By Anthony SanFilippo
For Digital First Media
GLENOLDEN >> Interboro coach Steve Lennox stood on the field following his team’s 49-12 win over Pope John Paul II in the District 1 Class 4A semifinals exchanging pleasantries with his wife, daughters and granddaughter.
There were a lot of smiles, hug and kisses. There were a lot of wishes of congratulations on the victory, one that was over basically in the first quarter. But there was one thing that wasn’t happening: Lennox had the game ball tucked under his arm and no matter how many times his adorable granddaughter tried to take it from him, he wasn’t letting go.
It’s because it was a special ball, one that will be placed on a mantle somewhere. Or in a trophy case.
That’s because the victory, the one that put the Bucs into the 4A final against Pottsgrove next week, was win No. 300 for Lennox in his 24-year career at Interboro.
It was an accomplishment that he didn’t want to take credit for, instead passing off effusive praise to his staff, the school district administration and the Interboro community.
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I have the best job in Delaware County because of the people here,” Lennox said. “It’s such a great community and everyone takes part. A lot of my former players start working with the kids when they’re in elementary school and middle school and they’re teaching them the way we do things here. They deserve more recognition than I do.”
But no matter how much he deflected any kind of credit for an illustrious career, Lennox held that ball tight, like a power fullback approaching a gang of oncoming tacklers.
Which is funny, because his best offensive player in the semifinal game held the ball with an almost identical voracity and plowed through the Pope John Paul defense.
Chris Thomas was a beast once again, rushing for 135 yards on just 14 carries and scoring three touchdowns, bringing his season total to 23, one shy of the Interboro school record of 24 set by Sean Wasson in 2004.
Much like his coach, Thomas didn’t want to take any credit.
“It’s the line. It’s all them,” Thomas said. “They didn’t miss a block all night and I don’t think they’ve missed very many all year. My touchdowns are because of them.”
Thomas broke free for a 55-yard score in the first quarter to put the Bucs up 14-0 and Interboro never looked back.
Thomas added touchdown scampers of nine and seven yards in the second quarter and likely would have tied the record in the second half if Lennox didn’t pull the first team offense.
“If I would have known he had a shot at the record tonight, I probably would have let him try to score one more time before we took him out.”
Despite Thomas’ punishing runs, the highlight of the game occurred late in the first quarter when Nate Murtha lofted a 21-yard touchdown pass to Colin Ravert that deserved to be on ESPN’s SportsCenter top plays.
Murtha threw a fade to the end zone, but the pass was broken up by cornerback Matt DeLaurentis. However as Ravert fell to the turf, the ball, which popped up in the air on the deflection, somehow landed in Ravert’s lap. The score made it 21-0 and the rout was on.
Interboro’s defense was relentless in putting pressure on DeLaurentis, a top-tier quarterback. The Pope John Paul QB still threw for 166 yards, but he was running for his life all night and ended up throwing four interceptions, two to cornerback Matt MacMullen.
“We just followed the game plan that the coaching staff put in place and executed it to perfection,” MacMullen said. “Hopefully we can do the same next week. We can’t get too high on this win. There another game to win next week.”
And if they do, it’ll mean another football for Lennox to clutch onto and cherish as part of his storied coaching career.