NEWTOWN SQUARE – Marple Newtown didn’t have one of its captains on the field for Thursday night’s Central League showdown with Radnor.
In a battle of unbeatens, senior two-way lineman Matt Trainor was forced to watch from the sideline as his boys chased after their fourth consecutive victory to start.
“We had to come together,” linebacker and fellow co-captain Matt McKee said.
Trainor let his teammates know via text that he would have their back in the coming weeks as he recovers from a meniscus injury.
“Losing him was something that really hurt us, but it’s something that really motivated us,” All-Delco athlete Abel Hoff said. “We just had to go out there and get the W for him. That’s all we could do.”
Led by Hoff’s 142 yards of total offense, the Tigers rallied to a 20-9 victory to remain perfect in 2015. It’s the first 4-0 start at Marple Newtown since 2007.
“This is what we talked about all offseason. It’s what all of the meetings were all about, to play together and to play well like we have,” Hoff said. “It’s crazy that we’re actually 4-0 and it’s just an amazing feeling.”
Hoff punished Radnor in a variety of ways. His 24-yard catch from Anthony Paoletti in the first quarter put the Tigers on the board. He ripped off a 50-yard kick return in the second quarter and gashed the Raiders defense with a series of big runs in the final stanza to help seal the victory. Hoff was a multi-dimensional threat and Radnor’s scrappy defensive unit, led by linebackers Charlie Connolly and Dario Falcone, couldn’t keep him bottled up.
Hoff had 13 carries for 93 yards, both season highs. He had four catches for 49 yards.
“Coach (Chris) Gicking trusts me to carry the ball when we need it,” Hoff said. “The offensive line was opening up holes and I just told them to trust me with the ball and we kept moving.”
Trailing 9-7, the Tigers took the lead to stay when “Captain” Jack Fallows bounced around the corner and ran 10 yards for a touchdown. MN scored the game’s final points on the strength of four consecutive pass completions by Paoletti in the third quarter. Paoletti plunged into the end zone from a yard out to make it 20-9.
Only once was Radnor able to push the ball across midfield in the second half. The Raiders were driving late in the third quarter when, on third down, Ryan Schneider picked off a Pat McDermott pass. In the fourth quarter, McKee had a pass defense (his second of the game) to force a turnover on downs. Carmen Christiana recorded the Tigers’ second pick of the night on Radnor’s next possession.
The big concern for Marple Newtown’s defense was stopping all-around Raiders producer Jack Wilson, who was limited to 19 yards on four carries. Jack Horvath (148 yards, 18 carries) did most of the damage on offense for the Raiders (3-1, 1-1).
“We know (Wilson) is a lethal weapon but unfortunately for us, they have other weapons, too,” Gicking said. “Sure you can focus on Wilson, but you’ve got to prepare for the whole team.”
If the Tigers beat Lower Merion next week, they will become the first Marple Newtown football team to start 5-0 since 1977.
“We never expected this,” McKee said. “It’s crazy, really. We’ve just been sticking together and playing as unit. We’re getting stuff done right now.”