By LARRY HENRY JR.
The Palmyra Panthers have had their share of special players through the years. From Kelvin Harmon to Taj Harris to the older days of Quron Pratt and Warren Oliver, the Panthers’ football program has been blessed with talent.
Coach Jack Giesel has been privileged to work with some of those top names, and now has the makings of a new rising talent to lean on for this season and beyond. Kwinten Ives helped keep the Panthers in both of their opening games of the new West Jersey Football League season, although the final results didn’t go their way.
Ives, a junior tailback, totaled 216 combined yards and three touchdowns at Matt Curtis Stadium in a 40-28 defeat to the Glassboro Bulldogs last week. Every time Palmyra fell down against Glassboro, Ives was the spark that helped get them close to tying it or taking the lead.
While Thursday’s result didn’t go the way Giesel would’ve hoped, he admits the future is bright with Ives (6-foot-3, 190 pounds) leading the way.
“He’s a talented player and we know that,” Giesel said. “I ask him every day and every week to give one percent more and get one percent better so that he can take his game to the next level. He already has some colleges interested in him and I think that list will grow with more performances like the last two weeks.”
“I think he can be something special,” Glassboro head coach Tim Hagerty said about. “You can’t teach size and speed like that, and some of the moves he makes you just have to tip your hat to as an opposing coach. We prepared for him all week and he still finished with over 200 yards.”
Ives is already on the radar of Rutgers University and the University of Pittsburgh for a future in college football, Giesel said, and with 518 combined yards and five touchdowns in his first two games of 2021, that list will surely increase before the start of the 2022 season.
Thursday’s outing against a well-balanced Glassboro side saw Ives do everything he could to propel Palmyra to a win. Not only was Ives a threat running the ball, but the tailback totaled more than 100 receiving yards on two catches, both coming on gains of 48 yards or more (51 was the other).
“I see a little Kelvin Harmon in him,” Giesel said about Ives’ catch-and-run ability. “He still has work to do to get to the level where Kelvin ended up at (N.C. State, Washington Football Team, K.C. Chiefs), but I think he has the mentality to get there. It’s up to him to put the extra work in, study the game more, and make the most of his chances when we call on him.”
His 51-yard catch-and-score was one that should be among the best across South Jersey in 2021 after Ives evaded a handful of Glassboro defenders at midfield before bulleting down the right sideline and into the end zone. It was a testament to Ives’ ability to continue learning the game and his work ethic in trying to be one of the best in Burlington County.
“I still am not sure how I got away with that one,” Ives said about his highlight reel 51-yard score.”I thought I was trapped, but nobody really made an effort in tackling me low, so I just chopped around a few and turned on the gas. I think it will go down as one of my best touchdowns at Palmyra, but I still have a lot of time to add more to that list,” he said jokingly.
“He is a tough player to bring down and I think if he continues to hit the gym and work on his trade, he could be a monster at this level,” Glassboro’s Jonathan Sutton, who had two touchdowns of his own, said of Ives. “I told him to keep his head up, because it’s a long season and there’s plenty of chances to not only pad your stock, but also help the team rebound and get to the playoffs.”
For now, Ives will rest and recover before Palmyra travels to Bordentown on Friday in search of a first win this season. Ives’ playmaking ability will be key on whether or not Palmyra can turn the ship around and get on a winning run this fall, but the talented tailback will also need help if the Panthers want to reach the postseason.
However, his loyalty to the program and to improving as a student-athlete is something that remains very high on his priority list.
“I just want to do anything I can to help this program succeed,” Ives said. “We know we have talent and we showed tonight we can hang with some high-scoring teams, we just have to come in more focused. I am happy with my performances so far, but I know that myself and other leaders on this team can give more. That’s the plan from here on out.”
Larry Henry covers Burlington County sports for Glory Days Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @lhenry019