“At quarterback, from Wayne PA, Sam…DiLella!”
Maybe in two years. Maybe next year. But now was not the time the Radnor fans wanted to hear those words coming from the announcer. On Saturday, September 23rd, Radnor played the Conestoga pioneers, and their offense was lead by two sophomores. Taylor Margolis at running back and DiLella at QB. The young guns didn’t earn these positions through sheer brilliance, but fate. Senior captain and RB Jack Horvath is out until November with a leg injury. Junior QB Sean Mullarkey suffered a concussion during an offensive misplay against Upper Darby. The prospects now needed to stand up to the test.
Conestoga high school enrolls over 2,200 students. They have just about zero off seasons in any sport. They have the right students for just about every facet of competition. Everybody is ready to perform, and everybody is hungry. Because of this, they show perennial dominance, and winning records in baseball, basketball, lacrosse–just about every sport except for one: Football. It’s only been a single full season since the hazing scandal involving sexual assault with broomsticks left a dark cloud over the Conestoga football program and the high school itself. Since the exodus of the coaching staff that followed the scandal, the football team had a current 1-3 on the season and combined 3-11 record over the past two seasons going into their Saturday game against the Raiders. Due to absences in the offense, however, a game that was considered an easy win at the beginning of the season was now in jeopardy. It didn’t matter how Margolis and DiLella ended up where they were. They were called upon that night, and they needed to show up.
That easy win started on an unsteady note, as the Pioneers earned the first score of the game on a series of successful runs into the endzone. The vehicle for most of these successful running plays was junior Milton Robinson. Their joy was cut short by a blocked extra point by the Raiders. What took place for the rest of the first half was a defensive slugfest. Half time score was still 6-0. Radnor wanted to run the ball, as DiLella was struggling to find his groove, finishing the game with four completions on eleven passes. It was the upperclassmen, however, who pulled through. Junior Matt Cohen finally made a nine yard run to tie the game during the third quarter, but Radnor failed to complete their extra point as well. 6-6 going into the fourth. The biggest play of the game came when it was least expected, as Matt Cohen delivered once again and broke away for a huge 38-yard run into the endzone. A third muffed extra point, the Raiders took a 12-6 lead. The Pioneer’s final dying breath was silenced as junior Kieran Sheridan made a huge interception with a minute left in the game, a falling catch which inspired a hell-raising ruckus. The final buzzer sounded, and Radnor once again held a winning record, and their first win in the central league of the season.
Radnor’s next bout would be against Harriton Rams, a school who shared the same district of the Lower Merion Aces. That game was on September 28th, a Thursday night. There were only four days of rest in between as compared to the usual six. This change however would not prove problematic. Just as Conestoga, the Rams entered that game with a single win under their belt, and would leave with the same number. It didn’t help that #2 was back out on the field, looking in better shape than ever. Mullarkey completed his first touchdown pass to senior Fahad Manzoor in the first quarter. The Rams rolled over for the Raiders in the second quarter, which saw a 21-0 run by the Raiders, featuring two touchdowns off of a pick and a returned fumble. These were earned by senior Jack Treangen and junior Aidan Dunn, respectively. Mullarkey demonstrated his much needed versatility on the field by finding two more touchdowns off of runs. One to end the third quarter, and one to start the fourth. By the final buzzer, the Raider’s had cleaned house. One problem nagging at them during their game against Conestoga was single point conversions, which on Thursday against the Rams, Radnor converted five out of six. While Mullarkey’s efficiency that night didn’t raise heads (5/14 pass completions), the Radnor defense truly had their way with Rams, and it was a perfect game to pick up the slack.
The Raider community can breathe a sigh of relief as Mullarkey’s concussion seems to not be fatal to their season. Radnor has tied the record of the two teams they lost to: The Raiders, Upper Darby, and Marple Newtown now all sit at four wins and two losses. And things might keep getting better as Raider’s play another struggling member in the central league, the Ridley Green Raiders. The Green Raiders currently sit at a 2-4 record, but have taken losses to strong opponents, such as Marple Newtown and Garnett Valley, who are sitting on a 6-0 record currently.
When Radnor plays the tough Garnett Valley Jaguars and Ridley enjoys beating up on Conestoga, the standings will seem more accurate. The most important thing for the boys in maroon is to make the playoffs, and see if Horvath can make a superstar return and spark a postseason run. Either way, there will be Friday night lights for the first time in three weeks when the Red and Green Raiders face at Ridley High School on October 6th.