By: John Knebels
Photos/Videos: Kathy Leister, Patty Morgan & Thomas Nemec
It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over
Episcopal Academy’s nickname might as well be the “cardiac kids” or the “never-say-die Churchmen.”
For the second straight week, the Churchmen needed a last-minute score to clinch an Inter-Academic League victory. Senior quarterback Maurcus McDaniel’s two-point conversion run with 22 seconds remaining in regulation forged Episcopal’s 35-34 win at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy.
Both teams had entered undefeated at 6-0 overall and 1-0 in the league, so something had to give. The seesaw battle that ended in such dramatic fashion was indicative of how closely matched the two teams were.
McDaniel finished with 146 yards passing and a pair of 61-yard touchdown passes to sophomore Bryce Cooper and senior Nick Bates. He also rushed for 155 yards and two touchdowns. Junior linebacker Dylan DiBeneditto recovered a fumble at the SCH 46-yard line with 4:26 left in the fourth quarter, triggering the Churchmen’s game-winning, 10-play drive that included a one-yard plunge by McDaniel – his 23rd combined touchdown this fall.
“It was a great game and great atmosphere, and our team knew that we had the momentum,” said McDaniel, referring to the game-winning score. “We wanted to finish the game there. If we don’t have the heart to finish for a yard, we wouldn’t have ever deserved to win.
“Everyone on the offensive line to the receivers out wide executed their assignment, leaving me with a one-on-one with a full head of steam.”
EA senior wide receiver Brian Virbitsky wasn’t surprised that coach Todd Fairlie opted to try for a two-pointer rather than send the game into overtime with an extra point.
“We were winning up front all game, and we drew them offside to get to the one-yard line instead of the two,” said Virbitsky. “Coach has told us before every game – if we can’t get one yard, we don’t deserve to win. I was wide enough where I could just watch Maurcus will himself into the end zone.”
Episcopal senior Matt Bush rushed for 74 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries. SCH senior Aaron Rascoe (110 yards rushing, three touchdowns) and senior Ke’Shawn Williams (9 rushes for 111 yards; seven receptions for 54 yards) provided the Blue Devils with a significant one-two punch.
Malcolm Folk, the Episcopal junior receiver/defensive back who last week caught the game-winning touchdown with 32 seconds left to beat Penn Charter, 21-17, was credited with six tackles and supplied a bullish effort to keep Williams in check.
“Because Ke’Shawn Williams is such a dangerous player, my coaches wanted me to me to line up against him as often as possible, so I found myself playing corner a lot,” said Folk. “Ke’Shawn is very good. He is probably one of the top two best athletes in the Inter-Ac.”
Near-Perfect Performance Carries Haverford School
Spurred by a ferocious defense and an overwhelming advantage in time of possession, Haverford School crunched visiting Germantown Academy, 38-7.
“We scored on them early and often and never took our foot off the gas,” said Haverford senior Jack Cloran, who caught a 13-yard touchdown pass. “Our defensive and offensive lines played great. Our D-line had multiple sacks and we stopped their run game. Our offensive line was a little bit hurt, but guys stepped up and played extremely well.”
Senior quarterback Dante Perri completed 13 of 15 passes for 133 yards and a touchdown. Junior Mekhi Ajose-Williamson found the end zone three times. Senior Jake Spencer returned a punt 79 yards for a score. Sophomore Bill Brosko was credited with three tackles for losses and 1 ½ of the Fords’ four team sacks.
“It was huge,” said Cloran. “This year, the Inter-Ac is so even across the board. Any team has a shot at the title as well as having a losing record. This win gives us a real shot at the championship if we can win these next three.”
Added senior Patrick Toal, another mainstay on defense.
“We’re just a hungry group,” said Toal. “Everyone is focused on their job and nothing else. We played with confidence and set the tone early with a three-and-out to start the game. After that, they couldn’t do anything against us.”
Offense, Offense, and . . . More Offense
If someone had walked by the scoreboard and saw the final score, they might have thought basketball season had already begun.
With both offenses clicking on all cylinders, Malvern Prep upended visiting Penn Charter, 49-44. Both teams scored a minimum of one touchdown in each of the four quarters, and both scored more than once in two separate quarters.
Penn Charter amassed 506 yards from scrimmage (247 rushing, 259 passing); Malvern countered with 470, including a staggering 384 on the ground.
While tremendous for the fans, a defensive coordinator would have been horrified.
“It was nerve racking,” Malvern coach Dave Gueriera admitted. “These guys showed heart and guts.”
Gueriera was probably speaking about the players from both teams, especially the ones who played offense.
In the first quarter, Penn Charter took a 6-0 lead on a 15-yard pass from senior Kyle Jones to sophomore Chandler Turner. Malvern junior Steve Rose then rumbled 80 yards for a TD and junior quarterback Lonnie White connected with senior Isaac White for a 17-yard touchdown.
With Malvern up14-6 in the second quarter, Wright scored on a 24-yard run and Lonnie White followed with a 47-yard jaunt. Leading by 28-6, the Friars seemed secure. But before halftime, Penn Charter responded with an eight-yard TD run by Turner and a two-yard plunge by Jones to make it 28-20. Lonnie White’s 33-yard run increased Malvern’s lead to 35-20 before PC senior Ryan Bradby crushed a 41-yard field goal.
Malvern led by 35-23 . . . at halftime.
The “find the end zone” theme continued in the second half. PC’s Turner (three yards) and MP’s Lonnie White (54 yards) traded touchdowns, and Malvern carried a 42-30 lead into the final quarter.
Turner’s fourth touchdown from five yards out cut the Quakers’ deficit to 42-37. Lonnie White matched Turner’s heroics with his fourth touchdown run, a 27-yard burst. Jones found senior Lance Rainer for a 27-yard touchdown to account for the final points.
Lonnie White finished with a career-high 251 yards rushing and four touchdowns. He also completed 7 of 11 passes for 86 yards and a touchdown. For Penn Charter, Turner gained 145 yards and three touchdowns while catching three passes for 26 yards and a score. Jones went 19 of 43 for 259 yards and two touchdowns.
Other than those composite 13 touchdowns, 93 points, and 976 yards from scrimmage, the contest was relatively ho-hum.
After consecutive weeks of going 2-1, let’s get this right. Penn Charter (0-2) visits Haverford School (1-1) at 2:00. Fresh off an almost perfect effort, the host Fords will prevail, 24-14 . . . Germantown Academy (0-2) visits Springside Chestnut Hill (1-1) at the wrong time. Last week’s heartbreaking loss will spur the host Blue Devils to a 30-13 victory . . . As mentioned in our Inter-Ac Game of the Week, a marquee contest between two undefeated squads goes down to the wire, and for the third straight week, Episcopal Academy wins late by a score of 34-30.
Last Week: 2-1
(Contact John Knebels at Jknebels@gmail.com or on Twitter @johnknebels.)