Churchmen Remain Spotless
What does a difference of seven points make? Ask the Inter-Academic League.
With an exhilarating 29-27 victory over visiting Malvern Prep before a packed house on October 26, Episcopal Academy raised its record to 8-0 overall, but much more importantly, 3-0 in the Inter-Ac.
The Churchmen, however, are also this close– a composite seven points to be exact – to being winless. They had defeated Penn Charter, 21-17, and Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, 35-34, with last-minute heroics. Against Malvern, they led by nine in the fourth but the Friars moved to within two points midway through the fourth quarter.
Bottom line, though, is that the final score doesn’t matter.
“Every game in the Inter-Ac is a Super Bowl,” said senior quarterback Maurcus McDaniel.
Therein lies the reality of a league that relies solely on the results of five games and hopes to either win it outright or at least forge a tie for the title.
As the only team in the league that remains undefeated, the Churchmen are two wins shy of clinching their first championship since their perfect 10-0 season of 2012. If they beat Germantown Academy and Haverford School, they will undoubtedly look back at the Malvern game as the season’s defining moment, simply because Malvern had captured 12 straight league games dating back to 2012.
“Playing Malvern is always special,” said senior Brian Virbitsky. “Almost everyone from both schools comes out to the game, and it’s one of those games you circle on your calendar.
“Every year, they’re usually at the top of the Inter-Ac. The last time they lost a league game was to EA (37-34) when I was a freshman.”
Tired of losing to the Friars, the Churchmen had other ideas.
McDaniel finished 14 of 18 for 130 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for 145 yards on 28 carries to move him past the four-digit yardage mark (now 1,035). The Churchmen ran out the clock on a pair of clutch first downs, preventing the Friars (3-5, 2-1) from engineering a late push.
“It’s great when you beat a very skilled and talented team which has been very successful,” said McDaniel. “However, it’s all due to the hard work which everyone has put in. It’s a great feeling going into a game and just saying, ‘We are the better team and we deserve to come out victorious.’ We took it one day at a time starting with practice, and now we put ourselves in a great position to attack the rest of the league one game at a time.”
Comeback for the Ages
In Germantown Academy’s epic 42-38 win at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, double-athlete-standout junior Jordan Longino summarized the Patriots’ win with one sentence.
“It’s the craziest game,” said Longino, who also plays basketball, “that I’ve ever been a part of.”
Early in the second quarter, the Patriots trailed, 21-0, and looked they were about to be blown out. They climbed to within 28-14 at halftime, but fell further behind at 31-14 early in the third.
GA then stunned the Blue Devils (6-2, 1-2) with three straight touchdowns to take a 35-31 lead. But SCH answered with a TD by senior Ke’Shawn Williams(six catches for 117 yards; 94 yards rushing on 11 carries; two touchdowns) to go back up, 38-35.
With the clock inside the final minute, Longino (315 yards passing) fired a 35-yard touchdown pass to Jerry Griffen-Batchler. The junior’s 11thTD of the season proved to be the difference, and the Patriots (5-2, 1-2) were finally in the Inter-Ac win column.
“It was very fast, I can tell you that,” said Griffen-Batchler. “From the time the play began, I knew it was going to work because they were in man, and nine out of 10 times, I beat man coverage.
“Jordan put a perfect back-shoulder ball just where I could get it, and I came down with it. It was really a great moment for the team. We got our swag back.”
GA senior Trae Vance extolled his teammates for their perseverance.
“I think we really won because we didn’t care about the score after the first half,” said Vance. “We came off the field more excited than we’ve ever been, even though we were down, 28-14. That was the turning point.
“We played our butts off and just had fun, I believe. Our defense picked it up in the second half, and we had a huge stop for us to come back and eventually take the lead. It was awesome.”
Watch out for the Fords
For the second straight week, Haverford School conducted a methodical victory. A week removed from a 38-7 win over Germantown Academy, the Fords made their home finale special by coasting past Penn Charter, 39-10.
“It was a huge win for us,” said senior quarterback Dante Perri, who tossed two touchdown passes. “Going into halftime we weren’t where we wanted to be, and that was our fault. We were able to refocus and play the game like we can.
“The great thing is that we have still yet to play our best football.”
Senior Daiyann Hawkins rushed for 156 yards on 15 carries and rumbled 34 yards to the end zone in the first quarter to get the scoring started. From there, dominance on offense and key plays on defense by junior Geordy Holmes (sack, leading to 51-yard TD strike from Perri to senior Jake Spencer two plays later), junior Chris Sims (two interceptions, one leading to his 27-yard touchdown catch), and senior Samir Gardner (interception; also scored a TD) on offense) proved to be too much for the Quakers (5-3, 0-3).
The Fords (5-3, 2-1) would gain a share of the title if they win their final two games. They would also have an outside shot of winning it outright depending on what Episcopal does this week at Germantown Academy, but first things first.
“This win was huge for us,” said senior Pat Toal, who balanced his rugged defense with a two-point conversion run. “Just another great team effort. Every week is do or die.”
(Contact John Knebels at Jknebels@gmail.com or on Twitter @johnknebels.)
After three straight weeks of 2-1, maybe Week Four’s three Saturday contests will be the charm . . . Episcopal Academy (3-0) visits Germantown Academy (1-2) at 2:30. Although the hosts are coming off an amazing comeback win, the Churchmen will wrap up a share of the league crown, 36-20 . . . Springside Chestnut Hill Academy (1-2) travels to Penn Charter (0-3) at 2:30. How will SCH rebound from a devastating loss? The Devils will start slow, but ultimately prevail, 20-16 . . . And the Inter-Ac Game of the Week battle between visiting Haverford School (2-1) and Malvern Prep (2-1) will be won by? Read the preview and find out!
Last Week: 2-1