Cardinal O'Hara might as well be tap-dancing on a landmine, because the Lions' 2013 schedule isn't getting any easier to navigate.
After opening the season with three straight losses to teams with a combined 10-2 record, the Lions finally tasted victory last weekend, a 41-8 romp over Del Val Charter.
Sunday afternoon at 1 o'clock, the Lions play Archbishop Wood at William Tennent High School. How good is Wood? The Vikings handed PCL Class AA power West Catholic a 48-point defeat a week ago. Wood has outscored its opponents, 183-80.
O'Hara coach Danny Algeo is only worried about his team's preparedness and isn't caught up in the talk about how dangerous Wood is.
"I told the kids that our focus is on us and us as a football team getting better,' Algeo said. "I said to them, ' It's a marathon and not a sprint.' These kids are very good football players. I'm very confident in this group.'
Algeo has been particularly pleased with Kev Campbell, the team's offensive guard. Defensive ends Eric Trainor and Nick Lucchetta, as well as linebacker Nolan Cummings, have also excelled in the first month of the season.
The Lions showed they can hang with the big dogs. They stayed with La Salle two weeks ago, until the Explorers pulled away late in the second half. They started fast against Ryan in Week 1, but succombed to the swelting August heat. The Lions matched fire with fire against Academy Park in Week 2, but surrendered one too many big plays on defense.
After the Wood game, O'Hara hosts The Haverford School and Roman Catholic, teams that are a combined 2-6.
"Hopefully, (the tough schedule) will pay off before the end of this year,' Algeo said. "We believe in this group.'
When Justin Mellor took his first head coaching job at Harriton, Haverford High coach Joe Gallagher had lost a valuable, tenured member of his staff.
Mellor spent 15 years on Gallagher's staff, including the previous 12 as defensive coordinator. This weekend, Mellor returns to Haverford as a visitor.
"Some games you circle and this is one. It's going to be cool,' Mellor said. "I know the kids over there are really excited. My kids are really excited, which is really neat to see that they care enough to this point. That means a lot for me. I spent 15 years there teaching (mathematics) and coaching. I know every single person in that school district.'
Mellor will always remember the story behind his first meeting with Gallagher.
"I got a job right out of college in 1998. In my interview, I was asked if I was interested in any activity and I said football. So, (Gallagher) called me up. My first name is James, but nobody ever calls me James. So, he called my parents and said, ' Can I speak to James Mellor?' And everybody thought it was the wrong number. So we almost never connected. It's crazy how it all worked out.'
Mentor is grateful for the opportunity to coach with Gallagher for all that time, but he fully intends to win Friday night's battle between mentor and protege.
"The biggest thing I learned from him is teaching that toughness (and) setting a high standard for our kids,' Mellor added. "We're always pushing them, you know? We may not always be the most talented team, but we're going to play a certain way. We're going to always go out there with our hair on fire.'
Lineman Devon Vogel and linebacker Larry Mills highlight and Upper Darby defense that shut out Marple Newtown last weekend. Mills has accumulated 56 tackles in four games.
Free safety Rory Bellwoar and cornerbacks Kevin White and Cyrus Barlee have allowed only three completions over the last three games. In man-to-man coverage, Barlee has yet to give up a catch all season. Opposing quarterbacks have completed just 29 percent of passes against UD's secondary.
Academy Park All-Delco running back Jerry Lanier is expected to return next week, when the Knights are back in action to kick off Del Val League play against Interboro.
Academy Park is off this weekend.
Lanier suffered an upper-body injury in the Knights' 28-13 loss to Pennridge last Friday. He is the county's leading rusher after four weeks, with 685 yards (10.7 ypc) and six touchdowns. Osman Toure and quarterback Brian Ingram stepped up against Pennridge after Lanier was removed from the game.
Quick Hits: Interboro's Pat Cashin was on target last Saturday against Penn Charter. The senior quarterback enjoyed his best game to date, completing 7 of 13 passes for 114 yards and a touchdown...Tamien Jackson has been Chichester's top performer, alternating at running back and wide receiver. In the Eagles' blowout loss to Archbishop Ryan last Saturday, Jackson racked up plenty of tackles in the secondary, while also catching his third touchdown pass of the season...Episcopal Academy has a tough road ahead. The undefeated Churchmen play their next five games away from home, starting Friday night at Chichester (2-2).. Statistically speaking, Penncrest owns the best defense in the county. The Lions rank No. 1 in total defense (124.25 ypg) and rush defense (45.75) through four weeks...Garnet Valley has yet to lose a fumble and has committed just one turnover. The Jags are plus-6 in giveaways and takeaways...Ridley's rush offense has steadily improved every week, from 58 yards in Week 1, to 132 yards in last week's 20-0 blanking of Springfield. With 247 yards and four scores, Malik Jones is leading the way. Malcolm Strand-Young broke out for a career-high 110 yards in the Springfield game...Every Delco team is in the win column. Haverford High, Haverford School, Cardinal O'Hara and Penn Wood got off the schneid last weekend.
Daily Times Super 7
1. Garnet Valley (4-0)
2. Episcopal Academy (4-0)
3. Academy Park (3-1)
4. Penncrest (4-0)
5. Interboro (2-2)
6. Ridley (2-2)
7. Springfield (3-1)