By: John Knebels
Photos: Geanine Jamison
FORT WASHINGTON, PA – What a comeback. What a clutch individual performance. What a victory.
On a brisk Saturday afternoon under occasionally cloudy skies, Penn Charter captured an invigorating 22-21 Inter-Academic League win over host Germantown Academy. In the nation’s longest-running rivalry – now an amazing 134 years – Penn Charter increased its dominance to 86-37-11.
To say that this particular Quakers’ triumph had seemed unlikely is putting it mildly.
Trailing by 21-16 and facing a fourth and eight from his own 32-yard line with 1:26 remaining in the fourth quarter, Penn Charter sophomore quarterback Colin Schumm stepped back, took a few steps to his right, and saw an open receiver – senior Aaron Maione – about 50 yards downfield.
“I put the ball in the air and let our guys work,” said Schumm. “We have some special guys and they work magic on the field.”
After catching the ball at the 20 and sprinting into the end zone, Maione was mobbed by his teammates for helping the Quakers take their first lead.
“He’s one of our main guys on offense,” said Schumm. “Give him a lot of credit for that one. We focused on that play in particular picking on different guys on their defense, and it just went our way.”
Maione had to wait for the high arching pass to reach his chest. It felt like an eternity.
“I was just telling myself I can’t drop it,” said Maione. “The corner fell and I just had to make sure that I caught that ball before I started running for the end zone. It’s definitely surreal . . . just green grass ahead of you. You hear the fans screaming behind you.”
But for Maione, his most important contribution was yet to come.
Orchestrated by senior quarterback Jordan Longino (two touchdown runs), Germantown Academy (2-1 overall record) moved meticulously into Penn Charter territory.
A pass completion to senior Mike Rowan – and a combined game-saving tackle by Penn Charter’s Maione and junior Ed Guarnaccia – advanced the ball to the Quakers’ two-yard line.
An immediate rushing attempt was foiled by junior Jerry Rullo, whose earlier interception had thwarted a GA scoring chance.
After using their last timeout, the Patriots (1-1 overall record) sent out the field-goal unit for a chip shot 20-yarder with 9.5 seconds left. With the Germantown Academy sideline poised for a triumphant celebration, Maione ruined their pending party when he sprinted untouched from the right side of the line, made a full-extension dive, and blocked the kick to secure what all game long seemed like an improbable win, especially taking into consideration how two early fumbles had resulted in 14 first-quarter points by Germantown Academy.
“All day we’d been blocking it from the left and I wasn’t able to get there,” said Maione. “On that one, we knew we couldn’t go from the left. I told my buddy (sophomore Liam Rowan) that if he chipped that wing, that I was going to block that kick.
“I’ve hit many field goals that have still gone through the uprights, so I kind of just laid on the ground and waited to hear what happened. It ended up going our way.”
Although other candidates included senior Matt Marshall (10-yard scoring run) and Schumm (one-yard TD run; game-winning 68-yard TD pass), Maione was named Most Valuable Player during the series’ traditional post-game ceremony. Considering Maione caught the game-winning touchdown, saved the game with a combined tackle and blocked kick, and also added a momentum-changing, fourth-quarter interception, that choice was pretty obvious.
Two days later, Penn Charter found out that COVID-19 concerns ended their season. Though obviously disappointing, the Quakers’ dramatic win was quite a way to finish a season for the ages – a campaign that no one ever wants to experience again.
“You know, the past couple days after hearing the news, we’ve all definitely been bummed,” said Maione. “But we can all agree that if we were to end our high school career on one game, one moment, there’s no doubt that’s what we would pick.
“Most of us seniors have been playing since we were freshmen, and to end our four years on a nail-biting win against our long-time rivals . . . that’s the cherry on top for sure.”
(Contact John Knebels at Jknebels@gmail.com or on Twitter @johnknebels.)