Summer work sparks Collingswood revival

Quarterback Jordan Wallace (left) and receiver Steven Copeland have helped lead Collingswood to a 3-0 record. Next up is unbeaten West Deptford.
Quarterback Jordan Wallace (left) and receiver Steven Copeland have helped lead Collingswood to a 3-0 record. Next up is unbeaten West Deptford. (DAVID M WARREN / Staff)
Posted: October 10, 2013

Jordan Wallace broke out of the pocket.

Steven Copeland broke off his pattern.

What had been a designed play suddenly resembled something the two Collingswood athletes had created in a sandlot field on those summer nights behind the old stadium.

"We were there a lot," said Wallace, the Panthers' junior quarterback. "Almost every night, just working on throws, getting a feel for each other, building that chemistry."

Wallace's 30-yard touchdown pass to Copeland on an improvised play made the difference in a 7-0 victory over Haddon Township on Sept. 28.

But it was far from unique: Wallace is among South Jersey's leaders with seven touchdown throws, and Copeland has caught a scoring pass in every game as Collingswood has jumped to a 3-0 record and outscored opponents by 116-13.

Wallace and Copeland, a senior, have helped Collingswood build a bit of a buzz in advance of Friday night's home game against defending South Jersey Group 2 and Colonial Liberty champion West Deptford (3-0).

It's quite a change for the Panthers, who were 2-8 last season.

"Half the stuff that's happened this year wouldn't have happened last season," said Copeland, a 6-foot, 170-pound athlete who plays wide receiver and defensive back.

The 6-1, 155-pound Wallace played quarterback for the first time last season. He took his lumps as the Panthers tried to lay the foundation for the future.

"It was tough because I was learning how to be a quarterback," said Wallace, a running back and wide receiver as a freshman and in youth football. "I had to get my feet wet."

Collingswood coach Jack McConnell said Wallace "has grown up this year," as he has become more comfortable with the Panthers offense and the responsibilities of his role.

"The game has slowed down for him," McConnell said.

In Collingswood's wing-T offense, Wallace has attempted just 24 passes. But he has completed 12 for 205 yards (17.1-yard average) and seven touchdowns. Wallace also has carried the football 12 times for 120 yards and two scores.

Collingswood also has gotten good work from seniors John Deaner, Chris Valle, and Allen Valentine as well as sophomore Jahmir King, among others, according to McConnell.

Copeland has six catches for 186 yards (31.0 average). He caught a touchdown pass in a 48-7 win over Lindenwold, the 7-0 win over Haddon Township, and a 41-6 win over Gateway.

"Our goal was to be here," McConnell said of taking an undefeated record into play against West Deptford, which has won 24 in a row and outscored Collingswood, 110-6, in the last two seasons. "Now we'll see where we are."

Wallace and Copeland said they know that Collingswood is a heavy underdog against West Deptford.

But the quarterback and wide receiver believe the Panthers have made major progress since last season - and they both attribute that growth to those summer sessions on the grass field behind the stadium and adjacent to the outdoor basketball courts.

"We were out there the entire summer," Copeland said. "We were working on routes, finding out about each other. We got to know each other very well, and that's carried over to the season."


panastasia@phillynews.com

@PhilAnastasia

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