NETHER PROVIDENCE >> Marple Newtown was in a bind. Head coach Chris Gicking was just looking for some breathing room. Running back Marlon Weathers had other ideas.
“I’m not just trying to get a few yards,” Weathers said following his team’s dramatic 38-28 win over Strath Haven Friday night. “I’m looking to take it to the house.”
With the Tigers having turned the ball over on three consecutive possessions to start the second half, and with his team backed up to its 22-yard line and facing a third-and-37 following two holding penalties, Gicking called for a screen pass, hoping to at least shift the field position a little bit.
Quarterback Anthony Paoletti dumped the ball off to Weathers and then everyone watched in amazement as Weathers slipped by the lone would-be tackler, got behind some of his blockers and rumbled 78 yards for the third of his four touchdowns.
With that pass, Paoletti became the first quarterback in county history to throw for more than 2,000 yards in three consecutive seasons.
PHOTO GALLERY: Marple Newtown vs. Strath Haven
“On that play the line did their job and got out in front of Marlon,” Gicking said. “Anthony did his job by buying time and waiting for Marlon to get in position, and Marlon just did the rest.”
Weathers was swinging the game in the Tigers (6-4, 6-3 Central League) favor all night long. He finished with 255 yards rushing, going over the 1,000-yard mark for the season. Tack on the 78-yard reception and he was responsible for 333 of the Tigers’ 499 total yards.
“First and foremost, I have to give credit to my offensive line,” Weathers said. “They were opening holes for me all night long. I couldn’t have done half of this without them. Secondly, I have to thank coach for believing in me and getting me the ball all night.”
He was unstoppable in the first half, amassing 203 yards rushing on just 10 carries. He scored the first touchdown of the game on Marple Newtown’s second possession, breaking off a 53-yard touchdown.
Then, after Strath Haven took the lead in the second quarter on a flawlessly executed play-action pass from Jake Fisher to Ethan Belville for a 61-yard touchdown, Weathers took the very next offensive play for the Tigers 65 yards to put his team back in front.
“Everyone talks about their quarterback, and rightfully so, but their halfback is a pretty special player, too,” said Strath Haven coach Kevin Clancy, who was denied the chance to pick up win No. 300 of his career.
Weathers added an insurance touchdown in the fourth quarter on a three-yard run to put the Tigers up by 10. But after getting torched by him in the first half, Strath Haven (5-5, 5-4), adjusted nicely and limited Weathers to just 52 yards on 18 second-half carries.
The Panthers defense was swarming in the second half as well. Thomas Foster picked off Paoletti on consecutive possessions, the latter leading to a go-ahead touchdown run by Zack Hussein, his second of the game.
Hussein, like Weathers, also went over 1,000 yards rushing for the season, picking up 150 yards in the contest.
The Panthers had a chance to make it a two-score game in their favor, but after recovering a Marple fumble deep in Tigers territory, they gave it right back on the very next play with a fumble of their own.
“That’s the play that will bother me most in this one,” Clancy said.
Both teams will advance to the PIAA Class 5A District playoffs, and pending outcomes from Saturday, could potentially play again next week.
“I hope we play a team from outside our league,” Gicking said, “but if we play them again, it’ll be another good matchup.”