As the Collingswood High School football team works through some growing pains this season, there's still room for optimism: they may have some help in the works.
The Collingswood Youth Football Senior team, which competes in the inter-community Tri-County Midget Football League clinched its divisional title for a second consecutive year after trouncing West Deptford 41-14 Saturday night.
The team, which comprises players aged 12-14, is led by quarterback Ari McNeely and running back Brandon Hopkins, who amassed more than 200 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns in the game (Hopkins has 11 on the season).
He was successful thanks to the dominant play of his offensive line, reported league organizer Mike McKeown: center Nick Barnes, guards Steve Rodgers and Adam Hunt, and tackles Zach Griffith and Drew Hayes.
Paving the way for Hopkins this season, McKeown said, was fullback Mike Taulane, who also leads the team in tackles on the other side of the ball. The squad's defense has pitched three shut-outs this season, surrendering only 20 points in an as-yet-undefeated season. Safety Bryant Kevelier and kicker Zach Irwin have also played critical roles in the team's 5-0 season, according to McKeown.
The other age groups in the Panthers youth pipeline haven't fared as well as the oldest have, with the freshman team compiling a 1-4 record and the sophomore and junior teams at a winless 0-5.
The toughest tests of the season may be ahead of the senior Panthers now, including Saturday night's home match-up with 4-1 Camden. Cheer the kids on at the high school field; game time is 5 p.m.