By Dave DiPasqua, Tigers Radio Network
NEWTOWN SQUARE – Marple Newtown’s historic season continues, returning to the District One Class AAA playoffs for the first time since 2011.
The Tigers (8-2, 6-2) are hungry for their first playoff win in school history, traveling to Pottsgrove, Pennsylvania for a matchup with the Pottsgrove Falcons.
In head coach Chris Gicking’s second season, he acknowledges the hard work that everyone has put in for this opportunity in the playoffs.
“I’m really proud of the kids and coaches for all their hard work and that is something I’ve been saying since week one. It’s great to have the support from the administration and community to make it that much easier,” Gicking said.
A major part of the success this season can be attributed to the senior leadership on offense, defense, and special teams. With sixteen seniors on the roster, experience has been a key attribute for coach Gicking’s squad.
The coach noted how “these seniors have led by example, vocally, among other ways. Everyone has their own role and does it as best as they can. They are great kids as well as a great class.”
The vocal point of the offense has been centered on the play of All-Delco wide receiver Abel Hoff.
Marple Newtown’s Hoff entered the season with high expectations after breaking the school and Delaware County single season record with 70 receptions in his junior campaign.
The senior captain picked up where he left off, leading the team statistically through the air and on the ground. Thus far, Hoff has reeled in 59 receptions for 909 yards and 9 touchdowns. On the ground, Hoff showcased his versatility by being the team’s leading rusher, compiling 425 yards on 87 carries, finding the end zone 6 times.
“I feel extremely blessed to have had the career I’ve had. It’s amazing to see all of our hard work payoff. I love playing with my brothers and its awesome being able to get them fired up by making big-plays,” Hoff remarked.
An added compliment to Hoff on the outside has been the play of former quarterback Marcus Weathers. The senior transitioned to wide receiver in the off-season, allowing his 6’1” frame to create mismatches in the secondary against the opposition. This decision gave the Tigers another vertical threat down the field, while allowing sophomore Anthony Paoletti to take his place as the starting quarterback.
Paoletti has stepped into this starting role without hesitation, playing like a proven veteran in coach Gicking’s system. As the season has progressed, the sophomore has felt more comfortable in the offense.
Paoletti credits this to the senior leadership, stating “since this is my first year at the varsity level, I didn’t really know what to expect, but our captains and others senior leaders have helped me a lot throughout the season.”
The sophomore quarterback has flung the ball around to his playmakers, throwing for 1,496 yards, which are the most passing yards in a season for a Marple Newtown quarterback in over a decade. Additionally, Paoletti has chipped in a total of 14 total touchdowns, 12 through the air and a pair on the ground.
Ever since his Marple Junior Tiger days, Paoletti has been eager to play under those Friday night lights. The playoffs are “a huge accomplishment for me and my teammates as we are able to go into the playoffs this year. We can’t wait to get practice started this week.”
In order for players such as Hoff and Paoletti to have success, the offensive line must be doing their job as well. The big guys upfront deserve a nod for the success this team has had this season.
Defensively, the Tigers have had a stout defense that has only allowed 10.3 points per game. With three shutouts on the season, the Tigers’ defense is certainly one of their strong suits moving forward.
Clogging the running lanes has been the play of linebacker Gino DiCamillo. The senior has the most stops on the team with 72 tackles, leading the Tigers for the second consecutive season in that category.
Noah Turner has been a force to be reckoned with on the defensive line, contributing 60 tackles, 5 sacks, and 15.5 tackles for loss. The 5 sacks are the most as a Tiger since Chris Kurkian back in 2010.
Joining DiCamillo and Turner has been the play of his counterparts, Matt McKee, Kyle Kelly, Matt Trainor, Justin McKeown, among others who have gotten after the opposition.
Executing the game plan is what the Tigers have done all season. “My father [Harry Gicking] is a perfectionist on defense and it starts with him, but the kids have done a great job of executing. The defense has been amazing,” Gicking remarked.
A key contributor in secondary has been the superb play by junior Carmen Christiana. In his second season at safety, Christiana has proven to be a reliable last line of defense with 57 stops and an interception.
The Tigers have been clicking on all three phases this season, including special teams with the play of George Lambritsios. The two-sport student-athlete has excelled in soccer with All-Central league honors as well as on the gridiron. Lambritsios this season has connected on 63% (7-11) of his field goals with a long of 45.
Defeating Strath Haven last Friday night secured the Tigers’ eighth eight-win season in school’s history.
Hoff has one last comment, mentioning that “we are not finished with this season yet, like coach Harry Gicking says we have to ‘finish the job.’ I’m not ready to hang it up and neither are any of the seniors.”
Coach Gicking shares Hoff’s enthusiasm by mentioning how “Marple Newtown is going to give everything we got. We know Pottsgrove is an excellent program and has been for a very long time. Coach Pennypacker has done an amazing job there. We have our work cut out for us. We are going to go up there and give it everything we have.”
Marple Newtown heads to Pottsgrove, Pennsylvania for a District One Class AAA playoff first round matchup this upcoming Friday, November 13th at 7 p.m. at Pottsgrove High School.
Live coverage of the District One Class AAA playoff game will be provided by the Tigers Radio Network, which can be found at marplenewtownfootball.com.