Football: Justin Shepherd completes QB trio, guides Bonner-Prendie to win


UPPER DARBY — When Bonner & Prendergast’s football team broke camp last month, Jack Muldoon broke the news to senior Justin Shepherd that he wasn’t the starting quarterback. Turns out, when Bonner needed a kick against Haverford School in Week 2, Shepherd wasn’t even the second option.

The senior’s reaction was simple.

“I just asked him what I could do better,” Shepherd said Friday. “At the end of the day, all three of us support each other and make each other better, and all the coaches trust us.”

Shepherd’s reaction to falling on the depth chart may have seemed unusual. But then, so too was what he accomplished against Archbishop Carroll.

Bonner-Prendergast receiver Zach Coney pulls in a touchdown in the first quarter against Archbishop Carroll. (Pete Bannan/MediaNews Group)

Shepherd through five touchdowns in the first half, three to Zach Coneys, as the Friars trampled their Catholic League rival, 48-0.

Shepherd threw touchdowns on each of his first four passing attempts. He found Coneys for 18 yards in the corner of the end zone just 66 seconds into the game on the Friars’ first snap, then hit him for an 11-yard score six minutes later. Both were set up by Isaiah Session fumble recoveries.

When Mylachi Williams pounced on a fumble, Shepherd needed one play for a back-shoulder throw to Jalil Hall for a 23-yard score. On the first snap of the next series, he tossed his favorite TD of the day, floating a 62-yard wheel route to Jaylen Johnson that the speedy running back ran under, then made a man miss and strode to the house.

Shepherd capped it with a dart to Coneys on a deep post for 26 yards with 21 seconds left in the opening half.

“I always knew who he was, but when he transferred over, it’s nice to have a 6-4 senior running routes against some smaller corners,” Shepherd said of Coneys, the Malvern Prep transfer. “It’s just giving him a shot to go up and get it and see what happens.”

Shepherd finished 9-for-12 for 171 yards, connecting with five receivers.

Colin Finnegan, who started the first two games, got a couple of series in the second half. Joe Sarjoo entered to find Williams for a 13-yard touchdown. Between them, the Friars were 11-for-15 for 191 passing yards.

For a team that had scored four touchdowns in two games, Shepherd has been the spark. His 65-yard touchdown to Hall got the Friars (2-1, 1-0 PCL Blue) within two points of the Fords two weeks ago in a 14-12 loss. Primarily a baseball player, Shepherd has the arm strength and an effortless release, but the anticipation of the position is what he’s been fine-tuning as he gets more reps.

With a bye week when West Philadelphia begged out of a scheduled game, the Friars had time to take stock at QB. One certainty was the amiable working relationship between the trio.

“We all have our strengths, we all have our weaknesses,” Shepherd said. “We all help each other out and tell each other if we miss a read or not.”

Bonner & Prendergast running back Avery Hankey plows for some yardage into the Archbishop Carroll line Friday night. (Pete Bannan/MediaNews Group)

Bonner’s defense remains an overarching strength. The Friars allowed only four yards of offense, only that high thanks to a 49-yard Carroll hookup between Andre Groce and Luke Watson on the game’s penultimate play. That was one of only seven plays out of Carroll’s 35 offensive snaps for positive yardage. They didn’t gain a first down on their own until the 10:19 mark of the fourth quarter, the first two of their four coming via Bonner & Prendergast penalties.

The shutout is the second of the season for B&P. It hands Carroll (0-4, 0-1) its 16th consecutive loss dating to 2020.

Fumbles on the first three drives meant Bonner & Prendie had only eight plays in its own territory all game. Conversely, Carroll crossed midfield only twice. Groce was 11-for-20 for 64 yards. He replaced Mason Waller, who fumbled on the first two series.

“When we get turnovers early, I like to put my team in position to score,” Session said. “Not just getting punts, but we’re able to flip the field when we get turnovers. … I knew once that one happened, they were kind of nervous. We kept attacking and attacking and attacking.”

The Carroll defense battled, Jack Fry accounting for three tackles for loss and Cleveland Woodson two. But B&P took to the ground after the break. Avery Hankey, who missed the Haverford game, ran for a 35-yard touchdown for the only points of the third. He finished with 13 carries for 118 yards.

Sarjoo and Williams set the final score with 91 seconds to play, Williams toe-tapping in the corner of the end zone to complement a stellar day of disrupting from the defensive end spot. It reinforced Shepherd’s confidence in the quarterback room as a whole, one that he appears to have solidified a leadership position in.

“At the end of the day, we have three quarterbacks,” he said. “Our coach was telling us, we’ve never really been in this situation before. But they trust us.”

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