RADNOR >> Minutes after Radnor’s 38-25 win in the 121st edition of its rivalry with Lower Merion Monday night, Raiders quarterback Sean Mullarkey reflected on his part in a tradition that spans more than a century.
“It’s an honor just playing in this game — 121 years is a long time,” said Mullarkey, who threw three touchdown passes Monday night. “I’ve been coming to these games as a fan for years. When I was a youngster, I came here with my dad (Tom), who played for Lower Merion in the late 1970s. He was at tonight’s game and just congratulated me a few minutes ago.”
Junior running back Jahmair Rider, who scored three touchdowns Monday, was also ready to share in the celebrations.
“It’s a great honor to play in this game – for 121 years they’ve been at it,” Rider said. “Sean threw me some great passes tonight, and I’m just happy that the coaches had faith in me, that they stuck with me this whole season.”
Just three days earlier, Rider caught a 48-yard touchdown pass from Mullarkey in a 27-21 first-round district playoff loss to No. 5 seed Upper Dublin. That hard-fought defeat was a tough one for 12th-seeded Radnor (6-6, 4-5) to swallow, but Monday night’s victory against Lower Merion allowed the Raiders to finish on a high note.
Radnor struggled in the first half Monday night, committing eight penalties for 70 yards and losing two fumbles. At halftime, the Raiders were hanging on to a 10-6 lead.
“We had a lot of penalties and mistakes in the first half tonight, which I attribute to playing two games in four days,” Radnor coach Tom Ryan said. “We really came together in the second half, though — Jahmair Rider had a good game, Sean Mullarkey did well and stayed in the pocket, Matt Cohen and Taylor Margolis ran well, and our offensive line played well tonight.”
Radnor’s strong offensive line featured seniors Pat Lofton, George May and Brendan Crowe, juniors Henry Collins and Anthony Laudicina and junior tight end Ryan Bernicker.
The first half was more defense-oriented, including three interceptions. The first interception, by Radnor cornerback Teddy Girton, set up the first score of the game, a 37-yard field goal by Dylan Van Dusen with 4:55 left in the first quarter.
Just before the first quarter ended, Mullarkey hit Rider down the left sideline for a 29-yard touchdown pass that gave the hosts a 10-0 lead.
The Raiders looked like they were ready to put the game away when Radnor senior linebacker Kyle Addis picked off a Lower Merion pass at the LM 21. But on the next play, a Radnor fumble gave the ball back to Lower Merion.
With 2:46 to go before halftime and Lower Merion facing a 4th-and-5 at the Radnor 20, LM quarterback Marek D’Alonzo gave his team new life when he hit Ian Goodman for a 20 yard touchdown to make the score, 10-6.
Three plays later, Lower Merion’s Marcus Green intercepted a Radnor pass at the Raiders 38, but the visitors failed to score.
Lower Merion took the second-half kickoff and drove to midfield behind the solid rushing gains of running back Elijah Smith. On the sixth play of the drive, Radnor linebacker Kieran Sheridan nailed D’Alonzo with a hard tackle, the ball came loose and Jack Connolly picked up the ball and ran to the end zone for a 51-yard touchdown to give the hosts a 17-6 lead.
“That fumble recovery was really key for us,” Mullarkey said. “That’s when we began to score.”
Seven plays later at the LM 42, Mullarkey hit Rider for a score to give the hosts a 24-6 lead with 5:54 left in the third quarter.
“It was a slant pattern where I lined up on the right, and ran across the field to the left,” said Rider. “The safety came up to defend against the run, and I got open. Sean hit me with a perfect pass.”
Late in the third quarter, Van Dusen boomed a 76-yard punt that pinned Lower Merion at its 5 yard line. But D’Alonzo hit Goodman three times for gains of 16, 36 and 15 yards, then scored on a 14-yard keeper to make it 24-12 with 11:34 left.
Radnor followed with a 71-yard drive on four rushing plays to build a 31-12 lead via a 27-yard jaunt by Cohen.
Lower Merion came right back two plays later with an 86-yard touchdown pass from D’Alonzo to Green that made it 31-19 with 9:48 left.
Radnor then worked up an 11-play, 80-yard drive highlighted by three Mullarkey passes — one to Cohen for 20 yards, one to Rider for 36, and a TD strike to Girton for 15 yards in which the receiver was all alone on the left side of the end zone.
The ensuing kickoff was returned by Lower Merion down to the Radnor 35, and on the next play, D’Alonzo hit Jaden Helton for a 35-yard touchdown that made the score 38-25 with 4:19 left. D’Alonzo had a productive second half, passing for 188 yards after halftime.
Radnor then used up the clock with a long drive, and the season for both teams was history.
Lower Merion coach Bryan Scopelliti said, “It didn’t work out for us tonight, but I told our players after the game that I hope they enjoyed being part of this historic rivalry. Radnor played well tonight.”
Top photo: Radnor’s Jahmair Rider celebrates following in touchdown catch in the first quarter of the Raiders’ 38-25 victory over Lower Merion Monday night.
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