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Second-half meltdown sinks ailing Episcopal Academy

PHILADELPHIA >> Episcopal Academy could have made excuses for what happened Saturday afternoon at Penn Charter’s Maguire Field.

Without their starting quarterback and star running back, the Churchmen needed new playmakers to emerge if they expected to defeat the Quakers. For two quarters, everything seemed to be going according to script.

A 17-point outburst in the second quarter, highlighted by a pair of touchdown connections from Adam Robinson to Jack Bush, had the Churchmen feeling good about their chances. They were ahead at halftime despite missing sophomore quarterback Maurcus McDaniel, who suffered a season-ending injury in last week’s shutout of Germantown Academy, and 1,000-yard rusher DeeWil Barlee.

Alas, a dreadful second-half performance ensued. Penn Charter scored four unanswered touchdowns to hand Episcopal its fourth loss of the season, a 42-17 setback.

“In the first half, we were going back and forth with them and I felt like we were playing really good football,” said senior quarterback Adam Robinson, who completed 7 of 11 attempts for 67 yards, but hit on just three passes for 11 yards after halftime. “When we went into the locker room, everyone was up for it. We weren’t acting like we had won the game, but I felt like if we had come out more prepared on the things we needed to do from the first half, that would have really helped us.”

The Quakers (9-1, 3-1 Inter-Ac League) raced out to a 14-3 advantage before the Churchmen rallied with back-to-back impressive drives resulting in touchdown catches by Bush. Robinson found Bush all alone in the end zone to trim the deficit to 14-10. Less than two minutes later, Bush made a spectacular grab between a pair of Penn Charter defensive backs in the corner of the end zone to give Episcopal (5-4, 2-2) its first — and only — lead of the day. EA led at the intermission, 17-14.

“The focus, lack of attention … we just didn’t do things right in the second half,” said Bush, who had three receptions for 45 yards and added 12 yards rushing. Episcopal went with a ground game by committee with Barlee sidelined. Robinson led the way with 55 yards on 27 totes and Matt Bush chipped in with 32 yards.

The final 24 minutes belonged to the Quakers.

“Plain and simple,” Jack Bush said, “we just didn’t get it done.”

Penn Charter needed only three plays at the start of the third period to regain the lead. Edward Saydee sprinted 38 yards to the end zone to make it 21-17. While he lost two fumbles on the afternoon, Saydee got stronger as the day wore on, finishing with a game-high 141 yards on 23 carries.

Milton Mamula, who had another strong game at outside linebacker/end for the Episcopal defense, stripped the ball loose from Saydee in the third quarter. Trailing by four, EA took possession at the Penn Charter 15-yard line, but penalties and ineffectiveness caused the Churchmen to move in the wrong direction. James Silvi, who nailed a 35-yard field goal in the first half, missed from 36 yards out. Episcopal didn’t return to the red zone the rest of the game.

“I think coach (Todd Fairlie) said it best: we just got beat,” senior lineman Adam Klein said. “We didn’t tackle well … we had selfish penalties, including myself. We had personal fouls. We preached all year that we have to stop playing selfish football. We’ve had way too much of this kind of stuff. It really came back to bite us. That’s the main reason why we just flat out got beat in the second half.”

Penn Charter outgained Episcopal 175-61 after halftime. John Washington caught a 36-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Will Samuel (7-for-11, 154 yards) early in the fourth quarter, extending Penn Charter’s lead to 11 points. Washington and Jalon Jones added scoring runs late in the period to put the game out of reach.

Episcopal, which was ranked No. 5 in the Daily Times Super 7 last week, concludes its season at home against The Haverford School next weekend. Saturday’s defeat to the Quakers officially knocked the Churchmen out of contention for the Inter-Ac League title.

“We definitely have to learn from this game,” Jack Bush said. “This won’t be a hard game to get up for. It’s the biggest game of our year. We have to learn from this and get after it. I think we’ll definitely be able to.”

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