NEWTOWN SQUARE >> C.J. McAnally raised his hands to the sky in jubilation, only to see the officials wave off his team’s fourth-quarter touchdown. A play later, the Episcopal Academy quarterback delivered a touchdown pass that sealed his team’s win.
Though the victory wasn’t necessarily a sure thing at that moment.
Episcopal Academy staved off a late surge by Conwell-Egan Catholic to earn a 30-22 nonleague win Friday night at Smith Field.
McAnally delivered a 21-yard touchdown pass to Cole Johnson for their second scoring connection of the night, giving the Churchmen a 16-point cushion with 1:42 remaining. Three plays later, Conwell-Egan’s Patrick Garwo tore off a 60-yard scoring run that, when coupled with a 2-point conversion, made things interesting.
A botched onside kick delivered the ball back to Episcopal Academy (2-0), which needed only one kneel-down to make things official.
“It was just that kind of night,” said Johnson, whose Churchmen committed five turnovers.
“You don’t deserve to win when you give the ball away that many times,” Episcopal Academy coach Todd Fairlie said, “but it showed what we’re capable of, and I’m proud of the guys for hanging in there.”
The Churchmen survived three lost fumbles and two interceptions, and a first-half offensive malaise that produced only 86 yards on 27 snaps covering four possessions. They also endured a stretch without McAnally, who limped to the sideline after turning his left ankle in the second quarter.
McAnally ultimately returned, and delivered that game-winning touchdown pass to Johnson on fourth-and-12 from the Conwell-Egan 21.
“It was a wheel route, and C.J. read it perfectly,” Johnson said. “I wanted the ball. The play earlier, I got whistled for a false start so I wanted redemption.”
“It’s funny how that works sometimes, isn’t it?” Fairlie said, smiling.
Midway through the third quarter, Conwell-Egan got within three points, at 17-14, when Kyree Brunson scored on a 3-yard run. The score stayed that way for nearly 16 minutes of game time, before Episcopal started pulling away.
Dee Wil Barlee led Episcopal Academy with 13 carries for 74 yards rushing and two touchdowns, in the first and fourth quarters. McAnally went 6-for-9 for 117 yards passing, and had 19 carries for 63 yards rushing, showing no signs of a bum ankle.
“That just shows the kind of guy C.J. is, that he’s lowering his shoulder into middle linebackers and running that hard that late in the game,” Barlee said.
And this game showed the Churchmen the kind of team they hope to be later in the season. They have four more tune-ups before launching their Inter-Academic League schedule, and following a lopsided opening-week game, they were looking for a test against Conwell-Egan.
Maybe one that gave a little more breathing room.
“In the end, though,” Barlee said, “this will be that game where we look back and say, ‘We never gave up. We kept playing,’ and we’ll need that later in the year.”
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