By JACK McCAFFERY
NEWTOWN SQUARE — The more Ray Gionta counted, re-counted and counted again the many ways the Harriton High offense could strike, the more the Marple Newtown football coach could draw only one solution.
That’s when he brought his offensive line together.
“He challenged us,” senior Eddie Graham said. “He really did.”
Gionta’s plan to defeat Harriton was basic: Protect the ball, grind the clock, perforate the defense and win a ground game. So, the Tigers did Friday, prevailing 45-27 with both Parker Maas and Anthony Rosanio rushing for 95 yards and quarterback Thomas Davis running for three touchdowns.
“The line,” Gionta said, “did a great job.”
Among the Tigers assisting Graham with the up-front lunging were center Corey Power, Andrew McHale, Ian Whiteside, Markos Katrakais, Craig Hamilton and Joe Vesgo. Their preparation showed early.
Within their first six plays, the Tigers scored on Davis’ seven-yard burst and on a 35-yard dash by Ross Binder.
Though staggered, the willing Rams spent the rest of the night trying to retaliate, yet never could easily keep Marple Newtown from generating sustained drives.
“I told the kids there were some positive things in the second half,” said Harriton coach Matt Barr, a Marple Newtown alum. “But we have to practice better. We lost this game during the week.
“We have small numbers here, and it’s tough trying to find guys to fill spots,” Barr then added. “So we will just take it week to week.”
Harriton took it quarter-to-quarter, even scoring two of the three fourth-quarter touchdowns.
By then, though, the Marple Newtown offensive line had more than met Gionta’s challenge.
The Tigers improved to 2-4, 2-3 in the Central League. Harriton is 3-3, 2-3 in the Central.
Quarterback Patrick Moriarty sandwiched a six-yard TD strike to Kenny Brown and his own two-yard touchdown run around an eight-yard scoring blast by Rosanio, keeping Harriton close early.
But Davis’ second touchdown run and a 37-yard Nicholas Pezzotti field goal near the end of the half gave the Tigers a 31-13 lead at intermission.
When Davis scored on a seven-yard keeper in the third quarter, he had something of a natural football hat trick: Three carries, three scores.
“They were leaving the middle wide open,” Davis said. “And all week, we practiced a little QB-keep when we see that on the goal line and try to punch it in there. And that’s what we did this week.”
Moriarty’s 25-yard early-fourth-quarter scoring pass to Brown re-affirmed Gionta’s initial evaluation of Harriton’s quick-strike skills.
But the Marple Newtown offensive line answered by opening rough ground for Binder to score his second TD.
Moriarty scored with 5:16 left, but it was too late for Harriton.
“It was a hard week of practice,” Graham said afterward. “But we worked hard and worked through it and obviously it showed tonight.”