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Marple Newtown football stuns Strath Haven, 24-7

By 20 September, 2011August 20th, 2012No Comments

By Paul Vanderveer, Delaware County News Network
September 20, 2011

The scoreboard clock was ticking away the final seconds of last Friday night’s Central League football game featuring Strath Haven and Marple Newtown, and the cry issued forth from the student section: “We want Ridley!”

Someone who wasn’t there, but who has knowledge of the local gridiron scene, might plausibly be thinking “well, Haven doesn’t play Ridley until October, but I guess those kids were having some fun and looking ahead a little bit!”

Indeed, those kids were having fun, but our “knowledgeable” football person might have been more than a bit surprised to learn that the students in question were decked out in the black and orange colors of Marple Newtown, rather than the silver and black of Strath Haven.

That was due to the fact that Marple had just finished putting the final touches on a stunning 24-7 conquest of the defending 3A district champions on a perfect autumnal evening at Marple’s Harry Harvey Field.

There were no flukes or gimmicks used by the Tigers in pulling off this upset. Unless you call domination of the line of scrimmage, heady quarterback play, and hard running backs “gimmicks.”

“I’m ecstatic!” Marple coach Ray Gionta proclaimed. “This was an outstanding performance by our team tonight.”

Under normal circumstances, you don’t have to talk to Gionta for a long period of time to realize that he is usually somewhat reserved when it comes to discussing his team’s performance. So it stands to reason that the Tigers must have been pretty good on this occasion.

Marple and Haven both sported 2-0 records entering the fray, but a cynic might have pointed out that the Tigers’ wins had come over Sun Valley and Penncrest, a pair of winless foes, and that the always proud Panthers would bring them back to earth. But the Tigers weren’t about to let that line of thinking influence them.

“We believed in ourselves coming into this game,” senior lineman Anthony Desiderio asserted as a jubilant post game huddle began to disperse.

That seemed evident right from the start of the proceedings. Spurred by the play of linebacker Parker Maas, the Marple defense forced a quick Haven punt, and the Tigers’ offense promptly marched 65 yards in eight plays to gain a 7-0 lead.

As usual, the running game from the wing-T was the basis of the Marple advance. But quarterback Jamie Ridinger was able to mix in a pair of pass completions to Joey Pham and Tom Antista, and covered the final eight yards himself with a dash through the middle of the Haven defense.

Marple added three points to their advantage in the second quarter thanks to a 34-yard field goal by senior kicker Anthony Nicolardi, and was able to take that 10-0 edge to the halftime locker room as it was ruled that time had expired with the Panthers having the ball two yards from the Tigers’ end zone.

Given the proven quality of Haven’s teams under coach Kevin Clancy, a reversal of the tide in the second half wouldn’t have been all that surprising. But Marple instantly made it clear that they weren’t happy with winning just the first two quarters.

Receiving the second half kickoff was the Tigers’ Cimirrow Moat, as impressive a running back as the county has produced so far this fall. He returned the ball all the way to the 48-yard-line, and Marple undertook another scoring drive.

This one also used eight plays to go the distance, and was highlighted by a spectacular, 30-yard Ridinger to Pham aerial connection. Moat went in standing up from the two yard line, and now it was clear that Haven was in deep trouble.

The Panthers did their best to respond, as they embarked on a 63-yard scoring foray of their own. Running back James Griffin crossed the goal line from five yards out, and with more than a quarter still to play, there was plenty of reason for the home fans to be nervous. The fans maybe, but not the Tigers’ players.

After blunting another Haven drive midway through the fourth quarter, Marple put the game away behind the running of Moat, who scampered 25 yards for a clinching touchdown.

“Our line took it to them on both sides of the ball,” Desiderio pointed out. “We had a good week of practice, and we weren’t going to let them score again after that one touchdown.”

Desiderio was joined up front by fellow seniors such as Chris Kurkian, Sean Ridinger, Ken Smith, and Connor Breslin, along with junior Corey Power. Maas was sensational from his linebacker post, and received plenty of help from Ryan Furst and Ryan Schollenberger. In the secondary, Moat, Pham and Joe Vegso defended effectively in what was a true team effort.

Haven received plenty of rushing yardage from Griffin and fullback Andrew Crawford, but could never quite generate a game turning, long range play.

“We didn’t give up the big play,” Gionta agreed. “Maas was aggressive, and our defense ran to the ball well. Mike Doyle, our defensive coordinator, deserves a lot of credit.”

Marple’s win sets up a match this Friday against guess who – Ridley (which suffered a one point loss to Conestoga). With Haverford going against Springfield and Haven looking to rebound at Garnet Valley, the Central race will come into clearer focus come next Saturday morning.

Prior to the season, Marple would not have been selected to be in such a spot, and time will tell if the Tigers can maintain their pace. But Desiderio and his mates seem ready for what lies ahead.

“We’re all together as a team,” he asserted.