By Jordyn J. Bennett
PENNSYLVANIA — On a normal week, the No Lackin’ Lifestyle staff will select the NLL Player of the Week, highlighting the best individual performance from the previous week’s matchups. Harboring athletes from the city of Philadelphia and its surrounding counties — Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties — NLL covers some of the most talented and upstanding young men both on and off the field through our program.
You could only imagine how hard selecting just one is.
This week, we gave you a glimpse of how tough it is to choose between these outstanding performances, and left it up to the fans and peers of our local football players, and even y’all couldn’t decide on just one. For the first time in No Lackin’ history, the Player of the Week was split between two people: Chester High School Senior quarterback Isaiah Freeman and Monsignor Bonner & Archbishop Prendergast High School (Drexel Hill) senior running back Mason Peterson.
Both schools are located in DELCO, whose high school hallways are filled with aspiring collegiate football players who often slip through the cracks of big name schools. Players like Freeman and Peterson are showing out on a weekly basis to change the narrative.
“Since the area is so small, not many football (players) come out of Delaware County,” Freeman said. “I think (colleges) are missing a lot of talent. A lot of skill guys; a lot of linemen guys. A lot of guys who have learned football over the years.”
As the commander of the Clippers offense, Freeman has shown that he has studied the game diligently, leading Chester to a 4-0 start. He earned the adoration of spectators this week with 260 yards through the air and three touchdowns, completing 17-25 of his passes (68%) in a dog-fight 28-27 defeat of Interboro High School (Prospect Park).
While he sat at the top of the polls, collecting enough votes to be named POTW, his fellow NLL brothers were putting on, on other fields around the area. Peterson matched Freeman’s votes after marching into the endzone three times last week. Those three trips to the crib came with 248 yards on just 16 carries in Bonner-Prendie’s 36-20 victory over Conwell-Egan Catholic High School.
Peterson was more than happy to share the glory with Freeman, taking the honor as a win for the county. With people from all over the area showing up and showing out when the lights come on, Peterson feels it's time for people to start putting respect on this region’s name.
“I feel like a lot of players can play at higher levels than they go (to college) at, and I feel like coaches need to start looking in this area more because we do got ballers in the Philadelphia and Delaware County region,” Peterson said passionately. “I just feel like they don’t respect it enough. They don’t respect it as much down here as they do players in different states and bigger cities. I feel like us having good performances can really put us on the map.”
On that map, players like Freeman and Peterson will show you the new capital of football in the Keystone State: Southeastern Pennsylvania.
Take Exit 6 to Freeman
Exit 6 became more than just an entryway to the gritty, hard-nosed city of Chester — it became a gateway to opportunities for a community that most give up on.
The #Exit6 movement was coined by coaches of Chester athlete's past. Whether they were Chester High graduates or those who made it out of the city and came back, they have changed the face of Clippers football and have trusted Freeman to line up under center as the city’s new hope.
“They’re coaches, but they’re more like older brothers,” Freeman said about the young Clippers coaching staff. “They made the guys believe in the system. They completely changed the culture.”
Change can’t be made without another party buying in: Freeman is that other party.
An upperclassmen and a scholar, boasting a 3.45 GPA, Chester students follow the lead of Freeman. He refutes the stereotype of what being a “kid from Chester” means.
That’s not the only misconception that he is looking to change. A young, Black QB who stands at 6’3” and 205 pounds, he is not afraid to sit in the pocket. While he can get loose and make a man or two miss on the run, Freeman takes pride in his ability to throw the ball on target.
“I run a little bit, but I’d rather make the throw before getting out of the pocket,” he said. “I think the biggest thing is to trust what’s there.”
Schools should trust in his ability.
Division I HBCU Delaware State University and Division II Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference schools have been where he’s garnered the most interest, but the job isn’t finished. Freeman is a big-time player with big-time goals both on the field and in the classroom — looking to major in mass communications next fall — who feels that if given the chance, he can thrive for whatever team believes in him.
“I’m a guy that’s ready to learn, ready to improve and help the program,” he said. “I’m all in for the team, I’m an unselfish player and just want to win.
Peterson running to new beginnings
At 5’10”, 200 pounds, Bonner-Prendie running back Peterson is the same size as Los Angeles Charger running back Austin Ekeler, and universities have taken notice.
Peterson is on the DI radar, mentioning University of Connecticut, Fordham University and St. Francis University as schools that have shown him the most interest. His size and his play is never a question; however, he doesn’t want to be questioned at all.
Peterson admits that his earliest years of high school were not dedicated to the classroom. Since changing his ways and gaining a new respect for academics, the senior brought his GPA up to a 2.9, but believes by the end of the year, he’ll be over a 3.0.
“Recruiting has been looking real good since the end of sophomore year, it’s just mistakes I’ve made on my end when I was younger in high school when I was in 10th grade and halfway through 11th, not staying on top of my grades,” Peterson admitted. “I really just got to pull them grades up, then everything else will (handle) itself.”
We all have a past. Some of us act like it never happened; some of us are ashamed of it and dwell on it.
Peterson isn’t some of us — he’s accountable for what transpired before.
The kid he was in those years is not the young man who will suit up for a university next season. The sophomore and junior Peterson did not see things the way senior him does, looking to study business or go into social services — inspired by his mother, who currently works in the field.
What can’t be seen in a 200-plus yard game or on a transcript is his maturity and responsibility. He feels that when a coach gives him an opportunity to display that, he won’t disappoint.
“I bring different energy than other people,” he said. “I’m a respectable man. I’m accountable for the actions that I do. It’s the little things. I do a lot of little things right… Imma absorb everything and put it out on the field. I’m very coachable.”