Upper Dublin Outlasts Radnor in High Scoring Affair; Raiders play Rivalry Game 11/6

Fernando Castro

Senior captain Jack Horvath was unable to play in the Raiders opening playoff game on Friday, November 3rd against the Upper Dublin Cardinals. However, this was old news. The running back endured a leg injury in the preseason and has not been able to put a minute on the field his senior year. The show went on. . The Raiders went 5-5 this football season, going 3-5 in their conference, the central league, without having to play the two titans,  Garnett Valley and Springfield. Radnor picked up their three central league wins against Conestoga, Harriton, and Penncrest, and two out of conference wins against Upper Merion and West Chester East. Radnor squeezed into the playoffs at the 12th seed, a feat they would not have accomplished if the PIAA classifications hadn’t become more forgiving in the past two years.

Starting in the summer of 2016, the PIAA introduced two new classifications for schools to compete in: 5A and 6A. Before then, the highest classification was 4A, which Radnor played in, along with all the central league teams and most Delco conferences. Radnor played tougher competition and was ranked in tougher competition, which made it more difficult for them to make District and State playoffs for any sport. After the new divisions were added, all 4A teams were moved into the 5A and 6A divisions. Larger schools such as Conestoga, Ridley, and North Penn were placed into 6A while Radnor was placed into 5A with teams like Harriton, Penncrest, and Springfield. The catch is that Radnor still plays most central league teams, including the 6A ones, but have less competition to get into their division of district playoffs. This explains why the 2015 football team missed playoffs with a 6-4 record but the 2016 team made the playoffs with a 4-6 record, and this year’s team made the playoffs with a 5-5 record.

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The Raiders were not thinking about their path to the playoffs on Friday, however. They weren’t thinking about their team from two years ago, and they weren’t thinking about their running back who was sitting on the bench behind them. They were in the moment. They had a playoff match against a team who was not as fearsome as the Academy Park team that bounced Radnor out last season, a win was in their sights. If the underclassmen offense could make explosive plays, and the senior leadership could lock down on defense, a rematch against Academy Park in the second round was in the cards.

To Radnor’s dismay, it didn’t seem like it would pan out  right from the start. Radnor’s opening kickoff was fully returned for a touchdown by the Cardinals in the opening seconds, but was thankfully retracted on a violation by UD. Radnor was in the fight. Upper Dublin did end up scoring the opening touchdown of the game anyway, and once more late into the first quarter, off of strong running plays. The Red Raiders were down, but not out. As junior Ifeyan Gavin recovered a fumble, the juices were flowing, and junior Matt Cohen made a much needed run into the endzone to give Radnor their first score midway into the second quarter. After stifling the Cardinals offense continuously, Radnor found themselves at fourth and goal in the closing seconds of the half, and instead of taking a safe field goal, they went for a big play, and Mullarkey connected a pass Kieran Sheridan in the endzone, and the Raiders had tied at halftime, 14-14.

The third quarter saw the beginnings of a huge win for the Radnor Raiders as once again the juniors lead Radnor to making huge scores, when Sean Mullarkey nailed a 48 yard pass to Jahmair Rider, and Radnor found themselves up with nine minutes left in the third, 21-14. It didn’t last for long however, when the Upper Dublin running back Malik Bootman converted his third touchdown of the evening. Stakes rising, the game was tied 21-21 going into the fourth. The final score of the game would be made with 10 minutes left when Upper Dublin’s Malik Bootman made a fourth running touchdown. The extra point kick was blocked, and Radnor still had an opportunity to steal the game with a final score, but were ultimately impeded by the Cardinals, and the final seconds on the clock timed out as Upper Dublin took a knee just a few yards in front of their endzone. 27-21 was the final score.

Radnor has much to be proud of what they accomplished this season given the circumstances. They will be returning many key offensive players next season. Running back Taylor Margolis is a rising  junior, and Sean Mullarkey, Matt Cohen, Kieran Sheridan, Jahmair Rider, and Vernon Harper will all return for their senior year. The future is bright for the Radnor football program.

Radnor will play Lower Merion on Prevost Field, Monday, November 6th. Lower Merion has finished this season with a 2-8 record, and the Raiders will most likely be successful in finding their sixth win in a row against the Aces.