Photos/Videos: Kathy Leister, Lou Rabito & Krystal Williams
By: Marc Narducci
It comes and goes so quickly, a five-game sprint of an Inter-Ac season is ready to conclude in an appropriate manner.
For that to happen, Episcopal Academy and Haverford School had to win competitive games last week. Now they will be deciding the championship in their season finale.
We saw more of the winning formula for Haverford School, while EA reacted well after being in the unfamiliar situation of playing in an actual close game.
In addition, there was a resurgence by Penn Charter which enjoyed an offensive outburst on a day when the QB-receiver combo couldn’t stay out of the end zone.
As usual, the teams that didn’t come out ahead on the scoreboard, still had some positive signs.
Here is our Pick Six, a look at the fourth week of Inter-Ac action.
Over the past month, Penn Charter has seen some good moments, but had come up with four consecutive losses. A week ago, the Quakers tested still-unbeaten Haverford School to the limit before falling 16-13.
So despite being 0-3 in Inter-Ac play, this group, often dealing with key injuries, kept grinding and fighting.
On Saturday, the Quakers were rewarded for their persistence in a 56-28 win over Springside Chestnut Hill Academy.
Penn Charter senior quarterback Seamus McCain - PSD Photo by Lou Rabito
It was a day when the offense took flight, led by senior quarterback Seamus McCain, who threw six touchdown passes and ran for another.
“It was awesome, a complete team win, and we were all on point and it was really cool to put up that many points,” McCain said.
The competitive loss to Haverford School proved to be a true confidence builder for the Quakers.
“That close loss to Haverford told us we could play with anybody in the state and compete at a high level,” McCain said. “It really gave us a lot of confidence.”
He said that on Saturday, with every touchdown pass, his confidence grew as well.
The same was the case for senior receiver Liam Rowan, who caught five touchdown passes.
“I didn’t think I would have five touchdowns,” Rowan said. “I knew it was my second to last game and wanted us to get first Inter-Ac win and wanted to do anything to help us win.”
Coach Tom Coyle was happy with the grit that his team showed even during its four-game losing streak. He said the key was coming out early smoking.
“I am not an excuse guy, but we have had some injuries,” he said. “We challenged our guys to start faster.”
The Quakers also finished fast, especially in the first half. The score was tied at 14-14 in the second quarter when Penn Charter opened things up by scoring three touchdowns in the final three minutes of the first half.
It was also a big day for the offensive line, CJ English and Michael Gambone at tackle, Cliff Harling and Chris Austin at guard and center Steven Blaker. In addition, freshman Damian Albeck also played some center as the O-line continued to give McCain plenty of time to throw.
Now the season will end with one of the best rivalries in the United States. On Saturday Penn Charter (5-4, 1-3) visits Germantown Academy. This is the longest continuous rivalry in the United States.
Saturday will be the 136th game.
“We are playing our best football going against our biggest rival and possibly one of the biggest rivalries in the country,” McCain said. “It gives us a lot of confidence going into the game.”
For seniors like McCain and Rowan, there will not only be the emotions of this spirited rivalry, but it will be their final high school football game. What a double whammy of emotions.
“There is no other feeling than stepping on the field to kick return kicks against GA,” Rowan said. “I really wish we had other games, I can’t believe it has flown by.”
Saturday: Penn Charter at Germantown Academy, 1:30 p.m.
No matter what the sport is, when Episcopal Academy and Haverford School meet, there is never a shortage of intensity.
Now the two will be meeting for all the marbles on Saturday in a winner-take-all matchup.
Yet for this to happen, Episcopal Academy had to earn a hard-fought 14-11 victory on Saturday against defending Inter-Ac League champ Malvern Prep.
As the score suggested, it was a defensive slugfest.
EA took a 14-3 halftime lead and then the defense took over in the second half.
Junior quarterback Na’rome Rayborn opened the scoring with a 3-yard run and later in the first half found Jack Hurda on a 33-yard scoring pass.
Rayborn would finish 15 for 22 for 113 yards and one touchdown and he also rushed for 61 yards and a score on 15 carries
“Whenever we can beat Malvern it feels really good and it was the first time we played a full game and faced adversity,” EA coach Todd Fairlie said. “I was proud of what we did and it was a gritty, tough, physical win.”
Fairlie wasn’t exaggerating about facing adversity for the first time. The previous closest game for the Churchmen was their opener, a 34-8 win over at Conwell-Egan.
One of the key defenders was junior cornerback Dylan Jaszcz, who had a key pass break-up and ended the game with an interception.
Senior linebacker Will Hohn had three tackles, a tackle for loss and sack and junior defensive lineman AJ Koukou had six tackles.
So now it has come down to Saturday’s season finale as Episcopal Academy hosts Haverford School, with both teams 9-0, 4-0.
This is sort of a similar situation that existed in 2019 when EA and Haverford School met in the season finale with the Inter-Ac title on the line. One difference is that both teams had one Inter-Ac loss entering the game.
EA won that one, 38-28 to earn its most recent Inter-Ac championship.
"Everything we did was to prepare for Malvern and Haverford School,” Fairlie said. “Now we have to show up and get the job done and this is a very special week.”
Saturday: Haverford School at Episcopal Academy, 2:30
Springside Chestnut Hill Academy has had a tough go in Inter-Ac play, but despite being 0-4, the Blue Devils have shown positives almost every week.
Last week’s 56-28 loss to Penn Charter was no exception.
As the score suggests, the offense was clicking.
Junior Tyler Roberts had another monster day, with six receptions for 156 yards and two touchdowns. For good measure, he added 63 yards rushing on just three carries.
Junior quarterback Tommy Markey was 22 for 40 for 285 yards and two touchdowns. Danny Reagan a junior tight end, had nine receptions for 81 yards.
In their four Inter-Ac losses, the Blue Devils are averaging 23 points per game, which is a respectable total considering some of the swarming defenses they have had to face.
Springside Chestnut Hill junior quarterback Tommy Markey - PSD Photo by Lou Rabito
Yet this a young team prone to lapses and with the score tied at 14-14 late in the first half, Penn Charter pulled ahead with three touchdowns in the final three minutes to assume control by halftime.
“We made mistakes and had some lapses,” coach Rick Knox said.
Now the Blue Devils have the difficult task of ending their season playing Malvern Prep.
“They are very big up front, and we will have to buckle up to try to stop the run,” Knox said.
All season Haverford School has prospered by relying on a strong running game and a relentless defense.
There was no need to change the formula, which once again worked in a 20-7 win over Germantown Academy.
Junior running back Matt Brosko, who never met a would-be tackler he didn’t want to barrel over, rushed for 281 yards and a touchdown on 31 bruising carries.
“The kid is like a machine and keeps getting better as game goes on,” Haverford School coach Brian Martin said of Brosko.
Senior Derrick Knox had four receptions for 37 yards and one touchdown. Freshman Zach Faragalli came off the bench to throw a 29-yard scoring pass to Knox.
Senor kicker Ivan Harlamov kicked field goals of 46 and 20 yards.
And then there was the D, led by senior linebacker Louie Atkinson, who had 12 tackles and two sacks.
It was another game in which the 6-2, 205-pound Atkinson wrecked the opposing offense’s game plan.
“Our defense takes pride in how we play with our physicality,” Atkinson said. “We love it when all eyes are on us, and we try to be the show.”
It’s been a show well worth watching for Fords fans, not so fun for opposing offenses. In their four Inter-Ac wins, the Fords are allowing a measly 6.75 points per game.
Another key contributor Saturday was sophomore linebacker Kellen Gardner, who added nine tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack.
Faragalli replaced starting quarterback Gavin Wright, who left the game with a stinger. The 29-yard touchdown pass to Knox came on a jet sweep.
Martin says he expects Wright to be ready for the season finale.
This is not just any season finale. As outlined earlier, the winner of Saturday’s Haverford School-Episcopal Academy game will finish with an undefeated season and clinch the Inter-Ac title.
“We are trying to ignore all the drama and what people are saying,” said Atkinson, intent on not getting influenced by all the hype. “We are looking for a good week of practice and it’s just another game.”
Sure it is, one that simply means everything, a game that neither team will likely forget for their rest of their lives, regardless of the outcome.
Saturday: Haverford School at Episcopal Academy, 2:30.
Germantown Academy has played competitive football the past two weeks, during a 29-14 loss to Malvern Prep and on Saturday in a 20-7 defeat to unbeaten Haverford School.
The Patriots trailed just 6-0 at halftime and the game was still relatively close, 13-0 midway through the fourth quarter.
Germantown Academy would score on a 9-yard pass from junior Tristan Machado to sophomore AJ Towsen.
“Their defensive front was fantastic and we couldn’t get settled all game,” said GA coach Matt Dence, who was forced to start two freshman on the offensive line due to injury.
Dence said his special teams and defense both provided plenty of big plays. He gave special mention to punter Cole Grim.
“Cole did a great job flipping the field,” Dence said.
Now the focus shifts to the big rivalry game with Penn Charter on Saturday. Among other things at stake - 136 years of history and a trophy to the winner.
“Both campuses are out of their minds this week,” Dence said.
With all the hoopla, the key will be for the teams to focus on the task at hand, getting a W in the final game of the season for both teams.
Saturday: Penn Charter at Germantown Academy, 1:30.
The difference between winning and losing in the Intre-Ac among the contenders is not very big. Malvern Prep is a prime example.
The Friars are 2-2 in the Inter-Ac. The losses came by a total of nine points to both remaining unbeaten teams, Haverford School and Episcopal Academy.
Malvern Prep lost 6-0 earlier this season to Haverford School and 14-11 this past week to Episcopal Academy.
The Friars trailed 14-3 at halftime, got to within 14-11 on a Yaahdir Nash 6-yard run but could get no closer.
“The first half I think they ran all over us,” said Malvern Prep senior defensive end Luke Testa. “We made some good stops around the goal line.”
Now Malvern Prep (7-2, 2-2) will close its season out Friday at home against Springside Chestnut Hill Academy.
Malvern Prep senior running back Yaahdir Nash #17 - PSD Photo by Kathy Leister
“It’s crazy,” Testa said. “We want to finish the season off strong and prove to everybody we are a good team.”
Friday: Springside Chestnut Hill Academy at Malvern Prep, 6 pm.