By CHRISTOPHER A. VITO
NEWTOWN SQUARE — As the third day of camp at Marple Newtown rolled on, a thunder clap roared in the distance. A downpour followed, with 20 minutes of rainfall drenching Harry Harvey Field.
The players at Marple Newtown were gathered at the 20-yard line in a semicircle, jumping over pools of gathering water on the turf as they watched a blocking drill unfold. The objective was for a defensive player to shed his blocker in order to get to the ballcarrier.
One player glanced at another and, almost as if following his lines for that scripted moment, said, “The rain’s making this thing pretty epic.”
It wasn’t epic, though. It was merely a day of football camp.
Epic is what the Tigers are hoping for. Epic would embody more than what they achieved last fall. Epic would entail a playoff run, preceded by a better-than-average mark in the Central League.
To capture an epic season on Media Line Road, Marple Newtown coach Ray Gionta is willing to try anything. That means using a two-quarterback system — not because he can’t decide which signal-caller he prefers, but because both players bring something different to the table.
Going with two quarterbacks on a weekly basis would be a departure from the norm for Gionta, whose team qualified for the District One Class AAA playoffs last season and achieved a 7-4 record. The two guys vying to line up under center are senior Joe Vegso and junior Tom Davis.
“Vegso is a linebacker. Tommy is a traditional, slender guy,” Gionta said, detailing their differences. “Between the two of them or a combination of the two, they could do a decent job. It’s a possibility, going with both there. I think both of them could do two different things. I think Vegso, though, is one of our better defensive players.”
Therein lies the risk. Take Vegso, an intimidating bruiser at 6-1, 190 pounds, and play him at two spots, he’s likely going to be less effective on the defensive side at linebacker. Go with Davis, and the Tigers are handing the ball to an inexperienced quarterback, but someone who can do the job capably.
“I told Coach when this first idea came that wherever he needs to put me for this team to be successful, I’ll do it,” said Vegso, a second-team all-league outside linebacker. “If that’s tight end/split end, I’ll do it. If it’s quarterback, that’s OK. Our team works better with that, we’ll be more lethal and have more threats.”
Outside of the quarterback spot, Gionta has plenty of reasons to believe an epic year is possible.
He likes the leadership of his senior-heavy roster, with co-captains Vegso and Corey Power, a tackle and defensive end, along with linebacker Parker Maas and running back Anthony Rosanio.
He likes his offensive line, with Power and Ed Graham carrying that unseasoned quintet.
But as Gionta warns, Marple Newtown doesn’t have that premier ballcarrying back like All-Delco Cimirrow Moat upon whom it can lean. It’s going to be a collective effort. The fundamentals, while important, almost take a backseat to “Learning how to be a team,” said senior tight end/defensive end Craig Hamilton.
g, but it gets everybody going. Nobody likes preseason, but days like this get us through it.”
And a bit closer to those possibly epic moments of 2012.
2011 RECORD: 7-4 (6-3 Central League)
COACH: Ray Gionta (10th season at Marple Newtown: 57-42; Overall: 116-106-1
STAFF: Lou D’Alonzo, Bill Fulton, Tom Davidson, Mark Possenti, Gary Molineaux, Ted Carotenuto, Steve Giordano, Mike Warrick
KEY RETURNEES: Joe Vegso (QB/OLB) 6-2, 190; Corey Power (OT/DE) 6-3, 235; Parker Maas (LB) 5-10, 190; Anthony Rosanio (RB) 5-8, 160; Craig Hamilton (TE/DE) 6-5, 230; Ed Graham (OT/DL) 6-2, 210; Mike White (RB/DB) 5-9, 185.
TOP NEWCOMERS: Zack Falcone (DT) 6-4, 265; Tom Davis (QB/DB) 6-1, 165; Ross Binder (RB/DB) 5-9, 165; Markos Katrakazis (C/LB) 5-11, 185; Austin DiFabio (RB/DB) 5-9, 165; Andrew McHale (OG/LB) 6-0, 205; Kevin Rafferty (OG/DE) 6-1, 215; Tom Panczner (OG) 6-1, 190; Ian Whiteside (OT/DT) 6-2, 230; AJ Cunningham (TE/LB) 6-0, 180.
OUTLOOK: Gionta sums up the Tigers in this way: “We’ll be better in November.” He seems to say that every season. And he truly believes it. While he’s not willing to cede nonleague results to open the season, he’s clearly focusing attention on the Central League slate. That’s because his team returns only four starters from last season, and only three others who he considers key letter-winners. The rest are newbies, which doesn’t exactly bode well for a wild-card team in the Central that is looking to build upon a District One Class AAA playoff appearance in 2011.
NOTABLE: If the Tigers can close, they’ll improve. Consider: Through seven games in 2011, they posted six wins by averaging nearly 33 points per game. Through their final four, they had one win and 16 points per game.