MIDDLETOWN, PA – Anthony Paoletti unclipped his shoulder pads with one hand as he played catch with a little guy half his size.
“Isn’t your arm getting tired?” Paoletti, Marple Newtown’s quarterback, asked 5-year-old Daniel Presser, who shook his head and extended the back-and-forth tosses.
A post-game workout was the last thing Paoletti needed, given his workload during Friday night’s game, but the senior was happy to oblige. Paoletti and Marple Newtown dispatched host Penncrest, 35-14, Friday night at Louis W. Scott Stadium.
Paoletti rushed for one touchdown and threw for two more, as the Tigers (2-0, 1-0) cruised. He finished 8 for 10 with 209 yards through the air, including a 70-yard catch-and-run touchdown connection with Carmen Christiana. Paoletti also carried six times for 39 yards.
Heavy workload for him? Sure. But Paoletti and his Marple Newtown teammates also had heavy hearts.
The Tigers played their Central League opener in honor of Daniel’s brother, Michael, 7, who passed away a year ago after a brief battle with Leukemia. The Presser family, including father Dave and mother Kristen, who live in Broomall, were on hand for the game. Dave and Daniel watched from the Tigers’ sideline. And all three met with players in the locker room in pregame.
Dave Presser, a 1994 Marple Newtown alumnus, said the outpouring of support from the community has been tremendous. And at a youth-night event a few months ago, he approached Marple Newtown coach Chris Gicking to personally say thanks. He never expected Gicking would respond by inviting the family to meet his team.
“Their story just puts life into perspective, and the least we can do is show them our love and support, and let them know that we’re always thinking about them,” Gicking said.
“From the moment we learned that Michael was sick, we heard from so many people who expressed their support,” said Presser. “It means a lot to be a part of this community.”
The Pressers had a front-row seat to watch Marple Newtown’s latest win. Defensive back Dylan Conan pounced on a fumble near the goal line to give the Tigers a 7-0 edge only four minutes in. Paoletti followed with consecutive first-half touchdowns to send the visitors into the locker room with a 21-0 lead.
Paoletti’s final score, on a 33-yard pass to Jack Fallows, and an 8-yard Marlon Weathers lunge, capped the scoring for Marple Newtown.
Penncrest (1-1, 0-1), which managed only three first-half first downs, could not slow down Marple Newtown. Caleb Mahalik led the Lions with 123 yards rushing on eight carries, including an 80-yard scoring run when the game was out of hand.
Afterward, Gicking invited little Daniel into the Tigers’ huddle to have him count them off and send them to the team bus. He mustered up the volume and shouted, “1-2-3, Tigers.”
A huge smile swept across Paoletti’s face.
“Coach always tells us that your community comes first,” Paoletti said. “This is a really special thing for us to do, and it meant a lot to us and to (the Presser family).”