By Matt Smith, PA Prep Live / Delaware County Daily Times
NEWTOWN SQUARE, PA – Ridley didn’t mope around after last week’s stunning overtime home loss to Springfield.
The Green Raiders got back to work in practice, driven to succeed.
“That loss to Springfield, I never want to feel that again,” said Ryan Gricco, Ridley’s outstanding senior linebacker. “We wanted to have that undefeated season as seniors and that was taken away from us. We took the loss and we had to learn.”
Next on the schedule was another undefeated program, Marple Newtown.
“We were facing another great team,” Gricco said, “and we had to win this to get better.”
A little self-reflection doesn’t hurt. The Green Raiders corrected their mistakes, shook off the memory of the previous week and beat another Central
League title contender in 2016. First it was Haverford, then it was Garnet Valley. Friday night, Ridley handed Marple Newtown its first defeat with a 17-14 decision.
Ociele Miller accounted for both Ridley touchdowns. He darted 40 yards on the first play of scrimmage in the second half to tie the game, and caught what proved to be the winning touchdown pass from Cade Stratton in the fourth quarter. Kyran Baker’s 28-yard field goal had given Ridley a 10-7 lead earier in the fourth.
Miller’s second touchdown enabled that lead to hold up.
“Coach (Dave) Wood told us all week that this is a big game and that we still have a chance to go for the Central League ’chip,” Miller said. “At halftime, we talked about (playing) a good rest of the game, come back and get that win.”
Ridley trailed by seven points at intermission. Miller’s scoring scamper quickly erased that deficit. Later, Ridley ran a wheel route with Miller with less than three minutes to play in the final stanza. Miller raced down the Marple Newtown sideline and was left uncontested. Stratton found him for an easy 18-yard pass.
“We worked on it before,” said Miller, a running back who had 73 rushing yards on nine carries. “It was the right time and we hit it.”
Ridley (6-1, 5-1) got back to the ground-and-pound attack that made it so successful in the first five weeks of the season. Friday night, the Green Raiders ran the ball 53 times for 357 yards. In addition to Miller, Stratton amassed a game-high 127 yards on 16 carries. Brock Anderson added 114 yards on 15 totes.
Check out the Ridley-Marple Newtown gallery
Make no mistake, this was a character win for the Green Raiders, one week after being humbled by Springfield.
“It’s the family,” Anderson said. “We preach that from day one. We come together as brothers, as a family, from the coaching staff all the way to the last kid on the team. We lost to a really good team. Springfield is a really good team that is coached very well. We came out kind of lackadaisical and it bit us in the you-know-what. But after that game, it was gut check time. We took this week in practice very slowly and very carefully. We did what we needed to do. We didn’t overemphasize anything or go out of our way to do something special. We kind of just stuck to the basics and stuck to what we know how to do and put everything together.”
Ridley had success moving the ball all night against a very good Marple front seven, led by lineman Cooper Maas, who had multiple tackles in the backfield. The Green Raiders were whistled for six holding calls, which at times stalled their progress moving the ball.
“It’s a part of the game of football … but when you go out and compete, and it’s so lopsided, I just ask to be fair,” Wood said. “As good as we played, that could have been a 28-14 game. But it’s a win and I’ll take it. Last week, we weren’t resilient. We let that adversity get into us, and this week, there was a ton of times where we could have quit and they could have taken over the game. But this was like the Garnet Valley game where our guys showed no quit. We’re playing pretty well right now. Last week was a fluke.”
The biggest challenge facing Wood’s defense was containing junior quarterback Anthony Paoletti, who entered the week with the most passing yards (1,483) and touchdowns (13) in the county. By the fourth quarter, Paoletti was limping and clearly not 100 percent healthy. But it was no surprise to see Paoletti battle through the injury and pull the Tigers (6-1, 5-1) within three points when he found Cameron Mathes in the corner of the end zone with 1:47 to play. Paoletti and Mathes hooked up on two touchdown passes. In the first half, it was a 16-yard connection with 29 seconds to go in the second quarter.
“We got pressure on Paoletti and made him throw the ball faster than he usually does,” Gricco said. “We kept getting pressure on the o-line, too, and got the win.”
Paoletti was 17 of 30 with 205 yards and two interceptions. Gregg Kimmel and Allen Martin picked him off in the second half.
“The whole thing going in was making him move and try to have him throw from different spots because he’s one of the better quarterbacks I’ve seen in a long, long time,” Wood said. “And watching him on tape, he can make any throw on the field, but what he’s really good at is setting his feet and letting the ball go. We had to do a good job of trying to make him move the pocket at times. We got to him a little bit early, but we also showed him too much of our aggressiveness early on.”
The Tigers will look to bounce back next week against a Haverford team playing as well as any in the Central League.
“It was a four-quarter battle,” coach Chris Gicking said. “That touchdown (to start the third quarter) was a big play for them, especially on the heels of what we thought was our ball. On the kickoff, we thought their kid touched it first and it was our ball. But all credit goes to them. Our kids played really hard and I’m really proud of them.”