NEWTOWN SQUARE >> After two difficult losses, all Episcopal Academy wanted to do Friday was get back on track against Springside Chestnut Hill.
Mission accomplished. And then some.
The Churchmen dominated the Blue Devils, 31-0, to move to 7-2 overall and 2-2 in the Inter-Ac. They’re still in the running for a share of the league title, but need things to shake out the right way next week. Oh, and they would need to defeat arch-rival Haverford School.
That showdown isn’t for another eight days. For now, Episcopal will enjoy a needed bounce-back victory, on Senior Night, no less.
“We just wanted to play a really good, solid game,” Churchmen coach Todd Fairlie said. “We made some mistakes, but overall, we were pretty much in control the whole time. And I think that speaks of our defense. They put us in some pretty good positions; I don’t think it was the cleanest game offensively.”
The defense forced two fumbles, had six sacks and picked off Blue Devils quarterback Jack Elliott three times. It yielded a mere 168 yards and only 22 on the ground. It set up the offense with short field after short field, and CJ McAnally did more than enough to cash in on them.
The senior quarterback threw for 202 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 92 yards and one score. He had a good chunk of his team’s 421 yards of total offense.
“It was a pretty good day. Had a few mistakes with those two interceptions, but the team rallied around me,” McAnally said. “It was Senior Night, a special night. I think overall, on both sides of the ball, the score kind of displays that. We pretty much dominated. It was a great group effort.”
It was especially needed for Episcopal Academy. The Churchmen started Inter-Ac play with a thrilling win over Malvern Prep, then lost by two points to Germantown Academy and by a touchdown to Penn Charter.
Springside Chestnut Hill (4-5), winless in the league, was perfect football fodder for a rebound.
“I think we were definitely frustrated. We lost in the last second against GA and Penn Charter, so yeah, we were definitely frustrated,” McAnally said. “We were itching to get back out here, to prove that we’re still a dominant team when we play our best.”
The Churchmen did that Friday. They started the scoring on Connor Ringwalt’s 35-yard field goal midway through the first quarter. McAnally added second quarter scoring passes to Jon’avin Freeman (four yards) and Dan Baker (74 yards) to make it 17-0 at the break.
In the third quarter, McAnally essentially iced the game with a 36-yard pass to Kyle Virbitsky. He finished the scoring late in the fourth quarter with a six-yard run.
“If you give a kid like that field position, with play-action, we feel pretty comfortable with QB runs and stuff,” Fairlie said. “It makes my job easier.”
Now, Fairlie’s job will be to defeat Haverford School for the first time since 2012, which was an undefeated season for EA. Ah, the memories. But these Churchmen have already surpassed the overall and league win totals of the past two seasons, but a victory over the Fords and a possible split league crown will certainly make this a memorable season.
“We’re licking our chops,” McAnally said. “We definitely want to get out there and compete with them.”