Teenage boys love to eat. but when it comes to Thanksgiving, they’re not talking turkey.
The topic of conversation every year at their dinner table is football. And they’re not breaking down the recent Eagles game.
Mike Waring and Kevin Kelly are cousins and starters on the Father Judge High School football team. And even long before they earned starting positions on the Crusaders, the annual game against Lincoln always dominated the talk at the table.
“I would always go to the game with my dad and my uncle and sometimes I would go on the field after the game,” said Waring, who starts at center and defensive tackle. “We would talk about the game for most of dinner. It’s more now that we’re playing, but we’ve always talked about that. This year, I think we’ll spend the whole dinner talking about it.”
Waring and Kelly, a defensive back and wide receiver, hope this year’s dinner will be talking about how they once again defeated Lincoln. But like last year, it won’t be easy.
The Crusaders bring a high-flying offense down Rowland Avenue to meet their Mayfair opponent, but thus far this year, Lincoln has enjoyed more success.
The Railsplitters have won seven games this year, including a first-round playoff victory over George Washington. They then went on to meet Northeast and that’s where their postseason run ended in the second round.
Judge also made the playoffs, but fell in the first round at the hands of La Salle.
Few expected Lincoln to be a factor this year, but the Railsplitters actually not only played as well as last year’s squad, which was led by MVP running back Sam Karr, but were actually better. The Railsplitters won their second playoff game since 1987 and hosted their first playoff game since 1979.
It won’t be easy, but the Kelly and Waring combo are hoping they can help Judge continue its run of success against the Railsplitters.
“They’re good, but so are we,” said Kelly, who helped Judge win 41-14 last year. “They’re having a good year. We’re not having a great year, but we’re playing tough teams, so we’re better than a lot of people think.”
Winning isn’t everything for Waring and Kelly.
Another great part about playing football at Judge is the chance to continue playing with each other.
They started playing together when they were young at Fox Rok, and after a few seasons apart, they reunited at Judge. Last year, Waring was a starter while Kelly saw the field mostly on special teams but occasionally got in on defense.
This year, they’re both playing both sides of the ball and are key contributors.
“It’s good to have him, it’s more fun when you have someone like that on the team,” said Kelly, who has two interceptions on the year. “We’ve been friends our whole lives, we’ve always been playing football together and our families go to the games. It’s fun to be on the same team as him. We’ve been playing together for years.”
Both players are big fans of the other.
Waring, who lives in Bustleton, likes how Kelly scrapped his way into the starting lineup this year and found a way to see time at receiver.
Kelly, a Fox Chase resident, appreciates the grunt work Waring puts in. Linemen don’t always get the recognition, but Kelly made it a point to say how much the Crusaders’ big men do for the team.
And both enjoy playing with their fellow boys in baby blue.
“We have a really good team, and it’s fun to see guys like (quarterback) Shane Dooley and (wideout-turned-running back) Katob Joseph have great games,” Waring said. “Dooley is incredible. Sometimes, he makes us look a lot better than we are because he makes plays.”
“We have a lot of players who are really good,” Kelly said. “This year has been fun because we play so many good teams. We played guys like Marvin Harrison at Prep and Wood and La Salle. Every week, you’re playing good teams, but we have guys who can play, too.”
This year hasn’t been the most fun since the Crusaders have won only two games, but they’re hoping to tack on a third against Lincoln.
The game will serve as a fond farewell for the seniors, but will also start as the unofficial start of senior year for Waring and Kelly.
When the final whistle blows, both will be prepping for their final year at Judge and they believe their final season could be a special one.
“We lose good players, but we have a lot of guys coming back,” Waring said. “Losing guys like Katob and Shane and a great lineman will hurt, but there are so many younger guys, they’ll be better so we’ll be better.”
“Last year, I didn’t play much, just special teams, so I’m excited about playing in this game,” Kelly said. “After that, it’s time to get ready for next year. That’s our senior year.”