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Horvath, Radnor line up rivalry triumph over Lower Merion

LOWER MERION >> A medal around his neck as game MVP for the second year in a row and a fresh snapback on his head, Jack Horvath wasn’t ready to talk about himself.

Instead, the Radnor running back wanted to discuss the big guys in front of him.

“This line,” Horvath was saying Monday night at Harriton, “where do you even start?”

The accessory question is much easier: Where did Radnor’s 49-8 obliteration of Lower Merion start? With those big guys in the trenches, and Horvath was among the bevy of beneficiaries.

“This senior class, I’m just privileged to play with them,” the junior Horvath said. “They tore this team up, to be honest. It’s mostly their part.”

The Radnor line turned the 120th edition of one of America’s oldest high school football rivalries into an oddly-scheduled, lopsided affair by the end of three quarters. With six Raiders dashing for touchdowns — and 10 contributing to 412 yards on the ground and 450 of total offense — the common thread is a line that blew its adversaries out of the water. The linemen played the biggest role in the Raiders walking off with a fifth straight rivalry victory and a pair of trophies, including a pristine glass shield sponsored by the United States Marine Corps’ Greatest American Rivalries series.

Radnor (5-7, 4-5 Central League) carried the ball 56 times, only three stopped for loss or no gain. They saw Horvath (21 carries for 154 yards) and Naair Williams (14 for 108) crack the century mark.

Horvath ran for the first two scores covering three and five yards. Williams punched in a score from nine yards to make the halftime score 21-0.

“It’s awesome,” center Matt Rigolizzo said. “Horvath and Naair, I’ve been blocking for two years. Jack just finds holes, and Naair runs over anyone in his path. That’s awesome.”

The lead ballooned to 28 points on the first snap of the third quarter when Zach Wade busted a 52-yard score. Ian Henkel added a seven-yard jet sweep to trigger the running clock at 6:33 of the third. Backup quarterback Sean Mullarkey scampered for a six-yard score, and fourth-string senior Alex Handen capped his career with a seven-yarder that was the cherry on top.

All that success shines brightly on the guys opening up holes: Rigolizzo, Pat Lofton, Matt McCue, George May, Harrison Doane and Joe Riley, the latter of whom earned a scholarship through the USMC’s sponsorship of the game.

The prospect of continuing the history with Lower Merion (2-9, 1-8) helped cushion the blow of last week’s playoff ouster. The Raiders, who earned the 15th seed in the District 1 Class 5A playoffs, bowed out to No. 2 Academy Park, 44-17, Friday, then faced a quick turnaround for a rescheduled grudge match usually penciled into Week 11 between two programs sparingly in playoff position.

That forced a paradox: As happy as Radnor was to renew acquaintance with LM, it would rather its playoff progress postponed the game another week or longer.

Ending with a victory is at least a sizeable consolation.

“We always look forward to it, but this year we wish we would’ve gone farther in playoffs,” Rigolizzo said. “We didn’t, but you’ve got to just love every game. This is our last one.”

Radnor certainly relished in the moments on the field. It moved the ball at will against the Aces, the only thing stopping Radnor being 13 flags marched off for 135 yards. In a chippy affair, each team was whistled for four dead-ball personal fouls. One Lower Merion player was ejected.

The domination was just as clear. Lower Merion at halftime had 28 yards of offense, and 40 in penalties. When Henkel made the margin 35 points, Lower Merion had just 39 yards of offense.

Lower Merion had a brief opening at the end of the first half on a Marek D’Alonzo interception, a pass from Pat McDermott that receiver Vernon Harper appeared to be securing before spilling it into the waiting hands of the Lower Merion defensive back.

But Teddy Girton ended the next drive by picking off LM quarterback Matt O’Connor. Tucker Ballbach added an interception in the second half, compounding O’Connor’s 6-for-18 day. The lone bright spot in his 75 yards was a 51-yard connection to hulking tight end Tahj Wheeler for the Aces’ only points.

“The offense wasn’t moving as fast as like the Harriton game,” Wheeler said, referencing the Aces’ 14-8 win 10 days ago. “It was a little bit of frustration for the offense.”

That score winnowed the lead to 42-8, by which time the offensive line, Horvath and McDermott had already retired to the sidelines to soak in the last few minutes of an unusual but fulfilling week.

“You just kind of have to think about the next game,” Horvath said. “Usually it’s week by week, but this time it was three days. You’ve just got to worry about the next game. That’s what we did as a team and came out here and showed it.”

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