GW looks to future after Week 1 loss

Look­ing ahead: Ju­ni­or quar­ter­back Damir Mitchell is one of many ex­cit­ing young GW play­ers con­tinu­ing to im­prove. KEV­IN COOK / FOR THE TIMES

Now in­to his 30th sea­son as George Wash­ing­ton’s head foot­ball coach, Ron Co­hen un­der­stands the rhyme and reas­on for these chal­len­ging early-sea­son non-league games.

And while the Eagles were on the wrong side of the score­board in week one’s 25-15 de­feat to Spring­side Chest­nut Hill Academy, Co­hen is think­ing long term, and he real­izes that these battles with for­mid­able op­pon­ents in the sea­son’s in­fancy stages have greatly con­trib­uted to his 12 Pub­lic League titles.

“I laugh now, be­cause when I first star­ted coach­ing we went every­where, from New Jer­sey to Delaware try­ing to play the best teams we could,” Co­hen said. “If you look at the schedul­ing now, a lot of Pub­lic League coaches are fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of Wash­ing­ton in fa­cing much tough­er op­pon­ents. It’s good for the Pub­lic League and Dis­trict 12, be­cause bet­ter com­pet­i­tion will only make the league bet­ter.”

In ad­di­tion to the Eagles’ com­pet­it­ive bout with SCH Academy of the Inter-Ac League, Co­hen poin­ted out Im­hotep Charter’s 31-27 week one win over Car­din­al Mooney of Ohio, Prep Charter’s 26-19 vic­tory over Car­din­al O’Hara and Si­mon Gratz’s 27-17 tri­umph over Lans­dale Cath­ol­ic. Win or lose, the Pub­lic League squads — of­ten sport­ing laugh­ably in­feri­or per­son­nel num­bers than Cath­ol­ic or sub­urb­an league coun­ter­parts — use these con­tests as meas­ur­ing sticks for im­prove­ment when the di­vi­sion sched­ule comes call­ing a bit down the line.

Call­ing Blue Dev­ils seni­or quar­ter­back Paul Dooley (10-for-15, 135 yards; 19 car­ries, 70 yards, two TDs) “one of the best, if not the best we’ll face all sea­son,” Co­hen was im­pressed with his team’s ef­fort, es­pe­cially on the de­fens­ive side of the foot­ball. SCH Academy led just 12-0 at the half, which nar­rowed to 12-7 after Nigel Sealey’s 34-yard touch­down run on the second half’s open­ing drive. If not for two costly second-half fumbles, the Eagles may have had a chance to win this one.

“They won the first half and we won the second half,” Co­hen said. “I’m look­ing at it in a pos­it­ive way. We’re a young team at cer­tain po­s­i­tions with a lot of kids who didn’t play last year. We also don’t have a lot of kids on our roster, so it’s al­ways a slow pro­cess to make this in­to a good foot­ball team. I’m con­fid­ent we will be one … it just takes time.”

Des­pite Wash­ing­ton’s youth, the Eagles cer­tainly have play­makers on both sides of the ball. Sealey, a ju­ni­or, amassed 85 yards on just six car­ries. Seni­or starter Bruce Smal­ley totaled 62 yards on 16 car­ries while adding a score, and ju­ni­or QB Damir Mitchell, des­pite com­plet­ing only two passes on five at­tempts, plays with con­fid­ence in the pock­et and can use his feet to pick up a first down if the de­fense gives him space. 

De­fens­ively, Di­vi­sion-I re­cruit Shareef Miller had mul­tiple sacks des­pite see­ing double teams from a tall, beefy of­fens­ive line. Fel­low de­fens­ive line­men Brandon Brown and Kev­in Ab­rok­wah also have the size and skills to get to the quar­ter­back, which should be­ne­fit the team down the line in Pub­lic League play. 

“We saw a lot of pos­it­ives against a good foot­ball team,” Co­hen said. “There’s noth­ing that we’d really do any dif­fer­ently, as far as game plan­ning goes. We need more reps on of­fense and de­fense in prac­tice. We’re go­ing to get bet­ter when we tight­en up on de­fense, as well as Damir con­tinu­ing to ma­ture and ex­ude con­fid­ence from the quar­ter­back po­s­i­tion. I’m very op­tim­ist­ic, and I like our at­ti­tude … we kept play­ing and nev­er gave up, even when the score was 25-7 go­ing in­to the fourth quarter. I’m not dis­cour­aged at all.”

Up next for Wash­ing­ton is a Thursday night home match­up with Car­din­al O’Hara (6 p.m. at North­east), fresh off its loss to Pub­lic League op­pon­ent Prep Charter. The Eagles are likely to use the same brand of at­tack on of­fense against the Lions: run­ning the foot­ball, which seemed to work for Prep Charter, which com­piled 292 rush­ing yards on 38 car­ries. O’Hara, mean­while, will use a bal­anced at­tack: Max Fer­guson rushed 21 times for 80 yards, while quar­ter­back Brandon Laugh­lin com­pleted 21 of 33 passes for 164 yards and two scores.

“We think that we match up well with O’Hara in terms of tal­ent,” Co­hen said. “They’re a good foot­ball team and a good test for us, for sure. The last game is over with. We have to im­prove and cut down on our mis­takes in or­der to get bet­ter. In ad­di­tion to these two to open the sea­son, we had two tough scrim­mages against two oth­er very good teams in Im­hotep and Ro­man. We do that on pur­pose, so the kids can see how tough it is and how tough it’s go­ing to be as the sea­son goes on. We’re work­ing harder every day in prac­tice, and the at­ti­tude has been great. 

“We’ll see what hap­pens against O’Hara, be­cause it’s go­ing to be a real tough game for us. I’ve been real proud of our ef­fort so far.” ••

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