There was a feeling of disbelief on the Upper Darby football field. All the Radnor players and fans looked forward to this season with hope, and optimism. However, these feelings were ripped out of their hearts this Friday when a junior quarterback sat on the sideline with headphones on.
Two seasons ago the Radnor football team housed a senior class who went undefeated in their eighth and ninth year. That team went 7-4, but failed to make it to playoffs. Last season, the team dealt with a slew of injuries, dragging them to a 5-6 record. Ironically they somehow squeaked a spot in the playoffs. In the first round of that season, Academy Park was the Raider’s opponent and the end of the Raider’s season, as an 8-7 score at half slipped away in a cold hearted fashion.
Those seasons made history as the community rallied around a special core of seniors who were ready to change the results, led by a running back with veteran experience. At the eve of the regular season, a leg injury taken by Jack Horvath, Radnor’s senior captain and star running back, seemed to be a bad omen. Horvath had exploded onto the scene his sophomore year, leading the team to a 7-4 record earning 1300 yards in running. Unfortunately, his junior year was plagued with injury, and he missed over half the season. To start this season, sophomore Taylor Margolis took the starting position at running back for the Raiders. Radnor’s season opener was away at Upper Merion, and was a high scoring success for the Red Raiders. A 52-22 victory left the team satisfied, but work still had to be done. The strength of Radnor’s opponents would increase as the season continued.
The boys in Maroon enjoyed one more victory, beating up a weaker, out of conference opponent, West Chester East, 40-7. It was the home opener, and good start at that. 2-0, before facing central league opponents, the Raiders looked comfortable, while hoping for Horvath’s return to make a late season run for the playoffs. Margolis was finding success with his runs and junior Sean Mullarkey was fitting in well at the QB position. Mullarkey benefitted from earning serious varsity minutes his sophomore year when starting QB senior Doug McDermott was injured during the beginning of the season.
Finally, the Raiders, with their inflated confidence from a 2-0 start and home game and a riled up Radnor Ruckus backing them, were ready to face the Marple Newtown Tigers in their first central league match-up of the season. All of that built-up excitement exploded during a fantastic kick return by junior Jahmair Rider to start the game. But what seemed to be the beginning of a great win for the Raiders, turned out to be the best point of the game.
What took place on the Prevost field following that kick returned was nothing short of a disaster. Run after run obliterated by the Tiger’s defense, the hole left by Horvath became much more apparent. Any passing play made by QB Sean Mullarkey was shut down. Radnor was facing a 0-38 scoreline halfway through the third quarter. The scoring run had not ended at this point, but felt capped off by a pick six earned by the Tigers. Although Marple was halted eight yards before the end zone, the scorekeeper prematurely gave them a touchdown. His mistake however became simple foresight, as Marple made sure to capitalize on their position and convert that touchdown. The scoreboard did not need to be corrected, and the Raiders had fallen to a poultry 0-28 scoreline. Radnor saved some embarrassment loading on garbage time points, but the gap was insurmountable. The final score line of the game was 48-21; the Raiders had work to do.
That following Friday, September 15th, the Raiders hit the road again to face another central league foe, the Upper Darby Royals. The Royals found themselves in the same boat as the Raiders. Coming off of a five win season just a year prior, the players in purple earned an easy out of conference win just like Radnor, but they had struggled with their central league opponents in Springfield and Garnett Valley, losing 20-8 and 22-4, respectively. 1-2 heading into Friday night, the prospect of a first central league win for either team was tantalizing, and the Royals struck first blood, hitting Radnor with back to back touchdowns to start the game. However, both extra point kicks were failed, and this would prove to bite back when the Raiders found two touchdowns of their own and pulled the game to a 14-12 scoreline in their favor. The latter of the two was a fumble by Upper Darby recovered by junior linebacker Kieran Sheridan and taken into the endzone. By halftime, the Royals scored one more touchdown, but failed once more at a two point conversion The score was 14-18 in favor of UD. Sadly for the Raiders, 14-12 was the closest they would get to victory. Upper Darby went on an onslaught in the second half, capped off with the worst point of the night, a head injury to junior quarterback Sean Mullarkey. Out for the rest of the game and indefinitely until further examination, the Raiders have fallen to a 2-2 record and still sit at zero central league wins.
Radnor has a silver lining in their defensive core, but even that is riddled with injuries. Junior defensive lineman Ifeyan Gavin is suffering a leg injury and has found extremely little game time this season. Senior lineman Joaquin Hollero seems to be one of the only core members who is completely healthy halfway into the season. The road to the playoffs has become more arduous for the Raiders, but they might catch a break facing the 1-3 Conestoga Pioneers this Saturday, September 23rd.