By Michael Henry, Patch.com
November 14, 2011
NEWTOWN SQUARE–The Strath Haven Panthers were all over the Marple Newtown Tigers on Friday night to the tune of a 31-7 drubbing in the first round of the PIAA District 1 AAA playoffs.
Going into the game, the Tigers were the No. 4 seed in the playoffs, while the Panthers earned the No. 5 seed. The game was a rematch of week 3, in which Marple won 24-7. Friday night’s game was the third time in history that the Tigers had hosted a first round playoff game.
Strath Haven’s swarming defense established themselves early, as Marple Newtown failed to get past their own 30-yard line on their first two drives of the game. On the other side of the ball, Marple Newtown’s run defense struggled to slow the powerful running game of the Panthers.
On their second drive of the game, the Panthers converted a huge fourth and two around the Tiger’s 20-yard line to keep their drive alive. A couple plays later, sophomore quarterback Kevin Mohollen scored on a 15-yard run to put Strath Haven up 6-0 after a failed two-point conversion.
“They’re a good running team. They’ve done that all year long to a lot of football teams,” said Marple Newtown head coach Ray Gionta. “Even the first time we played them, they had quite a few yards running the football.”
A turnover by Marple Newtown deep in their own territory led to the second Panthers touchdown of the first half. Strath Haven took over at the 11-yard line, and two plays later junior halfback Tevon Howie scored from nine yards out to put the Panthers up 12-0 after another failed PAT. That was all it would take this night, as Strath Haven dominated the usually stout Tigers’ running game.
The Tigers did manage to score midway through the second quarter with some help from their seniors during a long and impressive drive. After senior halfback Cimirrow Moat converted on a key fourth and one with just around 7 minutes to play in the first half, the Tigers scored on a 30-yard touchdown throw from senior quarterback Jamie Ridinger to fellow seniorNick Ciarrocchi to pull a touchdown.
“The seniors as an entire group, they had a great attitude. They worked hard and showed a lot of leadership,” Gionta said after the game. “I’m proud of all 16 of them.”
The Panthers responded on their next drive and carved up the Tigers’ defense on a long drive that was capped off by a Mohollen 1-yard sneak into the endzone, and the score was 18-7 going into halftime.
The Tigers seemed poised to redeem themselves after a sluggish first half as their defense held tough against the Strath Haven running game during the first drive.
After taking over possession, Marple Newtown looked as though they had finally found their rhythm on offense, before Moat fumbled away the ball around midfield. While the Panthers didn’t score on the ensuing drive, any momentum that the Tigers had gained during the third quarter was quickly erased. The Panthers added two late scores in the fourth quarter to make the score 31-7, as they moved on to the second round of the playoffs.
Though a tough loss for the Tigers Gionta knows that this season was indeed a special one, and that it can only build confidence in the underclassmen going into next year.
“Next season will be a new season,” said Gionta. “We do have some nice kids returning. We should have a good starting point for next season.”