RADNOR >> After his team’s 31-0 rout of Harriton, Radnor coach Tom Ryan punctuated his victory speech with a simple request.
“How about a little smile?” Ryan pleaded. “We got that second win.”
A second win …. and maybe a second wind following a difficult start to 2016.
The Raiders blew out Upper Merion in their opener but endured a four-game skid, including an 0-3 mark in Central League play. It didn’t help that senior quarterback Pat McDermott had been missing since fracturing his left foot in Week 1.
He returned Friday night and so, too, did Radnor’s belief. When McDermott took his first snaps under center, the Raiders could start the campaign anew.
Of course, there was some rust.
“I think we came out a little slow,” said Ryan.
That’s putting it a bit lightly. Dylan VanDusan’s 38-yard field goal, which cleared the crossbar by inches, provided the Raiders with a 3-0 first-quarter lead.
From there, the offense sputtered. The next two drives produced as many first downs as punts. McDermott couldn’t quite get on the same page as his receivers. Some throws were high, some wayward.
Even on Radnor’s first-half touchdown, McDermott needed help. On third-and-27 from the Rams’ 45, Charlie Connolly snagged a high throw on the sideline and somehow spun off two defenders to race for six. The score, with 1:11 to go in the half, gave the Raiders a much-needed boost into the break.
Whatever rust McDermott and Radnor showed in the first 24 minutes was gone when they returned from the lockeroom.
On the opening drive of the second half, Najeh Fowler and Zach Wade combined for 54 yards on four carries to bring the Raiders a first-and-goal. Wade scored from three out to make it 16-0 with the extra point.
After trading punts, McDermott orchestrated his best drive of the night: 11 plays, six runs, four passes and one fourth-down conversion on a defensive pass interference penalty. Wade added his second touchdown to cap the 59-yard march.
“(I) definitely got more comfortable as the game went on,” said McDermott, who floated a fade to Tucker Ballbach for the two-point conversion on that drive. “Shake the cobwebs off, just get back into the groove of things.”
By the third quarter, he looked like the confident signal-caller Radnor hoped it would have all year. McDermott moved smoothly in and around the pocket, showing little signs of an ailing foot. After starting 4-for-10, he connect on five of his next eight passes. He finished 9-for-20 for 116 yards and a touchdown.
The only blemish came on a third-quarter interception that bounced off his receiver’s hands in the Harriton (0-6, 0-5 Central League) end zone.
McDermott was happy to watch from the sideline as Matt Cohen completed the scoring late in the fourth quarter. Ryan is just happy to have his quarterback back.
“To Sean (Mullarkey’s) credit, he played better each week. That’s all we can ask from a sophomore,” said Ryan of McDermott’s backup. “But having the senior leadership of Pat McDermott is a big thing to have back for sure.”
McDermott wasn’t expecting to return until next week when the Raiders (2-4, 1-3) host Upper Darby. But with the doctor’s approval, he was in uniform at Prevost Stadium on Friday.
“I think it’s definitely going to benefit us going into Upper Darby,” McDermott said. “We had a bit of a slow start, but we came back. So I think that it’ll be good, and hopefully we can come right out of the gates against Upper Darby, whereas if Upper Darby was my first game, that might not be the case.”
Perhaps Radnor’s 2016 season will eventually resemble the 31-0 victory over the Rams: A slow start with a strong finish.
Then Ryan won’t have to tell his players to smile.