By Paul Vanderveer, Couny Press
September 24, 2010
But a true football fan can appreciate a hard fought gridiron tussle however it is packaged. And for an example of a dramatic contest that no one could term “wide open,” Marple Newtown High’s Harry Harvey Field was the place to be last Thursday evening.
As it turned out, the home Tigers recorded a 21-14 Central League triumph over the visiting Penncrest Lions, with the winning touchdown being punched across with a mere 2:11 to play on the fourth quarter clock.
Those facts tell you that it was a close game, but just how close might be better conveyed by a few other items.
Each team rushed for exactly 183 yards, while combining for one completed pass on the rainy artificial turf. Both had a costly turnover that resulted in a touchdown for their opponent, and both featured large linemen who played both ways and banged away at each other for four stanzas. It wasn’t glamorous, but after suffering a defeat at the hands of Springfield in the league opener the previous week, the Tigers were happy with the outcome.
“The Springfield game left a bad taste in our mouths,” said Marple fullbackRyan Duffy afterwards. “We needed to come back strong tonight.”
It was Duffy who crossed the goal line for the deciding score from the 2 yard line. The touchdown had been set up by a long Duffy burst a couple plays before, and it seemed that it was the Tigers’ line that had gained an ever so slight advantage down the stretch.
“Our offensive line won the game,” Duffy asserted. “They freed me on that last drive with their blocking.”
That same Marple line came up with the final key defensive play of the night on Penncrest’s final possession, as defensive tackle Christian Whitesidesacked Penncrest quarterback Beau DiFiore and caused a fumble. The ensuing recovery by Marple enabled the Tigers to run out the clock.
“We knew this game would be a fight to the end,” Duffy remarked.
That it proved to be, but Marple opened the scoring in rather easy fashion when safety Cimirrow Moat scooped up a fumble and raced 45 yards to the end zone less than five minutes into the game. Sporting an 0-2 record coming into play, you might have wondered if this early misfortune would have the Lions to hang their heads a bit.
However, head coach Paul Graham’s team quickly proved otherwise by scoring the games’ next pair of touchdowns. The first tally resulted from a 16 play, 83 yard, all ground drive that ended with DiFiore scoring from the four yard line. After a Marple fumble, the Lions’ signal caller repeated the feat from five yards out, and Penncrest had the lead midway through the second quarter.
The Tigers were to respond before halftime, marching 68 yards in 10 rushing plays. Running back Ryan White swept the final seven yards to produce the tying touchdown.
After being pushed around prior to intermission, both teams’ defenses stiffened in the second half. Penncrest’s Justin Diciocco set up his team in good position with a long return of the kickoff, but the Lions were unable to move the ball. The third quarter turned into a punting duel, while the early stages of the fourth saw possessions end in a Penncrest fumble, and failures by both teams to convert fourth down, one yard to go situations. Finally, Marple revved up the winning advance.
“We battled back after their first touchdown, but we lost the turnover war,” Graham lamented. “We didn’t take advantage of the kickoff return at the start of the second half, and Marple made some good defensive adjustments.”
Those Marple changes stymied Penncrest running back Juhwan Young considerably after intermission. Young finished with more than 100 total yards on the ground, but wasn’t able to find running room as readily in the game’s latter stages.
“We didn’t tackle well in the first half,” said Marple mentor Ray Gionta. “We tackled better in the second half, and made some adjustments defensively.”
Duffy also topped the century mark in rushing yardage, but plenty of kudos have to be accorded to the warriors in the trenches on both sides as well.
That group for Penncrest included Page Moat, Nicholas Quintans, Ian Fleming, Kyle Wenner, and Robby Marsden. Their counterparts for Marple were Whiteside, T.J. Fite, Peter Finegan, Brian Kelly, and Sean Ridinger.
The win gives Marple a 2-1 overall mark as they gear up for some Central contenders over the next few weeks.
“We’ll take this win, but we’ll get better,” Gionta remarked.
That may happen, but in terms of effort and drama, Marple and Penncrest didn’t leave much to be desired on this occasion.