemes, but the kids have been working hard in the weight room and conditioning,” Detweiler said. “We’re not too far behind in terms of football shape. It was us getting prepared to play with no training camp or heat acclimation week. We could only get together after school.”
New starting quarterback Nick Lamey found First Team All-Catholic wide receiver Malachi Hansen for a pair of touchdowns and Brennan Robinson returned two kickoffs for scores as Archbishop Carroll throttled Archbishop Ryan, 40-6.
Lamey, taking over for dynamic dual threat Russell Minor-Shaw, who started under center the last two seasons, rushed for 21 yards on the team’s opening drive and five plays later Robinson scored the first touchdown of the season with a three-yard scamper to give the Patriots an early lead.
Almost midway through the second quarter, Lamey and Hansen connected for their first touchdown of the year with a 13-yard hookup in the left corner of the end zone to put Archbishop Carroll (1-0, 1-0 Philadelphia Catholic League) up, 13-0. On the ensuing drive, Lamey found Hansen for completions of 22 and 20 yards to set the Patriots up with 1st and goal from the Raiders’ one-yard line. Nate Gould took a handoff from Lamey and rumbled for a touchdown on the very next play.
Hansen, who recorded five receptions for 116 yards and two touchdowns, developed a terrific rapport with Minor-Shaw but, even after the Patriots won seven games a year ago, his gaze turned to his senior season and finding ways to build a new one with Lamey (173 passing yards).
“As soon as the season ended last year, Nick and I knew that we were going to be paired together this year,” Hansen said. “So, ever since the season ended, we’ve been working and building chemistry so that whenever we need to go off, we can go off.
Going off may be an understatement as not only did the two link up in the second half once again but Robinson made his presence felt early and often in the third quarter.
He returned the opening kickoff of the second half 81 yards to the house. The next drive saw Lamey pump and threw a perfect pass to Hansen down the right sideline for a 61-yard score and the Patriots were cruising with a 33-0 lead with 2:39 left in the third.
Lamey and Hansen never saw the field after that drive as Robinson took another kickoff to the end zone, this time from 81 yards to cap off a dominant performance by Archbishop Carroll. The starters were pulled at that point.
On the other side, the Raiders (0-1, 0-1), under the direction of second-year head coach Chris Lampart, did not have many answers for the Patriots. Archbishop Ryan lost starting quarterback Rob McConnell following its opening drive due to injury but Dwayne Yost showed flashes in relief. He found Joe Mastrangelo on a wide-receiver screen and Mastrangelo did the rest by sprinting 59 yards for a touchdown. Running back Arturo Brunelli had a strong day of the ground with 114 yards on 26 carries.
Lampart understands the hurdles that come with building a foundation with a new program but he’s enjoying the grind and knows games like this will increase the team’s hunger and desire as the season rolls on.
“We’re trying to build it all from the bottom up,” Lampart said. “There’s a thousand things to do and it feels like you’re constantly putting out fires all over the place. We’re trying to build up the roster with good, smart, athletic, family-type kids. We’re trying to install a playbook that’s different from what they’ve seen in the past. It’s getting everybody up to speed and hopefully throughout the season we remain healthy.”
When the Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced in September that it would move forward with fall sports, the question about scheduling was at the top of many agendas. The Patriots will play seven games this season: six against Philadelphia Catholic League opponents and one non-league versus Pennsbury. The Raiders have four games scheduled this season, all against league foes.
While the bleachers may be close to empty at games this season, families and fans are cheering teams on from home. Detweiler may not be able to see a multitude of fans in the stands on game day but the support of those people and the comradery amongst the team will be the biggest factor, a season unlike any other.