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Hill School stumbles early, falls to Springside-Chestnut Hill

PHILADELPHIA >> The trip from Hill School to Springside Chestnut Hill Academy takes about 50 minutes.

It took less than one for the Rams to trail the Blue Devils Saturday afternoon. And in about five game-clock minutes, Hill School was staring at a 13-0 deficit.

By the end of the first 12 minutes it was 20-0; at halftime, 27-zip.

“We just didn’t come off the bus fired up,” first-year Hill School head coach Jeff Hollway said. “And Chestnut Hill played great to start.”

It was small consolation to the Rams in a 35-14 loss, but perhaps important in the big picture as Hollway builds a program, that the Rams outplayed the Blue Devils in the second half. Outgained in total offense by 224-65 in the first half, the Rams (2-2) reversed the numbers over the final 24 minutes, putting up 167 total yards to double SCHA’s 86. They also picked off SCHA quarterback Matt Rahill twice in the second half — Pete Boone and Harry Rakos with the interceptions.

The scoreboard is the bottom line, though. The Rams have now lost six straight years to the Blue Devils. Hollway was hopeful, coming off a very competitive four-point loss to Episcopal Academy — which followed wins in his first two games as Rams coach — that his team would jump off the bus and pounce on SCHA. But the Blue Devils were more than a worthy opponent, having beaten Roman Catholic and Father Judge in consecutive weeks.

“Kids are funny,” Hollway said. “You never know how to get ‘em motivated. I didn’t want to yell and scream to start the game. I thought this was an opportunity for us to be successful, to build on what we did last week.”

Rahill hit Jack Cucinotta on the second scrimmage play for a 55-yard touchdown. Hill School sophomore quarterback Syre Gruber, who would play a solid second half, was intercepted twice in the first half and both set up touchdowns. In between came a 15-play, 88-yard touchdown drive by the Blue Devils, but The Hill players soon showed they were not demoralized.

“Getting down early, our energy level just died down,” Gruber said. “But coming out of the half, a couple of captains and underclassmen stepped up and got us pumped, got us ready — Jay Carter, Gernard Finney, Khalif Jeter. They told us to play for each other, work for each other.”

“We just started playing ball,” defensive back DaQuan Morris said. “We balled out, like coach tells us to do. That’s the least we could do, play with intensity.”

Down 35-0 three minutes into the second half when Rahill threw his third TD, the Rams tightened up their defense and constructed more offensive balance. They drove 60 yards to Daniel Adeboboye’s TD run with 3:56 left in the third. A bullet-like onside kick attempt by Goyo Mendez bounced off a Blue Devil but was recovered by SCHA’s Robert Gentile, but a couple plays later Boone picked off Rahill.

Later, Rakos made a nice leaping interception, snatching the ball in front of Cucinotta on a deep route. Rakos then contributed to the subsequent scoring drive, making a first-down catch to start the series, which culminated in Boone’s terrific second/third-effort 10-yard bang to the end zone.

“Something we stress a lot is you don’t get to play this game your whole life, so you’ve to enjoy the minutes you have,” Hollway said. “We didn’t take advantage of the first 24, but I sure as heck wanted to take care of the second 24. And they came out and fought and played.”

Morris sees a high ceiling for the Rams if they play four quarters.

“I believe we’re a great team,” he said. “All four quarters matter though, as we’ve just seen today. We show up for all four quarters, we can get a win every week.”

“The great thing I’ve learned about the kids in my two months with them is they’re going to get right back to practice on Monday,” Hollway said. “They’re a resilient group of kids.”

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