LOWER MERION >> A week after having 95 yards on the ground, Zack Hussein was ready for another opportunity to show what he can do.
While Strath Haven’s offense has been predicated on controlling the clock and moving the ball primarily on the ground, the Panthers gave the ball to Hussein early and often.
Behind Hussein’s 204 rushing yards and two touchdowns, Strath Haven dismantled Lower Merion, 36-14 in a Central League game at Harriton High School. Hussein’s tough running fueled all of the Panthers’ first-half scoring drives.
He rumbled for 35 yards on the opening drive before quarterback Jake Fisher found tight end Dan Reeves for a 13-yard score. Hussein finished off the second drive with a six-yard touchdown run, and two drives later, he added his second score on a 10-yard scamper.
Hussein said his running style is more geared toward going downhill and finishing off runs at the end.
“I just take what the defense gives me, run hard and hold onto the ball. I keep on grinding,” Hussein said.
Strath Haven (2-1, 1-0) head coach Kevin Clancy’s offensive philosophy has always been to pound the ball up and down the field, and he’s found another solid, downhill runner in Hussein.
“He has a good forward lean when he runs and he finishes runs. He knows the value of a four-yard play,” Clancy said. “His vision will get better for us going forward. He’s a hardworking guy and he wants the ball on every play.”
Hussein’s running opened up several opportunities in the passing game for Fisher, including the early strike to Reeves and a 36-yard hookup with senior wideout Thomas Foster to begin the fourth quarter. Fisher has relished the chance to make big pass plays after Hussein has established the ground game.
“Zack opens everything up and I know that (Thomas) can blow the lid off a defense,” Fisher said.
Lower Merion (1-2, 0-1) looked to be making a run after quarterback Marek D’Alonzo found Deion Davis for a seven-yard strike just before the half. But the Aces were unable to turn the opening drive of the third quarter into points as they turned the ball over on downs.
On the ensuing drive, Hussein gained 56 yards on the ground while picking up five first downs to put Fisher in position for a quarterback sneak from the goal line that put the game out of reach at 29-6. Aces head coach Bryan Scopelliti knew the ground game was a major part of Strath Haven’s offensive game plan but it was tough to evaluate coming in.
“We knew what was coming but we had a hard time simulating that type of physicality in practice,” Scopelliti said. “We tried to make sure our gys were as mentally prepared as possible, but obviously we could’ve done better.”
The Panthers now turn their attention to a big matchup with Springfield at home next week, and will once again be leaning on Hussein to lead the way.