POTTSTOWN >> Prior to Saturday, first-year Hill School head coach Jeff Hollway had only ever heard about the annual rivalry game against Lawrenceville School.
Having spent the past three seasons coaching Wyoming Seminary — a fellow member of the Mid-Atlantic Prep League — Hollway knew what the game meant for both teams.
What he didn’t know, though, was what it would be like to be part of the tradition.
“This is not just another game,” Hollway said afterward. “Everything leading up to it and all the tradition — it’s something really special.”
He got to experience it for himself hands-on this entire past week, capped by the Blues’ 28-18 loss to Lawrenceville in the 129th annual matchup of the storied rivalry at The Hill School’s Dell Field.
“The way this entire Hill community rallies around this entire weekend is special,” said Hollway. “There’s so much tradition in this game.”
Lawrenceville’s Harry Flaherty, now in his second season as head coach, wore the same shoes as Hollway just a season prior. That said, the feel and the environment of the storied rivalry has yet to wear off for him.
“To be a part of something that so many people before us have participated in — it’s awesome,” he said. “It’s also a great way for us to end our season. The kids always get up for this game, which is really fun to be a part of.”
The Blues (1-4 MAPL; 3-6 overall) never led, but were never out of it, even after being held to just one yard of total offense and losing two fumbles through their first four possessions.
Lawrenceville (2-3 MAPL; 1-7 overall) fifth former quarterback Campbell Garrett made the Blues pay for each turnover, though, completing scoring drives following both fumbles.
Garrett finished with 294 yards through the air with four touchdown passes, completing 22 of his 43 attempts.
Diassa Diakite made the play of the game with his team up just three and about six minutes left. The sophomore pulled in a screen pass on 4th and 17, then got behind his blockers and took it all the way to the end zone to score what would stand as the final points and ice the win.
“That was all Diassa and the guys in front,” Garrett said afterward. “I really didn’t think there was anything there, but I figured it would be best to get the ball into his hands and let him do something. He made it happen.”
Diakite finished with 102 yards of total offense, piling up 49 rushing yards on 20 attempts.
The Lawrenceville wide outs also made it happen, spreading out the Hill School defense, and enabling a balanced offensive attack.
Satchel Moore hauled in two touchdown receptions — from 25 and 38 yards out — racking up 127 receiving yards on five catches while Isaiah Wingfield pulled in seven catches for 58 yards.
The Lawrenceville defense never let Hill School quarterback Syre Gruber get too comfortable in the pocket. The Big Red sacked Gruber three times and forced two fumbles as he completed 10 of his 19 passing attempts.
Gernard Finney accounted for two Hill touchdowns — pulling in a 17-yard touchdown pass from Gruber and rushing one in from two yards out — while racking up 129 yards of total offense. He rushed for 62 yards on eight carries while Jack Bowen pulled in four receptions for a team-high 67 yards.
“Our guys battled,” said Hollway. “I’m fortunate to coach some really good kids. We were down early on, but never got down on ourselves. We fought back the entire way.”
The Hill-Lawrenceville Cup likely has a pretty comfortable spot inside a trophy shelf on Lawrenceville’s campus. The Big Red has now claimed the previous seven matchups against the Rams, dating back to The Hill’s 28-0 win to cap the 2009 season.
Hill School punter Brennan Keil might as well have worn steel-toe boots the way he was booting the ball. The sophomore punted it away three times, averaging nearly 55 yards per punt.
It Was All Yellow
There were a combined 24 penalties called Saturday, as Lawrenceville was flagged 16 times for 136 yards while The Hill had eight penalties for 50 yards.