By Joe Santoliquito, Philadelphia Daily News
September 16, 2009
This time last year, Marple Newtown coach Ray Gionta started tinkering. He went with a youth movement, partly out of necessity, looking to replace some key players who were injured, and partly out of curiosity, to see what some of his younger players were capable of doing.
The Tigers got off to an 0-5 start, before surging to win six of their last seven games. Marple Newtown finished 6-6 and it appears to be carrying last season’s surge into this year. The Tigers are 2-0, outscoring their first two opponents, 55-6 – a 31-0 victory over Archbishop Ryan and a 24-6 victory over Springfield.
Gionta credits the emergence of senior quarterback Kevin Johnson and senior linebacker/tight end Carl Casarsky, who had six tackles against Springfield, along with a stingy defense led by junior linebacker Brian Kelly, who had a team-high 10 tackles against Springfield; senior outside linebacker Vince Christiana; 6-3, 250-pound junior defensive tackle Christian Whiteside; and junior defensive back Ryan White.
On special teams, Gionta feels he has two reliable kickers in senior place kicker Adam Fender and junior punter Billy Weaverling.
“I like a lot of things we’re doing, and I really like how well we’re playing on defense,” said Gionta, who logged his 100th coaching victory against Springfield. “I like how we’ve started, but we still have a long way to go, the offense and defense has to improve.”
That improvement will have to show quickly. The Tigers’ undefeated season will be in serious jeopardy when they visit powerful Penncrest tomorrow at 7 p.m.
“In high school football, a lot is relative to who you play,” Gionta said. “We didn’t open with Downingtown West, like Penncrest did, and we know Penncrest is a very good team. Our kids know they’re going to have their hands full, but they’re looking forward to going against a real quality football team and how we stack up against them. We’ll find out a lot of things about ourselves.”