LOWER MERION >> With one eye looking ahead to Ridley, Marple Newtown did exactly what a good team should do against Lower Merion Saturday afternoon.
The Tigers took care of business.
The Aces weren’t going to lie down — there’s some real talent on coach Brian Scopelliti’s squad — and allow the Tigers to stomp past them. They made the Tigers work for their 42-13 Central League victory.
Besting their 5-0 start from a season ago, the Tigers have won six in a row to start the 2016 campaign and are tied for first place in the Central League with Springfield. Marple hasn’t won a Central League title since 1977.
Of course, the Tigers’ biggest and most anticipated challenge comes next Friday when a ticked-off Ridley team comes to town looking to right the ship after suffering a heartbreaking overtime loss to Springfield.
But first there was Saturday’s showdown with the host Aces. Junior Anthony Paoletti was 11 of 14 for 200 yards and a touchdown and Marlon Weathers rushed for three TDs in the lopsided win.
Kyle Tobin was a star on defense for the Tigers (6-0, 5-0). A longsnapper a year ago, Tobin has earned his spot on the starting line alongside Cooper Maas, Luke Zimmerman and Kevin Rankin. The first-team defensive unit shut out the Aces and held them to roughly 58 yards of total offense before Marple’s backups took over midway through the second half.
“We just wanted to play well today and get to that next game against Ridley,” Tobin said. “It’s just another step in the road.”
— Matt Smith (@DTMattSmith) October 1, 2016
How good has Marple’s first-string defense been this season? It has allowed just two touchdowns, none in the last four games. The rush defense has held the opposition to 93 or fewer yards in five games. The big play Saturday was Dash Dulgerian’s interception of Lower Merion quarterback Matt O’Connor, returning the ball 26 yards to the end zone on the opening play of the third quarter. The pick-6 gave the Tigers a five-touchdown lead.
“It definitely feels good,” said Dulgerian, who also had a 23-yard catch. The junior wide receiver/defensive back has 479 yards and four TD catches on the season. The interception return was the first of his varsity career.
Paoletti, the leading passer in Delco, makes quarterbacking at the high school level look so easy. With a cavalcade of stellar receivers at his disposal, Paoletti found eight pass catchers Saturday. Carmen Christiana hauled in a 16-yard scoring throw in the second quarter to give Marple a 14-0 lead. Christiana had four catches for 55 yards and Cameron Mathes finished with two catches for 75 yards. For the season, Paoletti has completed 66 percent of his passing attempts for 1,483 yards and 13 touchdowns.
“Watching their film, we really singled out that they have good, athletic players. They have good defensive backs and good receivers,” Paoletti said. “So, we wanted to use the run game a lot today.”
Weathers spearheaded the Tigers’ ground attack with 76 yards on 13 carries and three scores. Fullback Jack Fallows added 27 yards and a TD, while Luke Jelous gained 36 yards.
Lower Merion avoided the shutout with a pair of fourth-quarter TDs. Elijah Smith had a 25-yard scoring scamper and Jaden Helton caught a 30-yard pass from backup QB Marek D’Alonzo.
In his post-game pep talk, Marple Newtown coach Chris Gicking reminded his players to keep things together in advance of a hard week of practice. While Marple has proven to be one of the elite programs in Delco since last fall, Gicking said next week will be the team’s chance to put the Tigers on the map by getting a win over Ridley.
“I don’t think anyone needs to get pumped up,” Paoletti said. “Everybody has been excited for a while. We’ve been talking about this all year. Obviously, a good week of practice is going to do it. There’s going to be a lot of people at the game, the whole community will be there. It will be rockin’.”