By Matt De George, PA Prep Live / Delco Times
NEWTOWN SQUARE, PA – A week ago, on his leisurely way to 200-plus yards, Marple Newtown quarterback Anthony Paoletti saw just two of his passing attempts hit the turf.
Friday, when Paoletti’s first pass was corralled by Radnor linebacker Charlie Connolly and his first five attempts in succession missed their mark, the junior quarterback … well, he changed nothing.
“It was a rough start,” Paoletti admitted with a laugh.
True to form for the robust offense coach Chris Gicking has cultivated at Marple, denying Paoletti his first or second plan merely delayed the inevitable in the Tigers’ 28-7 Central League win over a shorthanded but tenacious Radnor bunch.
The astute signal-caller in Paoletti misfired early in the face of Radnor’s attack defense, one that limited the running game and prevented the Tigers’ backs from leaking out to present an escape valve for Paoletti. But after that touch beginning, Radnor’s aggressiveness flipped the switch for Paoletti to brandish one of the other arrows in his extensive quarterbacking quiver: The QB draw.
Paoletti eventually got his requisite 200 yards (205, but requiring 25 attempts) for the third time this season. But he helped break the game open with his legs, running for three scores and taking his season tally in that department to seven.
“Once our guys are getting it going, I think the whole team gets it going,” Paoletti said. “We just need some guy to get it going, and the whole team is on each other, supporting. We’re a family.”
He got a little help from a defense that caused three turnovers and contributed to a ragged first quarter. But Paoletti finally cashed in the latest riposte in the turnover battle, a Dylan Conan interception of Radnor backup quarterback Sean Mullarkey at the 31. Paoletti connected with tight end Luke Cantwell on a 23-yard seam route for his first completion, then scampered the final eight yards to the house.
“You’ve got to stay patient in times like that,” Paoletti said. “It all turned out our way obviously. But we weathered the storm, we got it all down and we came out with the W.”
From there, normal service was restored between two fairly evenly matched teams had one not been missing its starting quarterback and running back. Both Radnor’s Pat McDermott and Jack Horvath were confined to the sidelines for a second straight week, and while Raiders’ coach Tom Ryan expects them back in a matter of weeks rather than months, the absence showed.
Off the heels of a shutout at the hands of West Chester East last week, the Raiders (1-2, 0-1) were kept off the board until 1 minute, 51 seconds remained in the game, when Ian Henkel fought through a largely JV defense for a two-yard touchdown run, ending seven-plus quarters of offensive futility.
That culmination of an improved second half — Mullarkey completed 10 passes to five different receivers, albeit for 67 yards; Henkel rushed 20 times for 57 — offers a deserved momentum boost for a team that has battled through adversity.
“I think the whole second half had positive momentum,” Henkel said. “We picked it up. Our defense was playing well all game. Our offense really started coming together. The line got a great push. … that touchdown gives us some momentum.”
The Marple defense helped forestall that momentum. Radnor rushed for just 11 yards in the first half, 14 of them coming on Henkel’s final carry of the frame, which he fumbled into the arms of Cantwell. Conan and Alden Mathes picked off Mullarkey, the latter curtailing a promising third-quarter drive.
Once Marple (3-0, 2-0) picked it up there was little slowing them down. They led by three scores at halftime, with Paoletti snaking to paydirt from 14 yards out early in the fourth quarter and diving across from the 1 with 63 ticks to half.
Paoletti spread it around to six receivers, his longest hookup of 64 yards to Reilly Fillman setting up Marlon Weathers for a one-yard score late in the third quarter that extended the lead to four scores and put the game out of reach.