Photos: Lou Rabito
By: Marc Narducci
PHILADELPHIA – Winning a championship is never supposed to be easy and the teams in the Inter-Ac football league did their best not to give Malvern Prep a free pass.
Then again, the other five teams in the league also didn’t stop the Friars either.
A season-long crusade to reestablish supremacy concluded with Malvern Prep clinching the Inter-Ac title with Saturday’s 14-0 hard-fought win at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy.
It was the Friars’ first Inter-Ac title since 2018 and they finished 5-0 in the league, 8-2 overall.
Entering the game, it appeared as if the Friars could make quick business of their opponent. Malvern Prep was 4-0 in league play and SCH was 0-4.
So much for the mismatch.
SCH threatened a few times, being denied on a few fourth down plays in the red zone. The Blue Devils fought and battled even though they were outmanned.
This was the epitome of Inter-Ac football.
And it wasn’t only this game.
In the Friars’ first Inter-Ac game this year, they were heavily favored over Penn Charter. Instead, it was 31-21 at halftime. Every time the Friars looked to blow past Penn Charter, the Quakers found another gear. Malvern Prep eventually won the game, 41-21, but as coach Dave Gueriera said after that win, nothing is easy in the Inter-Ac.
That wasn’t coach speak and that pattern continued throughout the season.
In a similar situation as the opener with Penn Charter, Malvern Prep faced an SCH team that didn’t have the size, speed or depth to match up with the Friars, but measured pretty well in the heart department.
SCH is a young team, one that has been hit hard by injuries. Four freshman and five sophomores were in the starting lineup against the experienced Friars.
“They had 27 seniors, probably more seniors than we almost had in pads today,” SCH coach Rick Knox said. “We learned today if you give it your all and play hard, we learned what a football game was all about today and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
While Knox had every reason to feel that way, imagine the pride meter on Malvern Prep’s side of the field.
This is a program that sets out every year to win the Inter-Ac. It doesn’t always happen that way, but these are realistic goals each and every season.
After the championship was secured, Gueriera said how Malvern Prep gets everybody’s A-game and that was the case this year.
There was a 17-7 win over Episcopal Academy, a 24-13 victory over the Haverford School.
These are not gimmies by any means, nor should they be.
It’s why the Inter-Ac is so highly regarded.
In addition to receiving every team’s best body blows, Malvern Prep had another obstacle in attempting to win the title – this one provided by Mother Nature.
Playing in rainy weather is never fun and when one couples in fierce winds, it amounts to elements that test the fortitude of even the toughest players.
“The elements are one thing you can’t control but we could control our effort and attitude,” said offensive tackle Max Bowman.
At 6-foot-7 and 300 pounds, the only thing Bowman wasn’t able to block out was the rain. Headed to Harvard, he is one of many prime-timers on this Malvern Prep team.
How did the Friars cope with the weather?
They stayed out in it during halftime.
When everybody else retreated for cover, including this shivering reporter, the Friars stayed out in the cold, many of the players in short sleeves.
Gueriera said the locker rooms were small and it was better to keep his team outside, but there was also a symbolic message, that neither the rain, or an inspired SCH team wasn’t about to upset its championship plans.
“We tried to flip the mindset,” Gueriera said. “It was cold, wet and windy, but it was cold, wet and windy for them, so let’s try to embrace it and I thought we did a good job of it.”
The weather made throwing the ball an adventure, so the Friars did what they do best – pound on the ground with Isaiah Wright. The 5-8, 180-pound senior scored both touchdowns for the Friars, each on 7-yard runs one in the first quarter and one in the third.
Yet despite his brilliance all season, SCH made him work hard for every single yard.
Between the SCH defense and inclement weather, it made for a difficult day, but nothing once again proved more challenging than beating the Friars.
They entered the season as the favorites, the team with the collective bulls-eye on their back and just like the lousy weather, they embraced being the hunted.
“Every game was like a playoff game,” Gueriera said.
And Malvern Prep imagined itself advancing into the next round with each win.
Finally there are no more rounds. The table has been run, so to speak.
The Friars are true champions, overcoming their share of obstacles, and one gets the impression they wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.