FORT WASHINGTON >> All week, Germantown Academy tried its best to simulate the speed and athletic ability Simon Gratz was bringing to the field Friday afternoon.
Simulating it and experiencing it firsthand are two very different things and the Patriots quickly found out what they were up against. A slow start, a passing game that couldn’t quite find the mark and plenty of missed tackles added up to a long afternoon for GA.
The Patriots also had no answer for the Bulldogs’ senior quarterback, Amir Gillis and in turn, started their season with a 31-7 loss.
“When you play a really good team that played a good team the week before and you don’t make plays, it becomes an issue,” GA coach Matt Dence said.
Gillis, a Temple recruit who also plays safety for Gratz, finished 18-of-25 for 325 yards and four touchdowns while adding 47 yards on the ground with a rushing touchdown. Gratz led 24-0 at halftime and 31-0 before GA got a late touchdown pass for its first score of the season.
A terrific athlete, Gillis mixed deep throws down the field with shorter passes that let his skill-position teammates use their quickness and speed to gash GA’s defense. His best throw of the game was a 44-yard strike to receiver Rich Brown with 5:27 left in the second quarter. Brown also made a great catch leaping above a covering defender’s reach to haul in the pass.
“We simulated as much as we could, we have some good young skill kids who really tried to give us a good look and they did,” Dence said. “It’s first-game stuff, I think if we get off to a good start and it could be a totally different game. You have them third-and-long and they throw a 55 yard touchdown.”
Gillis’ first three touchdown passes were 55, 38 and 44 yards and on the fourth, he hit Jawan Rodriguez for a 40-yard gain before going back to Rodriguez for a 15-yard scoring pass.
“He made a lot of plays with his feet and there were a lot of broken plays today,” Dence said. “We have guys in the secondary who played their tails off, but they haven’t seen it. Hopefully, we get better.”
GA, which is coming off a share of the Inter-Ac title last season, is replacing some key players across the board. Senior Colton Niedzielski made his first start at quarterback taking over for the graduated Kyle McCloskey (Villanova) and had his share of up and down moments.
Niedzielski completed 7-of-20 passes for 73 yards and a touchdown, but he also threw an interception and the entire passing game just seemed a half-second off all game.
“We were close on a lot things, it did feel like were a half-second off and that will come with time,” Dence said. “Colton is a first-year starter but he handled himself well. He showed poise but he could have recognized a collapsing pocket a half-second sooner a couple times. It comes with time and we’ll get that fixed.”
Running back Donovan Ganges ran hard for GA, picking up 57 yards on 12 carries.
GA’s lone score came with 5:46 left in the fourth quarter. Sophomore wideout Tayshaun Mack, a Philadelphia resident who actually lives near Gratz, made a fantastic catch in the corner of the endzone, getting one foot down before going out of bounds for a 20-yard score.
“I was supposed to do a little speed-out but (offensive coordinator Greg Isdaner) told me change into a fly,” Mack said. “He told me to run and go up and get it. My main focus is to catch the ball first and when I see it in my hand, then I look down and find the sideline.”
Mack finished with 31 yards on three grabs while senior Mike Reilly had three catches for 38 yards.
Defensively, GA senior Tanner Long had a solid game as he made 12 tackles and was all over the field. GA hosts Father Judge next Saturday and Dence said he expects his players to see their mistakes on film this week and take the steps to correct them.
“We just missed tackles that we’re used to making,” Dence said. “My expectation, and what I told them, is that they work at it and figure out what was wrong, what we can fix and we make them next week.”
Simon Gratz 31, Germantown Academy 7
SIMON GRATZ 6 18 7 0 – 31
GERMANTOWN ACADEMY 0 0 0 7 – 7
SG – Amir Gillis 55 pass to Maurice Mazzccua (kick blocked) 4:09
SG – Gillis 38 pass to Jawan Rodriguez (kick fail) 7:25
SG – Gillis 44 pass to Rich Brown (kick fail) 5:27
SG – Gillis 15 pass to Rodriguez (kick fail) 2:31
SG – Gillis 10 run (kick good) 7:30
GA – Colton Niedzielski 20 pass to Tayshaun Mack (Michael Capone kick) 5:46
First downs 17 10
Rushes-Yards 34-184 22-69
Passing 18-25-4-0 7-20-1-1
Passing Yards 325 73
Total Yards 509 142
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 2-0
Penalties-Yards 7-74 4-20
Rushing: SG – Amir Gillis 6-47, Maurice Mazzccua 5-57, Tarell Stewart 2-3, Desmen Murphy 5-26, Jawan Rodriguez 3-5, Amir Beyah 3-1, Jawaan Anderson 7-42, unlisted 2-6, unlisted 1-(-3) ; GA – Donovan Ganges 12-57, Colton Niedzielski 6-6, Lacey Snowden 4-6
Passing: SG – Gillis 18-25-325-4-0; GA – Niedzielski 7-20-73-1-1
Receiving: SG – Rodriguez 5-107, Mazzccua 5-94, Jordan Mariney 3-45, Tarell Stewart 2-20, Rich Brown 1-44, Desmen Murphy 1-6, Jawaan Anderson 1-9; GA – Mike Reilly 3-38, Tayshaun Mack 3-31, Conor O’Neill 1-4