WILLINGBORO WANTS TO KEEP THE MONSTER ALIVE
Led by quarterback Ah-Shaun Davis, the Chimeras are looking for a third-consecutive South Jersey Group 1 Championship
If you look up the definition of what a Chimeras is/are, you get… “A fire-breathing she-monster in Greek mythology having a lion's head, a goat's body, and a serpent's tail”
In 2019, Willingboro opponents must have felt they were taking on a fire-breathing monster when they faced these Chimeras.Led by junior quarterback Ah-Shaun Davis and senior wide receiver Chris Long, Willingboro rolled to a 12-1 overall record, its second consecutive South Group 1 Championship and first-ever South-Central Regional Championship, defeating Penns Grove 50-14.
The Chimeras only loss was to Central Group 2 Champions Cedar Creek in their non-league season opener.
“It was definitely a great season,”Davis said during a recent on-campus interview. “I had some good numbers. Next year, I'm definitely looking forward to surpassing those numbers, including my yardage numbers, my touchdown numbers and just get better from the past year. It was a great year for me but I think next year should be an even better year.”
Davis was asked if it has it sunk in that Willingboro has won two Group titles so far in his career, and the fact that he has a year left.
“It's definitely sunk in,” Davis said. “It's two now. The first year it was great, the second year it was expected. Next year, it's definitely going to be expected. It's a great accomplishment. I will always be able to hold that over my head.”
Does he expect an even bigger target on his team’s back? “Yes sir, definitely.”
Davis talked about his teammates. Like many public high school programs, this group has been together since they played in the youth leagues as pre-teens.
“My guys in the '21 Class, I've played with them my whole life, worked so hard,” Davis said. “Demie Sumo (running back), Dajour Dixon (lineman), Chance Bennett (wide receiver), Isaiah Worrell (RB, CB), they are some of the hardest workers I know."
NFL PLAYERS DAVIS ADMIRES
Davis lists quarterbacks Aaron Rogers or Drew Brees as his top NFL signal callers to watch. Interestingly enough, the quarterback’s favorite players to watch are defensive players.
Topping Davis’list are cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey, the Pro Bowler from the Los Angeles Rams, and 2019 Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore of the New England Patriots.
"I love watching defensive players, it is so interesting to me,” Davis said. “I love how they think and how they move.”
After a little prodding, Davis admitted he admired the swagger these two players are known for.
“I definitely like to have that swagger,”Davis said. “I don't really show it outside the football field. But when I'm on the football field, I do let people know. You definitely have to have that swagger and let other people know I 'm confident in myself as well.”
Davis was asked to describe his style of play.
“I'm a pocket passer,” Davis said. “I like to go through my progressions. But if things do fall apart, I can make things happen with my legs and get a couple of yards and get out of bounds.”
WHAT THE HECK IS A CHIMERAS?
Let's go back to the school mascot.
Davis admits opponents, friends and high school acquaintances outside of Willingboro are curious about the fire-breathing monster that the school has adopted.
“I do get a lot of questions, what is a Chimeras? What is a Chimeras?” Davis said with a smiles. “I just answer it politely but make sure they know 'your mascot is kind of boring compared to ours.’”
EVERETTE, HIS QUARTERBACK AND HIS PROGRAM
Head coach Stephen Everette said he has enjoyed his time with Davis. It is a relationship he says that started many years ago.
“It has been absolutely fun,” Everette said. “I've known Ah-Shaun since the seventh grade. I've watched him play in the little leagues. I'm just really glad that chose to stay home.”
Before this current group of players found their way to Willingboro, the program had some tough seasons.In 2014, Everette’s first year as head coach, the Chimeras went 1-8. In 2015, Willingboro posted a record of 3-7.
But after that Everette led his teams to three consecutive seven-win seasons before last year’s memorable campaign.The coach said seeing the program improve consistently helped convince parents and the community believe in the public school program.
“When [Davis] was in middle school, we weren't the best team out there yet,” Everette said. “We had a long way to go. We made enough of an impression that he decided to stay home. But this town has always followed him, loves him. Him and Demie Sumo and a couple of other guys, they followed since they were knee high to a grasshopper. For them to stay home is what they always intended to do. So the fact that he's having success here is not really shocking. He's been successful at every level.”
Not all private schools prey on talent that has surfaced at public school programs. But many do. Everette was asked how keeps the poachers away from his players.
“We have to be successful,” Everette said. “We don't just have to be successful on the field, but off as well. We have a couple of guys who are getting scholarships, they're going to school for free. We have to be successful off the field as well. We have to make sure our guys are in the best position to get dept-free education. We have to be doing good things by the kids, we have to be taking care of the kids on the field and off the field.”
“If we're doing those things, then we start to win,”he said. “We're not losing to the Catholic schools anymore. Parents realize that if our kids can stay at home and we don’t have to pay tuition and our kids can go out and win games and go off to [college] why do we need to go anywhere else?”
Davis agreed with his coach. He talked about why he has never lost faith in Everette’s program and the long-term relationships he has with his teammates.
“It's special because its guys you've been around your whole life,” said Davis, who reports he has interest from respected programs including Rutgers, Temple, U-Mass, Bowling Green, Vanderbilt and a “handful” of Ivy League Schools. “That's what really makes this experience special. We've been doing it ever since we were young, now we're doing it at a higher level. Hopefully we can take it to the next level and be even greater.”
Everette says some of the top college programs in the country have made the trip to Willingboro to look at his program for recruits.
“It's huge,” the coach said. “It started last year with Chris Long. Chris had everybody here...Ohio State, Virginia Tech, Nebraska. These are good, quality programs. He decided that he was going to go to Rutgers.”Everette said the interest is still there.“Ah-Shaun has a number of offers already, Demie has a number of offers. People are starting to see our kids are real student-athletes. And they're going to be prepared.”
THE 2020 SEASON
Everette was asked what returning players he will lean on to defend the Group and South-Central titles.
“Four (Davis) definitely gets leaned on a lot,”Everette said. ”Demie Sumo (RB), Bryson Bright (RB), Dajour Dixon (OL), Isaiah Cook (OL) and Christopher Johnson (OL) are some of the players I will lean in. Our offensive line, they have to keep No. 4 upright, and if No. 4 is upright, good things are going to happen.”
Davis was asked if there was one thing he wanted to accomplish before he walks away from Willingboro.
“I want to have one of the best legacies,”Davis said. “I want to be on one of the best teams overall to every play at Willingboro High School.”One more season to go.
*Some information is from maxpreps.com
Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii