MARPLE – Originally, Jack Coary of Springfield wasn’t on the Hero Bowl Red Team roster. He had to lobby for himself to head coach Rich Gentile.
“Coach Gentile then asked me, ‘Do you want to play in the Hero Bowl?’” Coary said. “I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity. I said, ‘Absolutely I would like to play.’”
Coary punted and kicked in Thursday’s 42nd edition of the Delaware County all-star football classic. Along with Marple Newtown’s Luke Ciavardelli, who hit a 37-yard field goal, it could be argued they were two of the best-performing players on the field.
The Red squad earned a 10-6 victory, but if you were looking for a clinic or highlight reel of offensive football … well, this wasn’t the year for that.
Coary’s punting — he had boots of 35, 53, 38 and 56 yards — made life difficult for an already offensively challenged Blue team that, outside of
All-Delco wide receiver Rahiem Bowens of Penn Wood, seemed stuck in park all night. And Coary’s punting also alleviated the offensive woes of the Red team, which completed only two passes for 47 yards and amassed a whopping 21 yards rushing.
“Just happy to be able to play and help out,” said Coary, who will continue his education at Albright. “It’s the biggest game of high school. It was just fun meeting new guys. These teammates are amazing. It’s great, after years of playing against them. Now you have a whole new arsenal of lifetime friends you’re going to have.”
Ultimately, what happened on the field is a moot point. The annual exhibition of the best high school football talent in Delco is about the experiences, the friendships, the memories and the fund-raising efforts.
“It’s a cool way to end my high school career,” said Radnor linebacker Kyle Addis, who earned defensive MVP honors for the Red team. “It’s pretty cool for Radnor, too.”
Addis had a feeling early in the contest that the best defense would win. Addis had plenty of help from others, including linemen Joe Spillman (Ridley), Matt Young (Haverford) and Derrick Korboi (Upper Darby), who combined on many stops in the backfield. Jihaad McDonald, an Upper Darby defensive back, had an interception and lineman Mike Miller of Marple Newtown recorded a fumble recovery.
Addis was recognized as the best of the bunch, though, and that is special in a defensive-oriented game.
“From the first possession, we knew we weren’t giving them anything all night,” Addis said. “We held strong all the way through and got it done.”
Addis was a key defensive player on the Raiders’ lacrosse team that fell one win short of qualifying for the PIAA Class 2A tournament.
“It was a lot, going right from lacrosse to Hero Bowl practice,” he said. “But it’s cool.”
Addis will continue his football career at Franklin & Marshall.
As for Garnet Valley’s Danny Guy, he was awarded offensive MVP for the Red team while running for only 12 yards, but he scored one of only two touchdowns in the game. Guy’s one-yard run across the goal line with 20 seconds to play in the first quarter snapped a scoreless tie. The play was set up thanks to a 38-yard passing play from quarterback Chris Mills of Penncrest to Haverford High wide receiver Carington Hooks.
Guy, the 2017 Daily Times Player of the Year, made a commitment to go out and represent the Jaguars and head coach Mike Ricci.
“My last high school game, I give it back to Garnet Valley, my coach Mike Ricci, and all the players. All the work we put in to get here,” said Guy, who will play football at West Chester in the fall. “I wanted to come out, have fun, meet some new guys and have a great experience for my last high school football game.”
The Blue team was led by offensive MVP Bowens, who had five receptions for 96 yards and a touchdown, and Cardinal O’Hara’s Jamir Redd, who took home defensive MVP honors for the team. Redd relished every moment of playing his last high school game, coincidentally on the field he spent the last couple of years helping O’Hara re-emerge as a Catholic League contender.
Redd remembered the late Danny Algeo, the longtime O’Hara coach who died in the summer going into Redd’s freshman year.
“This means a lot to me,” Redd said. “Danny Algeo, who passed away a couple of years ago, he recruited me to come to O’Hara. We were the last recruiting class of his, the class of 2018. So, this was all for him.”
Both offenses struggled to move ball in the second half, but a long punt return by Springfield running back and All-Delco Ja’Den McKenzie set up the Red squad with great field position midway through the third quarter. Ciavardelli’s 37-yard field goal with 3;48 to play gave Red a 10-0 advantage.
Red came close to pitching a shutout, but a late rally by Blue spoiled those intentions. Chichester quarterback Andrew Rodriguez, who was 5-for-13 for 113 yards through the air, threw a 45-yard strike to Bonner & Prendergast’s Kyrin Jackson as time was ticking down in regulation. On the next play Rodriguez hooked up with Bowens on a five-yard scoring connection to make it a 10-6 final.
“This was definitely a defense’s game,” Penn Wood’s David Rush said. “It was an ugly game, but it was kind of expected. Our defense did our job, we did our thing.”
Ultimately, the Hero Bowl is not about how pretty the product on the field may look, but that it’s a tremendous cause. Proceeds from the event benefit the Hero Scholarship Fund of Delaware County, Inc., which provides scholarship support to the children of police officers, firefighters and emergency medical personnel who have sacrificed their lives in the line of duty.
“It’s definitely for a great cause,” Redd said.