By Al Thompson, Delaware County Daily Times
NEWTOWN SQUARE — The football game between Radnor and Marple Newtown Friday was a thriller that the players on both teams will remember for a long time.
The Tigers held on to pull out a 14-8 victory raising their record to 2-4, 2-3 in Central League play.
The game was not decided until the Tigers batted down Brian McKeon’s pass in the end zone as time expired.
Though his team performed well and had a chance to win at the end, that was of little solace to Radnor (1-5, 1-4) head coach Tom Ryan.
“We came back and it’s nice to play well, I like playing here, and we competed … but unfortunately we came up on the short end.’ Ryan said. “(Marple coach) Ray (Gionta) is a good friend of mine … we both said it was going to come down to the last drive. Out kids played hard and I’m proud of them for that.’
Both teams were without their starting quarterbacks. Radnor lost Vinnie Kelly to injury last week, and the Tigers lost Tommy Davis to a leg injury in the first quarter.
Ryan went with Chris Leighton, who was seeing limited action at quarterback for most of the season, and with McKeon, a safety, taking snaps under center to change the pace of the game.
“Chris is our starter now after what happened with Vinnie last week in the Upper Darby game,’ Ryan said. “Chris Leighton is doing a great job. Him and Brian practiced all week together. They both do (different) things well and it’s a nice combination to have two quarterbacks to be able to play.’
Sophomore Marcus Weathers took over at quarterback for Marple Newtown.
Both teams kept the ball on the ground. There were only 15 total passes thrown in the game for both teams, producing 47 yards for Radnor and zero yards in the air for Marple Newtown.
Radnor took a 6-0 lead in the first quarter when Leighton hit Chris Galloway with a 13-yard touchdown pass. The score was set up when the Tigers muffed a punt giving the Raiders the ball on Marple Newtown’s 31-yard line.
Marple answered on its next possession with a 49-yard touchdown run by Abel Hoff who broke several tackles to get to the end zone. Both teams missed the extra point.
Radnor looked like it was going to counter on its next possession, driving into Tigers territory. They went for it on fourth-and-2 at the Tigers’ 44-yard line. Marple’s defensive tackle Nick Volpi sacked Leighton for a five-yard loss giving his team the ball and his defense an emotional boost.
“I threw my hands out, shed the block and I was able to force him outside,’ Volpi said. “I chased him down, saw he was ready to throw and just grabbed him.’
The Tigers fumbled the ball on the next possession but were able to stop the Raiders and force them to punt.
Two plays later, running back Adrian Sapnas took a hand off at the 18-yard line and raced 82 yards to the end zone; with the two-point conversion, it gave Marple a 14-6 lead going into halftime.
Radnor’s defense played well the rest of the way, shutting out the Tigers for the rest of the game but were unable muster much offense on its own.
The Raiders came up with a big play that almost gave them the win when they blocked a Tigers punt with less then six minutes left in the fourth quarter. Radnor moved the ball to the 35-yard line when Brian Rosborough picked off a McKeon pass attempt at the two-yard line.
The Raiders defense stood its ground and with the thought of having another punt blocked, Gionta elected to give up a safety making the score 14-8.
Radnor got the ball back at the Tigers 40-yard line 53.6 seconds to go, but big plays by Marple’s defense including clutch tackles by Zach Falcone, Volpi and A.J. Cunningham among others, kept Radnor from pulling out the win.
“I’m a senior, I didn’t play varsity much last year, I did a little bit, and I figured I only have two more games on this field so I wanted to make it my best,’ Volpi said. “I had a lot of confidence in our defense.’
Jack Wilson, who rushed 15 times for 107 yards, led Radnor.
Sapnas, a junior, rushed 23 times for 186 yards and a touchdown and Hoff, a sophomore, rushed for 111 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown, led Marple Newtown.
“We’re young,’ Gionta said. “We’re trying to get better week by week. I think we got a little better this week.’