By Matt Smith, Delaware County Daily Times
In 2005, the Tigers entered their Central League matchup with Ridley on a two-game losing streak. It was Week 8 of the regular season, and the Tigers had lost four of their first seven games. Ridley hadn’t won a Central League title since 1996, and surely a loss to the Tigers would shatter their hopes of ending that dubious streak.
The final: Marple Newtown 7, Ridley 6. That was the last time the Tigers have beaten the Green Raiders.
Friday night, the Tigers will look to end their 11-year skid (it’s worth noting that the teams have not met in some of those seasons due to the Central Leagues’ rotating schedule). At 6-0, Marple Newtown actually is considered the favorite, albeit a slight one. It’s a home game for MN, and Ridley is coming off its first setback of 2016, an overtime loss to Springfield at Phil Marion Field.
According to the good folks at Marplenewtownfootball.com, the Tigers have a 6-43 record all-time against Ridley. That .122 winning percentage is the worst against any Central League opponent, minimum 34 games (Marple Newtown is 0-6 lifetime against Garnet Valley, which joined the conference in 2008).
You can’t understate the importance of this game, notably for the Marple Newtown program, which has been trending upward since Chris Gicking returned home to coach the team in 2014.
The Green Raiders are in must-win mode. Just like in 2005, the Tigers have the opportunity to bury Ridley’s chances of staying in the Central League title hunt. But this year, led by junior quarterback Anthony Paoletti, the Tigers sit in a great spot. A win Friday would solidify their position as a frontrunner to win the Central League championship for the first time since 1977.
Ridley will stick to its ground-and-pound offensive attack, carried by running backs Malik Young, Ociele Miller, Brock Anderson and quarterback Cade Stratton, and an excellent offensive line that got outplayed after halftime in the loss to Springfield. Young led all rushers with 98 yards and a touchdown.
Meanwhile, Marple handled an inferior Lower Merion team, 42-13. Paoletti was 11-for-14 for 200 yards and a touchdown, while Marlon Weathers rushed for three scores. Dash Dulgerian had an interception return for a TD. Defensively, Marple’s first-team unit has allowed two touchdowns all season.