By Christopher Vito, Delaware County Daily Times
Forget about halfback tosses, shotgun passes or running the option. At some point this fall, the Tigers likely will run all of the above. Less than three full days into their preseason camp, however, they’d already mastered Gionta’s playbook page dedicated to pride, patience and principle.
When asked about Marple Newtown’s strength, Sean Ridinger’s reply was authoritative: “Chemistry. We are one. The rest will come together.”
When asked about his team’s 2011 mantra, Chris Kurkian’s response had no hitch: “No one’s about theirself here. We’re a team.”
When asked about being the Tigers’ primary weapon on offense, Cimirrow Moat deflected limelight: “Our leadership will win games. Not me all by myself.”
If there’s one thing Gionta’s crew has going for it this fall, it’s that Marple Newtown will not lose games by pointing fingers and placing blame upon teammates. It’s the brand of team-first thinking that could elevate the Tigers into the postseason after a one-year playoff hiatus.
Ask around at Gionta’s camp, though, and the District One Class AAA bracket could be the furthest thing from his players’ minds. They’re not even considering what opening night will be like, let alone what could be a few months from there.
Instead of their opener against Sun Valley, the Tigers are thinking about their tasks in practice, and then their post-practice workouts.
“We’re not looking at last year, we’re not looking at two years ago. We’re taking it a day at a time,” said Gionta, who enters his ninth season at Marple Newtown. “The strength of the team is the intangible stuff. We have kids with good character who are working hard. We hope that equates to a couple wins.”
Is that enough to lean upon?
“We’re going to have to hope,” he said. “It’s our job to coach them up and get them better, as far as football stuff is concerned. We’ll be better in November than we’ll be in September. We’re banking on that.”
Gionta’s Tigers finished in the middle of the pack last season, but they’re hoping for a stronger finish in the Central League in 2011 … and maybe even to snag a playoff berth out of it.
But the Tigers don’t want to get ahead of themselves. Nope. Not them.
Moat, who had 70 carries last season, is expected to garner 25-30 carries per game his senior season. The 5-10 senior running back also plays in the secondary for Marple Newtown. Trying to pull from Moat his feelings on being the offense’s focal point is likely as difficult as pulling the ball from the senior’s grip.
“I’m up for anything,” Moat said. “Any position out there, I’ll play. I think I’m up for it. It’s going to be fun.”
To Gionta’s fortune, Marple Newtown had 53 students arrive at school Aug. 15 for the first day of camp. That’s more than Gionta’s ever had, which caused the veteran coach to scrap his standard training-camp routine and adapt one for so many fresh bodies.
The enthusiasm of a new season, Gionta said, was what brought so many out.
“It’s a pleasure to work with them,” he said, “because they’re eager to learn.”
Beginning with that one page in the playbook that everyone on Media Line Road has seemed to memorize, front to back.
Marple Newtown At A Glance:: 4-6 (3-6 Central League)
COACH: Ray Gionta (Ninth season at Marple Newtown: 49-38; Overall: 109-102-1) n STAFF: Lou D’Alonzo, Mike Doyle, Chris Edwards, Mark Possenti, Gary Molineux, Ted Carotenuto, Steve Giordano, Scott Wanner
KEY RETURNEES: Cimirrow Moat (RB/DB) 5-10, 175; Sean Ridinger(OG/LB) 6-0, 190; Chris Kurkian (OG/DT) 5-7, 180; Anthony Nicolardi (K);Joey Pham (WR/DB) 5-10, 160; Jamie Ridinger (QB) 6-0, 185; Ryan Schollenberger (TE/LB) 6-0, 180; Ryan Furst (TE/LB) 6-3, 185; Ken Smith (OT/DT) 6-1, 225; Tom Antista (HB/DB) 6-0, 160; Joe Vegso (QB/DB) 6-2, 180.
TOP NEWCOMERS: Parker Maas (HB/LB) 5-10, 180; Corey Power (C/DL) 6-1, 230; Craig Hamilton (TE/DE) 6-4, 190; Anthony Rosanio (HB-DB) 5-8, 160; Ed Graham (OT/DL) 6-1, 210.
OUTLOOK: Marple Newtown’s camp is dotted with as many ‘what-ifs’ as new faces. Fifty-three players, in all, turned out for Gionta’s tryouts, that tally serving as a beacon of hope for the veteran coach. The vocal leadership of linemen Ridinger and Kurkian will come in handy for a green team, and Moat will get the looks in the backfield. The Tigers are a wild card in the Central League, one that will “be better in November than we’ll be in September.”
NOTABLE: Players using the parking lot as a locker room could be overheard playing top-40 and rock music from their cars. Gionta, though, is more of a Motown man. When asked how he’d size up the Central League this season, the coach smiled and said, “It’s the same old song with a different story since you’ve been gone.” Doing his best to channel the Four Tops, Gionta lauded each team in the league before closing with his “it’s wide open” stance. It’s worth noting Gionta shimmied his shoulders a little bit when he gave his reasoning.
2010 RESULTS (4-6)
Marple Newtown 26, Sun Valley 0
Springfield 24, Marple Newtown 13
Marple Newtown 21, Penncrest 14
Upper Darby 25, Marple Newtown 0
Garnet Valley 35, Marple Newtown 28
Strath Haven 35, Marple Newtown 13
Ridley 46, Marple Newtown 21
Marple Newtown 41, Lower Merion 6
Marple Newtown 28, Harriton 20
Radnor 28, Marple Newtown 21