By: Rich Flanagan
Photos: Patty Morgan
AMBLER, PA - Jack Techtman knew exactly what to call.
With under 40 seconds left to play and the ball at Lansdale Catholic’s 29-yard line, the Conwell-Egan head coach could’ve elected to run the ball once more before taking a shot at the end zone. Yet, the decision was simple after he had picked up a tendency the Crusaders’ defense had shown multiple times throughout the game.
The Eagles primary way to move the ball through the air was through wide receiver screens. Having a multi-purpose threat like running back Khian’Dre Harris and the versatile Andrew Garwo, Techtman likes to get his skill position players in space and allow them an opportunity to create. He had called a bubble screen to Harris in the second quarter and noticed the corner had cheated up on the route.
Without hesitation, Techtman called the same play. Harris remained behind the line of scrimmage as if running a screen. Quarterback Donte Morris looked him off and fired down the sideline, where Garwo was waiting in the end zone after beating the safety to seal the Eagles 21-14 victory over the Crusaders at Wissahickon High School.
Techtman found a way to exploit the defense and he made them pay in the closing seconds.
“We called the bubble earlier and they jumped on Khian’Dre,” Techtman said. “It was right in front of me and I saw the outside corner jump. I put in my head that if we ran that again they’re not going to cover Andrew. Great protection upfront. Donte made a great throw and Andrew is a heck of an athlete.”
Morris found Garwo down the left sideline with 33.8 seconds remaining to give Conwell-Egan (1-1, 1-0 Philadelphia Catholic League) its first victory of the season.
The go-ahead score came after the Eagles began the final drive at their own 37-yard line with 2:52 left to play. Backup running back Colin Majors had a run of 20 yards and later Morris found Harris (113 scrimmage yards) for 11 yards on one of those noted screen passes. Two plays later, Garwo hauled in the game-winning touchdown.
Garwo, a Temple commit, sparked the Eagles in the first quarter when he picked off Crusaders dual-threat quarterback LJ Phillips and returned the pick 36 yards to the house for the game’s first score.
The 6-foot safety, who has been utilized at multiple positions in the secondary and even linebacker, has relished the opportunity to play in several different spots, something that the Owls program has been known for doing with players over the last few years.
“Freshman and sophomore year, I was mainly a corner but I knew that if I could play everywhere in the secondary I could help my team out,” Garwo said. “If I know a lot of positions that can help me going into college. I’ve been versatile since I came here.”
His interception was just one of the terrific defensive plays from the Eagles in the first half. They held Lansdale Catholic (0-1, 0-1) to two first downs in the first two quarters and defensive lineman Samaj Moore recorded 2.0 sacks. During their only touchdown drive of the half, Harris ran the ball four times for 48 yards including a 10-yard scamper to the end zone to give Conwell-Egan a 14-0 lead with 5:11 left before the break.
Behind the legs and arm of Phillips, the Crusaders responded to open the third quarter. They went on a 13-play, 62-yard drive that saw them pick up four first downs, which included a 16-yard run by Phillips. The Davidson College commit found Luke Shrager for an eight-yard hookup then on the next play he did the rest himself by sprinting nine yards off tackle to the left for a nine-yard touchdown. The Crusaders defense forced a fumble by Morris and on the ensuing possession Phillips rolled out to his right and found Tyler Van Osten for a 22-yard score to tie the game at 14-14 with 5:52 left in the third.
Phillips noted how the Crusaders offense took advantage of the Eagles disorganization to begin the second half to get back in the game.
“We were trying to speed things up on offense because they didn’t seem to know what they were doing there,” Phillips said. “We decided to go faster and it worked so we stuck with the fast pace then decided to go with designed runs for me. We started getting our groove a little more.”
The Eagles used a lot of Harris on the ground in an attempt to move the ball down the stretch and ultimately they used him as a decoy to close things out with the beautiful strike from Morris to Garwo.
Garwo, whose brother, Patrick, starred at Conwell-Egan and now plays at Boston College, is one of the most skilled players on the Eagles roster and Techtman is trying to find creative ways to implement him more into the offense.
Still, the head coach knows the presence of mind and awareness his senior safety has and the impact plays, like his pick six, he makes are the reason he’s herald throughout the league.
“He was the best corner in the Catholic League last year,” Techtman said. “I think some colleges would like to see him in different places and be more involved. He hits everybody that moves. We have moved him inside at the linebacker spot then both safeties and he’s so smart moving back there. That pick was just pure intelligence.”