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Head-turning Tigers counting on Ridinger

By 3 September, 2010August 23rd, 2012No Comments

By Matt Smith, Delaware County Daily Times
September 03, 2010

NEWTOWN SQUARE — Don’t let the small turnout in summer camp fool you: Marple Newtown is headed in the right direction.

“Our concern is depth,” said the longtime coach Ray Gionta, who last fall earned career win No. 100. “Our concern is the kids behind the guys we already know. We like what we have from player one through 15. It’s player 16 through 30 that we’re trying to develop. We can’t have everyone playing full-time both ways, so we’re trying to develop as we go along.”

For starters, Gionta and his coaching staff have eyed a replacement for Kevin Johnson, who graduated in the spring after leading the Tigers to the District One Class AAA playoffs in 2009, at quarterback.

Junior Jamie Ridinger (6-0, 180), who helped the Tigers’ junior varsity squad to a 5-0-2 record last fall, is projected to be the No. 1 quarterback when Marple opens its 2010 campaign against Sun Valley.

Senior punter Billy Weaverling also has some experience under center.

“I think (Ridinger) is going to be a work in progress,” Gionta said. “He has some tools, he has a strong arm and he’s a smart kid. This is going to be his first time in the fire, so he’s somebody who we have to bring along as we go through the season. He has the potential to be a good quarterback. Is he going to be Kevin Johnson? He was a two-year starter. I think at this time next year, Ridinger will have a shot to be as a good as, if not better, than Kevin Johnson. But right now, he’s developing.”

Ridinger won’t be alone out there. He’ll be surrounded by a talented core of returning starters.

“We don’t need him to be Ryan Howard,” Gionta said, reaching into his bag of baseball metaphors. “We need him to be Carlos Ruiz.”

Gionta plans to unleash a four-headed monster at running back, which consists of seniors Ryan White (5-11, 170), Ryan Duffy (5-10, 190) andMario Dioguardi (5-8, 180), as well as junior Cimarrow Moat (5-9, 160). All four should take turns in taking the pressure off Ridinger.

Moat has the least experience at the position, as he saw most of his action last year at linebacker. White averaged 7.5 yards per carry and flourished as a defensive back, registering 33 tackles and one interception.

Duffy quietly had a breakout season carrying the ball, logging a team-high 976 yards on 182 carries. Dioguardi was also effective, totaling 374 yards on 66 totes.

“My goal this year is to get 1,500 yards,” Duffy said. “I fell a little short of 1,000 last year and that kind of upset me. I’m anxious to get out on the field and achieve my goals and the team’s goals. We have high expectations for ourselves.”

For the backs to be successful, they’ll need some room to run. That responsibility is for seniors Christian Whiteside (6-2, 260), a two-way lineman, and guard/linebacker Brian Kelly.

Whiteside posted 48 tackles, including eight that went for a loss, and one sack a season ago. Kelly led all players with 82 tackles and three sacks.

“I’m ready to knock people around,” said Whiteside, who along with senior center/defensive end Pete Finegan (6-3, 255), is the Tigers’ physically imposing figure. “The important thing for me is, I got faster this year and lost some weight. Hopefully that’s going to help me and will help this team.”

Marple traditionally has had a successful program, but after a mediocre 2008 campaign, the Tigers’ level of play in ’09 might have surprised some of their Central League foes. They turned heads with convincing victories over Conestoga and Haverford High, and nearly stunned Garnet Valley, but dropped a 7-0 decision.

“We have to prove again we’re a good team,” Kelly said. “Maybe some teams didn’t think much about us last year, but this is a new year.”

Senior T.J. Fite (5-10, 250) will help solidify the offensive and defensive lines, while senior Matt Gregory was a starter at defensive tackle last season. Gregory is being worked out at tight end, too.

The Tigers will miss the presence of junior tight end/linebacker Ryan Furst, a would-be returning starter who is out for the season due to injury.

“We have a lot of experienced kids and that always makes it a lot easier,” Gionta said. “I think in some spots we’re confident in where we’re at, but in other areas we’re still trying to find out what kids can and can’t do. We’ll keep going until we figure it out.”