By Chuck Smith, Delaware County Daily Times
September 17, 2011
It is possible that the Tigers’ inspiration was derived from knowing they were squaring off with one of the state’s marquee programs over the past 20 years. Maybe it was the energy of the boisterous, home crowd. Or perhaps, Marple Newtown is just a pretty darned good football team, which might have been overlooked.
Whatever the case, the Tigers proved their mettle as a Central League contender with a hard-fought, yet convincing 24-7 win over the Panthers.
“I’m ecstatic,” said Marple Newtown coach Ray Gionta, who was also the last coach at St. James prior to its closing. “You can’t say enough about these kids. They’re character kids with a great attitude. We had a great week of practice and I was impressed by what they were able to do against a quality team like Strath Haven.”
The Tigers stopped Strath Haven’s game-opening drive with a three-and-out before embarking on an extremely impressive initial drive of their own. Using six running plays and two passes, Marple Newtown drove 65 yards for a 7-0 lead when quarterback Jamie Ridinger scampered 8 yards into the end zone.
Marple Newtown displayed its prowess even further on the Panthers’ next offensive possession. After Andrew Crawford and James Griffin pounded the ball at the Tigers defense, Marple Newtown stifled Strath Haven on a fourth-and-goal from the 12-yard line. On the ensuing drive, Tigers kicker Anthony Nicolardi drilled a 34-yard field goal to extend Marple Newtown’s lead to 10-0.
“That was really big for us,” said Marple Newtown defensive lineman Kenny Smith, who teamed with Parker Maas and a host of Tigers defenders to hassle the Panthers. “We’ve been playing simple football and we pulled it together on both of the goal-line stands we had tonight.”
The Panthers displayed some resilience with a drive deep into Marple Newtown territory just before halftime. Quarterback Kevin Mohollen rolled to his left and dashed up field for a four-yard gain, which took Strath Haven to the Tigers’ two-yard line. It appeared as if the Panthers had called for a timeout before the clock expired, but no signal was made by the officials and the clock wound down.
Things did not get any better for Strath Haven in the second half, as the Tigers had no intention of letting up. Cimirrow Moat returned the opening kickoff 38 yards and capped the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run. The key play of the drive occurred when Ridinger hit Joey Pham (59 yards rushing, 41 yards receiving) with a 30-yard pass play to put Marple Newtown deep in Strath Haven territory.
“(Ridinger) made some big plays for us,” said Gionta. “He scrambled, he had a sneak, he hit some big pass plays and we’re going to need that because we need a balance.
“You can’t just rely on one running back.”
That running back, however, is pretty good. Moat finished with 138 yards and two touchdowns, but it was his ability to pound the Panthers defense in the fourth quarter that sealed the game for the Tigers.
“Cimirrow Moat has done in the first in the first two games and tonight he did against one good football team,” Gionta said of his speedy runner. Even with the running attack operating at optimal efficiency, Ridinger turned in an all-around masterful performance. He kept the Panthers defense off-balance through the air (65 yards) and on the ground (28 yards).
“We just wanted to switching things up,” said Ridinger. “The Wing-T is a running offense and we wanted to pass on downs where they wouldn’t expect it. By keeping them off-balance and then by giving Cimirrow the ball we were able to keep scoring.
“The offensive line was intense and kept beating their guys. We know we need to take it one week at a time and just focus on Ridley for next week.”
James Griffin put the Panthers on the scoreboard with a 5-yard scoring run later in the third quarter, but Strath Haven could not get any closer.
Moat added 25-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter and left the rest up to the Tigers defense.