Ardmore – When the Lower Merion and Harriton football squads squared off Oct. 29 at Arnold Field, the two teams had a combined record of 1-17. But under a pleasant afternoon sun, and in front of a sizable crowd on both sides of the Arnold Field bleachers, both teams put up a spirited battle for the supremacy of Lower Merion Township, and LM prevailed, 14-8.
Lower Merion head coach Bryan Scopelliti said, “I’m happy for our guys. Like Lower Merion-Radnor, this is another game we circle on our calendar. It’s not as historical [as Lower Merion-Radnor], but it means a lot to us. It’s a game where we play a team that has a similar situation to us, it’s four quarters of competitive football, and the fans can have fun watching.”
LM junior linebacker Marek D’Alonzo, who grabbed two interceptions and made a team-leading eight tackles, said, “Playing people you know [at Harriton] makes for a higher level of intensity. You might be friends with some of them, but once you’re on that field, it’s a different kind of beast.
“After the game, [Harriton’s] Eddie May said to me, ‘Good game,’ and he said it respectfully. After the game, we feel we have a bond with the Harriton players – we’ve all been working hard. … At the end of the day, it’s all about having fun.”
Harriton senior Will Thomas, who scored the Rams’ lone touchdown on a 6-yard pass from sophomore Michael Stewart, said, “I look forward to the Lower Merion game every year. It means everything to play Lower Merion in the final game of my high school [football] career. I love every guy on this team, and I think we’ve got a bright future.”
Both Lower Merion and Harriton have young teams – the Rams have only six seniors, while LM has four. Both teams also have relatively small rosters – LM dressed 28 players for the game (they have a separate freshman team), while Harriton dressed 45 players (including freshmen).
After the game, Harriton players gathered around in a large circle along with Ram head coach Juston Mellor, as Mellor spoke to his players as a team for the last time this season (Lower Merion still had Radnor on its schedule for its season finale).
Mellor said, “I told them that the lessons you learn playing sports you can’t learn anywhere else. When you’re not as successful as you want to be, you dust yourself off and try again. I just have a ton of respect for the players on this team, the way they’ve [persevered].”
On the Lower Merion side, the LM players were enjoying the fruits of victory, their second this season.
DeLonzo said, “The coaches have been on us to play Lower Merion football, and we were today. Our defensive line was putting pressure on Harriton, that helped me make my interceptions – it’s a team game.”
Scopelliti said, “[D’Alonzo] has been the glue that has held us together this season. He is our linebacker, kicker, punter and sometimes our wide receiver.”
Other Lower Merion standouts in the victory included quarterback Matt O’Connor (16-for-23 for 147 yards, one TD pass); receivers Davon Tate (four receptions, 47 yards, one TD), Jaden Helton (six catches) and Elijah Smith (three receptions for 49 yards); Dan Barcliff (seven tackles) and Edward Zhang (six tackles, one fumble recovery).
Mellor said, “Jack Rosenfeld was great on both sides of the ball for us today. He was starting his first game at quarterback, and started the game ripping off large chunks of yardage to get us off to a good start.”
Both the Lower Merion and Harriton coaches hope their young squads learned some lessons from this game that will carry over into the off-season.
Mellor said, “We have a lot of guys with varsity experience [from this season], but that only gets you so far. Our players need to prepare in the weight room in the off-season, and give a full commitment [to football.]”