LOWER MORELAND >> Technically, it was the start of the fourth week of the high school football calendar, but Lower Moreland and Academy of the New Church were each playing their first game Monday afternoon.
The game was supposed to be played Saturday, but extreme heat caused it to be bumped back a few days. For the Lions of ANC, an independent, their schedule didn’t begin until the weekend while the Lions of Lower Moreland had their first game, a Sept. 3 date with Springfield Twp, cancelled when Springfield called off its varsity season.
So, the first quarter very much looked like two teams playing for the first time. Then, ANC shook off its jitters, got the ball in the hands of Kyle Mattison and powered its way to a 28-7 victory at Lower Moreland.
“I’d say practice last week didn’t go as well as it should have,” Mattison, who rushed for 157 yards and two scores, said. “Then the line started clicking, the snaps started getting there, the handoffs got there. Everybody started working as one unit, as one cell and everything started to blast off.”
The first quarter was not pretty for ANC. The Lions had each of their first two drives end with a lost fumble and a third, on a rocket snap that flew off the quarterback’s hands and into the air, was snatched by Lower Moreland’s Andrew Skaziak and returned seven yards for a score at the start of the second quarter.
That would be the high-water mark of the day for the Lower Moreland Lions, who couldn’t get their offense moving at all while ANC got its act together. With the ground game so vital for both teams, Lower Moreland’s never gained any traction.
“We couldn’t run the ball and that begins everything,” LM coach Mark Mayson said. “If you can’t run the ball then everything else you’re doing is stymied. It starts with running the ball, we’ve always been able to do it and we couldn’t do it today, we didn’t really find any consistency.”
ANC got Mattison on track and with the senior starting to gash for yards, it calmed the offense. Quarterback Matt McCabe, who spent the first quarter just trying to catch snaps, got his team on the board with a beautiful throw to freshman Devon Bryant for an 18-yard touchdown. A two-point conversion by Mattison put ANC on top 8-7 with 6:45 left in the first half.
Mattison added a two-yard touchdown run with 36.7 left in the first half to extend the ANC lead. But it was the throw to Bryant that had been just what the Lions needed.
“I’m really disappointed in that first quarter and that’s going to stick with me for a while. That’s on us as the coaches,” ANC coach Ty Klippenstein said. “That was a great play by a freshman and a nice little throw by Matt.”
“That touchdown raised a lot of enthusiasm, not only because it was a great play, it was a good backside route, but also the fact he’s a freshman and not many freshmen could make that kind of play,” Mattison said.
Mattison had gained only 36 yards on his first eight carries, but starting with the first ANC scoring drive, he began picking up big chunks of yardage. Klippenstein said it was his back getting more decisive with his reads and his shoulder parallel to the offensive line.
The senior is still adjusting to his role as the team’s feature back but shouldered the load for most of Monday’s game on top of playing a big role defensively. Mattison did leave the game for a bit in the third quarter with cramping but otherwise delivered what was asked of him.
“All the yards I was able to attain today, I’d like to thank my linemen for,” Mattison said. “I was a little lackadaisical at the beginning. But the line started helping me out, the entire team started helping me out then I was able to help the team out.”
Despite limiting Lower Moreland’s offense, ANC still clung to a one-score lead late in the third quarter. Then, having to get a play off before the horn, the Lions got a huge play when McCabe fired a 25-yard score to tight end Colin O’Hara.
It was exactly the boost ANC needed going into the final frame and provided a final burst of energy and enthusiasm.
“It was a great call by our offensive coordinator, Coach Barnett,” Klippenstein said. “A great play by Colin, a sophomore who’s never played tight end before, so I’m sure he’s feeling good about it. We have a bunch of new guys and it was their first varsity game ever. These new guys, these freshmen and sophomores, we need them.”
Mayson did laud the effort of quarterback Mike Parisse, who provided most of Lower Moreland’s successful offensive plays with his arm. But the Lions will have to regroup quickly with a short week.
“We have to settle on the fact we need to build more consistency,” Mayson said. “Today, playing a game will help us but we have a lot of work to do.”
Mattison added a final score on a three-yard run with 7:26 left in the fourth quarter. Likewise, he and his teammates have just a few days to see what they need to fix before their first home game on Saturday.
“We’re a team that’s going to need to feed off enthusiasm and industriousness” Mattison said. “We’re going to need to go into film study intently and ready to learn and correct our mistakes from today.”