Fans in Erial last Friday saw South Jersey’s No. 1 and No. 2 teams face off. They witnessed the top-ranked Timber Creek Chargers’ defense fuel an 18-7 win over Cherokee.
They watched senior middle linebacker Julian Mahan lead the unit with 12 tackles. But what they didn’t see was the process of the 18-year-old.
Those who saw the result helped vote him Gridiron Gang Player of the Week.
Still, no one witnessed the time he spent the week that led up to the game — in his home, studying film with his father.
By the time the game kicked off, Mahan knew what to do. That’s how the three-year starter remains one of the area’s best players. He’ll study again this week for another tall task when Timber Creek faces Delsea on Friday.
“I try to break down the plays,” Mahan said of his film routines. “I want to see what linemen flip-flop. Some teams move their best linemen around based on the play.
“If a lineman likes to pull, I’ll look to see if he leans back before he pulls. My dad taught me how to break down film since I was young, and it works. Every play, I know what they might do. I’m never lost.”
Robert Mahan Jr. enjoys the time with his son as much as when he sees the work pay off on Friday nights. The former Camden High School offensive lineman marvels at Julian’s ability to play downhill no matter the circumstances.
“That kid, with what he’s learned, not too many guys would stand a chance against him,” Robert says. “The attention to detail like he’s taught, you really have to be fundamentally sound to block a linebacker like Julian.”
It’s a win-win situation for the elder Mahan, who’s been best friends with Chargers’ coach Rob Hinson since their playing days for the Panthers.
When his son finished his final PYAA season in Pennsauken, he was coveted by a number of schools.
His high school career was set to begin at the same time the Mahans were ready to move from their Merchantville home. Hinson’s presence at Timber Creek made for an easy choice of relocation.
“We’re like blood brothers,” Robert says. “That was the best situation that could have happened. What better situation than having your best friend coaching your son?”
The father remains impressed with his pal’s acumen as a head coach. Hinson took Julian as a freshman and made sure the teenager learned the defense, inside and out.
“He was a young pup, but the last two years he’s been very vocal in what we do,” Hinson says. “I put the signals in to him, and if you watch the tape, he’s always pointing guys in the right spots on the field. He’s another coach out there.”
Julian loves the challenge and continually exceeds his father’s and Hinson’s expectations. He prides himself on knowledge of the game, the 4-3 defense. But when the ball’s snapped, it’s his instincts that make him nearly unblockable.
“As soon as the play starts, I try not to think too much because if you think too much, you’ll make a mistake,” the 225-pounder says. “You gotta just play.
“(Against Cherokee), I wasn’t trying to sit back. I was trying to get up as fast as I can. I tried to mess everything up, blow everything up and make every tackle.”
Mark Trible; (856) 486-2424; email@example.com
WEEK 2 PLAYER OF THE WEEK POLL RESULTS
Timber Creek LB Julian Mahan: 1,001 votes
Woodstown RB Zaire Jones: 346 votes
Haddonfield QB Tommy Kadar: 233 votes
St. Joe RB A’Laam Horne: 165 votes
Cedar Creek RB Bo Melton: 18 votes