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Published: Saturday, October 20, 2012 – Delaware County Daily Times

By DENNIS DEITCH, @DennisDeitch

UPPER DARBY — Austin DiFabio had plenty of success in the junior varsity backfield a season ago, enough to get him quality time in Marple Newtown’s backfield this season.

However, through the first seven games and 47 minutes, 22 seconds of his varsity career, the senior had yet to celebrate a touchdown.

He made the first one count in a major way.

DiFabio, sweeping to the left on third-and-goal from the 2-yard line, extended his arms just far enough to get the ball over the goal line for his first score of the season and the Tigers’ only points of the night with 38 seconds remaining as Marple Newtown knocked off Upper Darby, 6-3, in Central League action Friday night.

It was the second time DiFabio hit paydirt, but his 57-yard scoring jaunt earlier in the final quarter was reduced to an 8-yard run when a downfield holding call brought it back. However, in a defensive struggle that had Marple Newtown (3-5, 3-4) in negative yardage on the ground until well into the second quarter, DiFabio seemed to be the one guy in the backfield the Royals’ front seven couldn’t keep tabs on. DiFabio had 52 yards on six carries, including a 28-yard run on the opening play of the second half that helped open up some options for Marple.

“He was running the ball hard tonight,” Tigers coach Ray Gionta said of DiFabio. “He was moving the ball on the opportunities he had, and thank God he got that last one in the end zone.”

It certainly took everything he had to get it there. DiFabio was racing for the pylon while under hot pursuit. As he stretched for the goal line, an Upper Darby defender grabbed a hold of his shoulder pads.

“It was close — really close,” DiFabio said. “We played hard and gave it everything we’ve got. We wanted this game because we were coming off a loss (40-6 to Garnet Valley). It feels good.”

The game easily could have gone in a sour direction for the Tigers. They turned the ball over on their first offensive snap, and that led to a 22-yard field goal by Upper Darby kicker/punter Matt Rucci early in the first quarter. Later in the opening quarter Upper Darby (3-5, 3-3) used eight plays to drive 55 yards, but on a third-and-4 from the Marple 5, Michael White made a nice read and picked off a pass at the goal line, returning it 52 yards.

“We hung in there,” Gionta said. “They had some turnovers and did some things to shoot themselves in the foot. I think we did some things on defense to slow them down and came up with some big plays just to keep it at 3-0.”

Another major break came in the third quarter, when Upper Darby cost itself 30 yards with a lack of discipline on the sidelines. After quarterback Nii Kotei Nikoi scrambled for a 12-yard gain on third down, he took a late hit from a Tigers defender along the sideline that would have given his team a first down at Marple’s 35. Instead, Upper Darby players on the sideline retaliated, earning a flag to offset the personal foul. Moments later, head coach Rich Gentile’s antics earned him an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, pushing the Royals back to their 35. The extra ground to cover cost Upper Darby when it lost a fumble eight plays later as it was pushing into the red zone.

Eventually, Marple would get a break. With 4:22 remaining in the fourth, Rucci — who had been booming punts all game — got some pressure and shanked a 7-yard punt at midfield. It gave the Tigers decent field position and a pair of big-time third-down grabs by Ross Binder and big tight end Craig Hamilton helped set up DiFabio’s memorable first varsity score.

“We kept thinking, ‘We’re going to get this. We’re going to win the game,’” DiFabio said. “It was amazing.”