NEWARK — At Archmere Academy, the same last names regularly show up on various athletic rosters, as mothers and fathers, brothers, sisters and cousins follow in each other’s footsteps to the Claymont campus. One of those names has been a constant among the Auks for more than 40 years.
When Archmere finished its perfect 13-0 football season Dec. 11 with a 27-0 win over Woodbridge, two of the players who took turns hoisting the DIAA Class 2A championship trophy were Conor and Kieran Udovich. They are the latest in a long line from the Udovich crew to suit up for the Auks, and not the first to win a state football title.
Patrick Udovich Sr. was a member of the Auks’ last champions, in 1982, along with his brother Mike. He was also on the 1983 team that lost in the final. He was on the sideline at Delaware Stadium to see Conor and Kieran earn their title.
“Super special,” said Pat, a 1985 graduate. “Both of those guys are so tight. I played with my brother. My brother was a senior when we won it back in ’82. And to see those guys do it together is awesome as co-captains. This team is special. They’re heavy with the seniors, and that’s what came out today.”
His son Pat Jr. graduated from Archmere in 2017. He excelled at football and lacrosse. He is now a senior at Drexel University in Philadelphia, where he continues his lacrosse career. As an Auk, he played with his cousin Nick. He also played with Joe DiGregorio and Andrew Kim. DiGregorio’s brother Kevin was a key member of this year’s champions, and Kim’s sibling Johnny was an offensive threat all season for coach John Bellace. (Lauren Kim is a senior on the Auks’ girls basketball team, and Matt DiGregorio was a three-sport standout for the Auks.)
Pat Jr. was thrilled to be at Delaware Stadium to see his younger brothers reach the pinnacle. In an interview with The Dialog in early 2017, Pat Jr. gave an indication of the future for Archmere football.
“I said my two little brothers would be better than me,” he remembered on Dec. 11.
That case could be made, but any way one looks at it, both Conor and Kieran are very talented young men. Both were co-captains. Conor had a stellar season as a wide receiver and defensive back, and Kieran also was playing at a high level as a running back and linebacker before a leg injury in mid-October ended his year. Pat Jr. said being part of the Auks’ family remains important to him and the Udovich clan.
“I’ve never been more proud, more happy in my entire life. I won the (Colonial Athletic Association lacrosse) championship last year with Drexel, but I’m more happy now than I’ve ever been in my entire life,” he said.
He said his younger brothers put in more work than people realize. “I don’t think anybody in the state has any idea how hard they work. I think it says a lot for them.”
A bit of heartbreak provided some extra motivation for the Auks in 2021. They reached the championship game last season, but it ended with a bruising defeat at the hands of Howard High School. According to Pat Sr., the desire to get back to work hit immediately.
“As soon as the game was over last year, they wanted to be back again this year. To a man, they all wanted to do it. I’m not surprised they’re back,” said Pat Sr., who had another brother, Clem, star at Archmere.
Conor had five tackles and a sack against Woodbridge, and he helped open the hole that Declan Pearson ran through for the game’s first touchdown. He delivered the first speech to the team after the win and was grateful for the chance to play for another title after the Howard game.
“I’ve been waiting for this for an entire year. Last year at this time, we were over there, so we know how it feels for them. This is our time, it’s our year,” said Conor, who will play college lacrosse at Rutgers University.
His thoughts immediately turned to his brother, who watched every game from the sidelines after his injury.
“It killed me that my brother couldn’t be there because nobody works harder than him. Nobody does. I feel bad for whoever has to go against him next year, and this team because they’re all back. Chris (Albero, the quarterback), Kieran, they’re all back,” he said. “Auks are reloading. There’s no hiccup.”
Kieran admitted that after his injury, there were times when he wondered if he’d feel like part of the team when all he could do was watch and encourage. He needn’t have worried.
“We all prayed. They were like, ‘We’ve got your back. We’re going to win this game, and we’re going to win it all for you.’ I couldn’t ask for anything more. This is a true family. I’ve never been a part of anything like this,” he said.
One plus from his experience was hanging out with Pat Sr. on the sidelines during games. The pair had a front-row view for all of the Auks’ success, “especially watching Conor play that game (against Delaware Military Academy in the semifinals). He played out of his mind.”
The entire Archmere experience has taken hold of the Udovich clan, Pat Sr. said. “I can’t say enough about it. Academically, athletically, they get the most of you as a student and as an athlete. I couldn’t be happier with my boys.”