Both knew things were going to get better.
But they had no idea this was how things were going to improve.
Archbishop Ryan High School senior football players Cole Lowe and Justin Collier weren’t too down after the Raiders dropped their first two games of the season because they could tell better times were ahead.
Ryan fell to Downingtown East, which came into the season as one of the top teams in Southeastern Pennsylvania, and Neumann-Goretti, which came into the season with an entirely new team thanks to transfers at many positions.
Both of its first opponents were loaded with talent, and while the lopsided losses were no fun, it certainly let them know how much they had to improve to compete with the better teams.
And it gave them something to shoot for.
Last week, the Raiders won their first game of the season, and Lowe and Collier each established school records. And considering they have a new coach who preached grinding out yards, they had no idea they would be breaking school records in the passing game.
In Ryan’s 39-29 victory over Interboro, Lowe, the quarterback, threw for 315 yards, a school record. His top target was wideout Collier, who hauled in a school-record 14 catches en route to 175 yards and two touchdowns.
“I didn’t expect this because coach (Chris Lampart) came from Archbishop Wood and we know they like to pound the ball, so that’s what we expected, especially after doing that the first two games,” Lowe said. “But we were having a hard time moving the ball on the ground so we decided to throw and it worked out.”
“I really didn’t think we would be doing this,” said Collier, who also starts at strong safety and chips in at running back. “We aren’t a throwing team, but I guess we are now. We needed to try something else and it worked.”
It helps that Lowe and Collier have been playing together since eighth grade when Collier, a Levittown resident, came to Northeast Philadelphia to play with Lowe in Somerton.
The pair built up a trust in each other that is on display every time the Raiders break the huddle. Lowe doesn’t have tunnel vision toward his No. 1 receiver, but when he needs a big play, he knows he can rely on Collier. Not only do they both play football together but last year both were on the Ryan basketball team.
“He’s a really good athlete,” Lowe said of Collier. “I knew I can throw it to him and he’ll get it. He’s a great athlete and we do have a connection. I know he’s going to come down with it when I throw it to him.”
The confidence goes both ways.
Just as Lowe knows Collier is going to come up with the big catch, Collier knows his quarterback is going to get him the ball.
“I don’t ask him for it because he gets it to whoever is open,” Collier said. “He’s smart, and he’s been good. I knew he was good from before when we played together in eighth grade.”
Lowe and Collier have both taken different routes to getting to where they are today.
Lowe almost didn’t play quarterback because last year he changed positions to get on the field and help the team. While he was playing, he suffered a shoulder injury to his throwing arm, which could have spelled disaster for his career under center.
Instead of giving up, he worked hard and rehabbed the limb to get back.
“I had no idea if I would be able to throw because I had shoulder surgery after getting hurt last year,” Lowe said. “It was getting better and it’s great now. But we were mostly running before the last game. It felt good throwing, though.”
Both Collier and Lowe know that their performance last week put them in the record books at a school that has a rich tradition of football excellence.
“I know Ryan has always been a running team, but it’s a great school for football so it means a lot to be in the record book, but I just want to win,” Collier said. “I’m not as worried about records or anything like that.”
“We had a lot of tradition at Ryan with our coach and our athletic director (Joe Zeglinski, also the school’s basketball coach who was a star two-sport star at the school),” Lowe said. “It means a lot to be up there with the great players from there. But I think it shows we can be good this year.”
The Raiders might be 1-2, but they still have big plans and big games are just starting to pop up on the schedule.
Ryan plays again on Saturday against Chestnut Hill Academy, one final game before its Catholic League Red Division schedule begins the following week against rival Father Judge.
The team hopes to be competitive throughout and be at its best in November when the playoffs begin.
“I just want to win the 5A championship and do something there,” Collier said. “I think this team can do that. We have enough to beat good teams. If we get there, we can win games in the tournament. I think we just have to get there and I think we can.”