WHITEMARSH >> In what was certainly his most important game of the season — and perhaps his career — Germantown Academy Kyle McCloskey started about as poorly as he could have.
The season’s been up-and-down for the Villanova-bound signal caller. A lack of a consistent run game has left him vulnerable, so the stats haven’t always been pretty. Nonetheless, he and his Patriot cohorts went into their 130th consecutive yearly contest against the Quakers of Penn Charter with a 3-1 record in the Inter-Ac and a chance to finish with no worse than a tie for the league’s championship.
So when he led off the game with four incompletions — and six in his first seven tries — and couldn’t get Germantown Academy’s offense moving in a scoreless first half, the pressure mounted.
“We just took it one play at a time,” he said, echoing the age-old athletic cliché. “We’re not going to make everything happen at once.”
It did Saturday afternoon, though. After nearly three full quarters of football gridlocked at zeroes, the Patriots broke through. McCloskey punched in a seven-yard run with 3:34 left in the third frame to mark the game’s first score and put the Pats ahead.
Then, in an instant, the game was tied. Two drives later, Penn Charter’s Edward Saydee ran in from one out, knotting the game. After another Patriot drive, McCloskey connected with Mike Reilly for a 49-yard touchdown to extend another lead, only to see it erased by Mike Hnatkowski’s 68-yard catch-and-run to Saydee on the next Quaker series.
The teams traded punts, and McCloskey and the Patriots had the ball on their own 36 with 1:06 remaining.
“(My teammates) came up to me and said, ‘This is you,’” McCloskey said. “We need you to lead us on this one.”
Suffice to say, he did. The senior southpaw accounted for all of GA’s 59 yards on the drive — 47 through the air and 12 on the ground — to set up Vince Capone with a chance to win the game on a 22-yard field goal attempt.
With the Inter-Ac championship in balance, Capone drilled it with less than five seconds remaining to hand GA a 17-14 thriller. The ensuing kickoff sealed the deal for GA, and like that, the Pats were Inter-Ac champions.
McCloskey, who finished with 172 yards through the air and 105 on the ground, took home the game’s MVP trophy.
“It feels amazing,” he said. “Five years ago, when I was in eighth grade and decided to come here, they had 27 kids on the team.”
“They played hard, and all wanted to win, but it was just hard for them,” he went on. “They didn’t win any games in the Inter-Ac that year.
“The way we’ve changed our mentality as a team, and to play for a chance to beat Penn Charter and win the Inter-Ac,” he said, “it’s just an amazing feeling.”
The win does put them in a tie with Malvern Prep for the league crown — the Friars’ 48-28 win over Springside Chestnut Hill Saturday made that the case — but it’s no less sweet for fifth-year head coach Matt Dence.
It’s the Pats’ (who have finished the season at 8-2) first one since 2004—when most of GA’s current roster was in first grade or younger, and serves as validation for all of the work that Dence and co. have put into the program over the past half-decade.
“We didn’t talk about that all week,” Dence said, “but I knew.”
“It’s what we’ve been hoping for the last five years,” Dence said. “To see this campus so happy, it’s pretty cool.”
“Penn Charter’s a very good team, and to beat them to win the Inter-Ac is what you hope you’d have the chance to do.”