BRYN ATHYN >> For Academy of the New Church, there’s plenty to look forward to, and Devin Bryant provides several reasons why.
The sophomore caught 11 passes, ran the ball eight times, scored three touchdowns and zig zagged his way to 241 yards from scrimmage Saturday. Despite a 35-26 setback to visiting Sussex County Technical High School (N.J.), Bryant is part of a young nucleus for ANC that is quickly coming off age.
“Just basically had to make my way,” Bryant said with a big smile, after putting on quite a show on this cool, windy afternoon contest at ANC.
Bryant was tough to keep out of the end zone and tough to tackle anywhere. On a 3rd-and-6 in the second quarter, the speedster gathered in a short pass from fellow sophomore Jeb Brenfleck, cut back right then all the way back left, gaining 41 yards. Bryant made similar moves in the third, his sideline-to-sideline weaving good for 45 yards on another reception from Brenfleck.
Bryant would score both of the Lions’ touchdowns in the first half in helping ANC to a 14-7 lead and then added another score in the fourth quarter.
“He’s a great player,” Lions coach Ty Klippenstein said. “I think he put everything he could into this game. He made a lot of solo tackles and made a lot of people miss. He’s a kid that likes to win so it’s hard for those guys, when we’re not winning and they’re doing everything they can.
“But hopefully we can look at the tape, learn from it, and be more prepared next week (at home against Lower Moreland).”
After Brendan Hall scored the first of his two touchdowns on a three-yard run, ANC tied things up 7-7 late in the first quarter when Bryant caught a 12-yard slant from Brenfleck, who threw for four scores Saturday, completing 18 of 37 passes for 285 yards.
“We kind of needed a little bit of a moral victory at least, and I think we got that,” Klippenstein said. “I think our kids are fighting. We’re a team of sophomores — we have one senior (wide receiver/defensive end Tim Radcliffe) on the team.
“We have a couple juniors but most of our players out there are sophomores. A lot of those players are making big plays.”
The Lions (0-5) pushed ahead 14-7 after sophomore outside linebacker Sean McCurdy recovered a Mustang fumble, setting up a five-yard TD connection from Brenfleck to Bryant (11 rec/193 yds).
But Sussex Tech brought quite a running game with them across state lines.
“The line did it and I just followed them,” said Hall, who carried the ball 35 times in this one for 176 yards. “We weren’t giving up (at halftime). The running game was working and our offense was pushing, definitely better than it had been.”
Sussex Tech kept pounding away for its first victory, and Hall was the hammer. In addition, Bo Maroney gained 126 yards and Rich Hofmann added 80.
Sussex got to within 14-13 in the third on a 15-yard burst up the middle by Hofmann then went ahead for good on a five-yard run by Hofmann coupled with a two-point conversion run by Maroney.
“We were looking at the tape this week and we realized it’s gonna be hard for us to keep them under four yards per carry,” Klippenstein said. “They tested us and they pretty much showed that they have the horses up front.
“We fought, but it’s hard to win a game when you’re giving up (6.8) yards per carry.”
But despite injuries and some other setbacks, ANC pressed on.
Said Bryant: “We’re playing more as a team.”
After falling behind 28-14 when Maroney broke free for a 67-yard score, the Lions went on the move again, with Brenfleck connecting with sophomore Greg Clark in the back of the end zone, making it 28-20.
Hall powered in from seven yards out to make it 35-20, but, fittingly, Bryant scored the final points of the day, catching a 10-yard pass from Brenfleck with 17 seconds to go.
The Mustangs (1-3), getting victory No. 1 for first-year coach Brian Stellingwerf, recovered the onside kick and then quarterback Tyler Crum had one kneel down to end it.
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