RADNOR >> It’s the sort of game that may frustrate Chris Britton and the Springfield coaching staff when they review the film this weekend.
Yes, the Cougars won Friday night at Radnor, 24-6, to stay undefeated for the season. Sure, there was plenty to be happy about.
The defense, led by linemen Derek Strain, Kevin Deal, Justin Shields and Dan Pennestri, was nasty. So, too, was linebacker Dwayne Snipes. The front seven swooned in the backfield to disrupt the Raiders. Joe Kennedy accounted for two Springfield touchdowns, an 89-yard return on the opening kick of the game and a 30-yard reception in the second quarter.
Make no mistake, there were many positives.
“It was a big win,” Strain said. “I thought we had a rough first half, but we picked it up and started to come together as a team in the second half.”
Springfield’s defense limited Radnor to 142 yards of total offense. Radnor didn’t score until the waning seconds of regulation, when sophomore quarterback Sean Mullarkey connected with wide receiver Jack Henry over the middle of the field for a 29-yard touchdown. It spoiled the Cougars’ bid for a shutout, but big whoop.
“I think we were reading the plays,” said Strain, who had at least two sacks and also forced a fumble. “The second half, we were doing a lot better. We started to see what they like to do. They started to run up the middle a lot, so we got used to do that and we were able to get to them quickly.”
So, chalk one up for the Springfield defense, which had allowed 170 yards per game entering the night, good for fifth-best in Delco. Also, the 7.7 points scored against was second in the county.
Kennedy and Greg Tamaccio recorded interceptions. Overall, the defense did its job again Friday night.
But Springfield still has work to do on the other side of the ball. The Cougars (4-0, 3-0) totaled 152 yards. Johnny Fanelli was sharp (11 of 19, 110 yards), but the ground attack was indisposed. Radnor’s defensive front matched Springfield’s in that regard, as the Raiders held the Cougars to 42 yards on 20 carries. Springfield’s leading rusher Ja’Den McKenzie gained just 18 yards on six carries. Fanelli had a game-high 22 yards rushing for Springfield.
The Cougars know they won’t get away with a similar offensive performance against the likes of Ridley and Garnet Valley, who lurk on the horizon.
“It’s completely still a work in progress,” said Kennedy, who had game highs in receptions (four) and receiving yards (54). “We’re working harder at it everyday. Our o-line is working to get better and I think they’re doing a great job at protecting the quarterback and giving Fanelli time to throw it. Our running backs are doing a great job pushing it in there, but we know we still have a lot of stuff to work on.”
Kennedy put the onus on himself. Displaying the selflessness of a true leader, Kennedy said it’s on his shoulders to ensure the Cougars are clicking in all areas.
“We have some big games coming up, like Ridley and Garnet Valley, and we have to take it one week at a time. We have Lower Merion (0-3) next week and we can’t mess around with them,” he said. “We have to have a great week of practice. … As a captain I think I did a bad job this week keeping our team pumped up and getting everyone ready. This week we’re going to come out with a clear head and start buckling down and fixing some of the dumb stuff we’ve been doing. We’re going to fix things up.”
The Raiders sorely missed defensive lineman Naa’ir Williams, quarterback Pat McDermott and running back Jack Horvath. However, coach Tom Ryan was pleased with the effort of Mullarkey and defensive lineman Isaiah Coates, who gave the team a boost out of the backfield when starter Ian Henkel (44 yards) left with injury. Coates added 35 yards on nine touches. Defensively, Charlie Connolly, Tucker Ballbach and Matt Rigolizzo were among the standouts for Radnor.
“We pride ourselves on our defense. We’re good defensively,” Ryan said. “(Springfield) is very well-coached, but I’m so proud of my kids and how hard they play. Sean, my sophomore quarterback, is getting better each week. I have to look at the silver lining in some capacity.”
Fanelli found Kennedy streaking down the Springfield sideline for a 30-yard connection in the second quarter to give Springfield a 17-0 advantage. Early in the fourth quarter, Strain sacked Mullarkey and forced a fumble deep inside Radnor territory. Kevin Deal scooped up the loose ball and scampered into the end zone to put the Cougars ahead, 24-0.
Strain is the younger brother of Ian Strain, who was an All-Delco at Episcopal Academy a few years back. His cousin is Ryan Strain, who played quarterback at Springfield from 2010-11.
“I think this defense can do a lot,” Derek Strain said. “Tonight, with (the score) being 24-6, I think we did really well on defense. Our offense is going to pick it up, but our defense really held the weight tonight.”