NEWTOWN SQUARE- Jake Phelan stood at a podium and presented an inspiring speech to the students and teachers inside the Episcopal Academy chapel. About 24 hours later, he and his football teammates went out and provided their best performance of the season.
With electric senior quarterback Maurcus McDaniel leading the way in typical style, the Churchmen captured the Inter-Academic League championship by defeating Haverford School, 38-28, on a chilly afternoon November 9 in front of a thoroughly raucous crowd. Episcopal also corralled the coveted championship sweater, given to the school that wins more sports than the other throughout the morning and afternoon on this traditional day.
“Yes sir, it was fantastic,” said McDaniel, referring to Phelan’s talk. “He put that fight into not only the players, but the students. Most people don’t understand what this game means and what the sweater represents for this school, but with his speech, he brought the emphasis.
“Most would’ve characterized the weekend as just another game, but it was more important than just football; it was about life. It was a battle to show a desire to finish a legacy. His speech definitely put the point across to the entire class of students and faculty," said McDaniel.
During his oration, which began and ended with a thunderous standing ovation, Phelan asked everyone to think about how they wanted to be remembered.
The defensive end made sure to include all of the other athletes – and supporting fans – when he reminded them that, “You don’t get many chances in life to experience something so strong.”
“As seniors on the football team, we talk about legacy and how you want to be remembered,” said Phelan. “We could all be remembered for accomplishing something great together.”
During the two-plus hours that it took Episcopal (9-1 overall, 4-1 league) to clinch the school’s first Inter-Ac title since 2012, the Churchmen dominated.
EA senior defensive end Jake Phelan in game vs. Malvern Prep (Photo by Patty Morgan for PSD)
McDaniel was sensational. Although his final numbers (24 carries, 121 yards, three touchdown runs; 9 of 12 passing, 145 yards) were gaudy, McDaniel’s leadership stood out from the time that he and his senior teammates were honored with a heartfelt ceremony before the game.
Although EA’s offensive line did excellent work throughout, helping junior Malcolm Folk collect 94 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries, as well as senior Matt Bush adding 84 yards and a score on 15 rushes, McDaniel occasionally needed to display his frightening athleticism to escape the grasp or pursuit of Haverford’s frustrated defense.
Once the Churchmen seized a 21-7 lead in the second quarter, the ultimate victor seemed secure. Whenever Haverford senior quarterback Dante Perri (16 of 27, 304 yards, four touchdowns) kept the Fords (6-4, 3-2) within striking distance, McDaniel and Co. would engineer long scoring drives to eat clock.
When the final seconds dissipated, Episcopal’s student body left the stands and rumbled onto the field to celebrate with their gridiron giants.
Indeed, Phelan’s words from the previous day had come to fruition.
“Live the moment,” he said. “Love each other. Sacrifice for each other. Struggle together. Play together. Let’s win a sweater together.”
According to the newest addition to the school’s already jammed trophy case, that’s precisely what the Episcopal Academy community did.