Germantown Academy’s Trae Vance (29) works off of an SCH defender during a tri-scrimmage earlier this year. Vance has rushed for 605 yards and eight scores on 78 carries in his junior year. (Photo by Jonathan Vander Lugt)

by Jonathan Vander Lugt

In almost every single way, Matt Dence’s Germantown Academy Patriots are playing better football than they were at this point last year.

The Pats are 5-0 and coming off back-to-back shutout wins. The offense has rolled to over 300 yards per game, and has averaged 35.8 points in each contest.

They’ve already outscored last year’s Patriots by more than 40 points, and a big game against the Haverford School next week could give GA more yards than they had all of last season.

Junior back Trae Vance has been outstanding, and has rushed for 605 yards and eight scores on only 78 carries. Sophomore quarterback Jordan Longino, in his first season starting on varsity, is completing more than two thirds of his passes.

“Being 5-0 is great,” Patriot head coach Matt Dence said, “but that’s not what we’ll remember at the end of the year.”

“We’re very proud of the guys and what they’ve done so far,” Dence went on. “I’m looking forward to seeing them continue to improve.”

By Dence’s measure, GA’s best showing was its most recent one: a 28-0 win over the Lawrenceville School two weekends ago.

“I thought the statement game was against Lawrenceville,” Dence said. “We were firing on all cylinders.”

“We covered kicks like we were shot out of a cannon, and even faked a punt on them,” Dence went on. “In the first half, offensively, we did anything we wanted.”

Germantown Academy scored all 28 of its points in the first two quarters, and the shutout in the game’s latter frames were more a result of conservative play-calling than player performance, according to Dence.

“Overall, that Lawrenceville game on the road was our best,” Dence said. “They’re not a bad team, and we had a pretty dominating performance.”

In that one, Vance was a little bit short of his standard excellence – a slippery field kept him from getting solid footing on the way to a 19-carry, 75-yard day – but Longino more than picked up the slack. He threw nearly as many passing attempts (28) as he had in the last three games combined (32). His 265 yards through the air (and 63 more on the ground) easily carried the Patriot offense.

“We mostly went underneath and took what the coverage gave us,” Dence said. “I’m glad it went that way because we’re trying to figure out what we have in Jordan and what our receivers can do.”

He even showed a bit of the precociousness that is obvious on the hardwood, where he was one of the conference’s best players last season despite being a freshman.

“He went down more against Lawrenceville more than he has the entire season and he hung in there,” Dence said. “I was even happy on some of his incompletions because he threw the ball away and got rid of it when he should have.”

Last weekend passed without a game for Germantown Academy – Inter-Ac teams frequently take a bye week before conference play begins – so Dence and his coaches have had a chance to work through any last kinks before they take on the Haverford School next week.

“We went real hard on them Monday through Thursday and we’ve given them the last three days off,” Dence said. “We did a lot of basic stuff – not so much game planning but getting our staff to communicate what the kids need to work on.”

Defending a no-huddle offense, for example. Despite the positive end result, Lawrenceville’s up-tempo attack left Patriot defenders more winded than Dence would have preferred. It’s a minor issue, but little things like that will have to be shored up if GA wants to compete for its second league crown in three years.

“If you look at the other five schools in our league, you realize that they’re all very talented,” Dence said. “I think all five teams are really good. They’re great teams with top-end players that are extremely well-coached.”

The rest of the Inter-Ac went a combined 21-5 through their non-league slates, with Malvern Prep and its 6-0 record against a brutal schedule leading the way. Elsewhere, Springside Chestnut Hill’s offense features five legitimate contenders for All-Inter-Ac, while Penn Charter and the Episcopal Academy each boast Division-I running backs in Edward Saydee and DeeWil Barlee, respectively.

That renders the Haverford School and its 2-2 record with an undeserved “worst” first half in the conference, but even that notion is a stretch considering the Fords hung an astounding 69 points on Chester High School three weeks ago.

“It’s a five-week sprint, and they won’t all be pretty,” Dence said. “When you win, it won’t be a blowout and when you lose you’re probably going to feel like you could have won it.”

“If you look at all the records and who the teams are beating,” Dence said, “you realize that everybody is playing and competing against much bigger schools.”

“I’m excited about where we are, where our league is and I really can’t wait to play Haverford on Saturday,” Dence continued

Around the area:

The weekend passed well in Northwest Philadelphia football circles: La Salle rebounded with a dominant 55-20 win over Father Judge, while Springside Chestnut Hill rolled over nearby Springfield Township High School 42-0.

The Explorers, who now sit at 2-4 (1-1 in league play) on the season, had little trouble with the Crusaders. Freshman running back Samuel Brown burst onto the scene with a 6-touch, 196 yard day. Half of his offensive touches went for scores. Meanwhile, senior halfback Manny Quiles carried it 10 times for 101 yards and a score. La Salle will take on Archbishop Ryan next week in its third game of the Philadelphia Catholic League season.

Speaking of teams that have already outscored their 2017 selves, Springside Chestnut Hill’s 42-0 blowout over STHS put the Blue Devils (249 points) well ahead of their mark last year (222 points) with five more games to go. Junior running back Aaron Rascoe followed up a monster game against the Hill School (145 yards, three touchdowns) with another one against the Spartans: eight carries, 143 yards and three touchdowns. That makes it six touchdowns and 288 yards in the last two weeks. Senior quarterback Aaron Angelos threw for SCH’s other three scores – two to Pat Elliot (four catches, 102 yards) and one to Ke’Shawn Williams (three catches for 39 yards). The Blue Devils (5-1) will take on the Episcopal Academy next Friday.

Penn Charter (4-1) opted for a bye week and will host Malvern Prep on Friday.

Thanks to for information used in this report.