NEWTOWN TWP. >> Malvern Prep’s defense proved a rugged test for host Episcopal Academy Friday evening, as the Friars prevailed for a 20-7 victory.
After EA scored on its first possession, a 14-play, 83-yard touchdown drive, Malvern held the hosts scoreless for the rest of the night.
“We played really physical tonight, we didn’t take a play off,” said Malvern junior linebacker Nick Gueriera, who, along with senior Cole McCabe, led the Friar linebackers Friday night. “We wanted to get to their quarterback early, so his deep threats weren’t as viable.
“I can’t explain how much winning this game means to me, with so many of our fans here. I think our defense stepped it up a notch from last week.”
The win boosted Malvern’s Inter-Ac record to 2-0 (3-4 overall) while EA dropped to 1-1 in the league (4-3 overall). Episcopal has been noted for its potentially explosive offense, scoring 35 points or more in its first three contests. They beat the Friars at Malvern Prep by a 37-34 score last year.
“We wanted to play physical, there was a lot of emotion from our guys on the field tonight after that loss from last year,” said Malvern junior defensive back TyGee Leach. “Our fans who came out were really vocal, and gave us great energy tonight.”
Malvern head coach Dave Gueriera said, “We wanted to limit EA’s big plays — they’re a well-coached team with some talented players, but defensively, we made some good adjustments.”
The first time EA had the ball Friday, the Churchmen drove 83 yards, keeping the ball mostly on the ground and getting some solid gains from star junior running back DeeWil Barlee. The big play was a fake punt on fourth and five from the Malvern 48 yard line, on which sophomore back Matt Bush carried the ball for 23 yards. Five plays later, Barlee scored on a five yard run, and EA held a 7-0 lead with 2:12 left in the first quarter.
“Even though EA scored first, we stayed disciplined on defense, and kept reading our keys,” said Leach, who made a key interception late in the game.
Following EA’s touchdown, Malvern started a drive of its own, with junior back Quincy Watson picking up 41 yards on three plays. When the drive fizzled at the Episcopal 14, Malvern Prep senior kicker Garrett Reilly booted a 31-yard field goal to make the score 7-3.
Malvern’s defense ramped up on the next EA possession, and a short punt by the Churchmen gave the visitors the ball at the Episcopal 34 yard line. On fourth and three at the EA 27, Malvern Prep back O’Shaan Allison ran left for 16 yards, then carried the ball two more times for the remaining 11 yards into the end zone, and the Friars held a 10-7 lead.
By halftime, Allison had 81 yards on 12 carries.
“I think we ran the ball pretty well in the first half,” said Dave Gueriera. “We wanted to get the ball in the hands of O’Shaan and Quincy as often as possible.”
The score remained 10-7 through 3 ½ quarters, when Malvern broke the scoring ice with a big play on offense.
On third-and-nine from the Malvern 24, Friar junior quarterback Drew Gunther went deep, and hit senior wide receiver Kevin Boyle on a wheel route down the right sideline for 46 yards. An additional EA penalty of 15 yards brought the ball to the hosts’ 15. Four plays later, Reilly booted a 32-yard field goal to give Malvern a 13-7 lead with 8:42 left.
Three plays later, Leach intercepted an EA pass at the Churchmen’s 37 yard line. After three running plays, Malvern faced a fourth and eight at the EA 34. Gunther then hit junior wide receiver Keith Maguire with a pass across the middle, and the junior wide receiver made a nice run down the left side for a 24-yard gain.
Two plays later, Allison took a pitch to the left and ran it in for a touchdown to make it 20-7 with 4:48 left.
“I was talking to Coach Gueriera on the sidelines before the play, and I noticed that the way EA’s defense was set up,” Gunther said. “That we could give it to O’Shaan on the left — and he wound up going one-on-one with the corner.”
“I think Malvern’s defense, their linebackers, are strong and really pursue the ball,” said EA head coach Todd Fairlie. “We lost to a good football team tonight, and I told our players after the game that one loss doesn’t define a season, that there’s plenty of season left.
“It was a close game for most of the night and if we’d made a couple of plays here and there, it could have been different. We moved the ball, but we didn’t finish drives. Then when it became a two-score [deficit] we went from throwing the ball when we want to, to throwing the ball because we have to.”