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Episcopal seniors end rivalry skid to go out on a high

NEWTOWN TWP. >> Adam Klein and the rest of Episcopal Academy’s senior class reveled in the moment.

The school’s student section swarmed Smith Field once the clock struck zero and the Churchmen put a bow on the 2017 season with Saturday’s 35-21 win over Haverford School. There was a massive celebration, one five years in the making at Episcopal.

No, the Churchmen hadn’t won the Inter-Ac League title. That would’ve been special. They did, however, get the next best thing.

The coveted EA-Haverford School Day rivalry sweater returned to the Churchmen. EA’s fall athletic teams finished 7-1-1 on the weekend against Haverford and its sister school, Agnes Irwin.

There was Klein, in the middle of it all, proudly holding the sweater as teammates and students cheered around him.

Episcopal’s streak of five consecutive season-ending losses to Haverford School was history.

“It’s been a really long time,” said Klein, a co-captain and two-way lineman bound for Temple next fall. “I don’t think there’s a better feeling than this. I couldn’t be happier for my teammates, my brothers. They’re awesome. It’s the best way, as a senior, that we could’ve went out.”

Klein sacked Haverford quarterback Ben Gerber on fourth down with five minutes left in the fourth quarter. Seconds later, junior running back DeeWil Barlee plowed through a slew of Haverford defenders on back-to-back runs. Barlee’s second attempt went for 32 yards and resulted in his fourth touchdown of the day. With 3:42 to play, it sealed the victory.
On EA’s previous possession, Barlee fumbled the ball away, which is a rare sight. He knew he had to atone for his mistake.

“I turned the ball over in that situation, and it was unfortunate. I haven’t put the ball on the ground all year,” Barlee said. “(Quarterback) Adam (Robinson) and Sam Sticks (Stickley) just told me to shake it off, that we’ll get it back. Coach called the play for me and I just took advantage of it.”

Barlee finished the afternoon with 200 yards and four TDs on 29 carries, capping a phenomenal junior season of 1,268 yards and 20 touchdowns. A true workhorse, Barlee excelled at running back and safety. With the exception of missing a game due to injury, Barlee never missed a play.

“I just wanted to send the seniors out on a right note,” he said, “and I think we did a great job today. This was a team win.”

The Churchmen (7-4, 3-2 Inter-Ac) fell short of the ultimate prize, a league title, something they haven’t accomplished since their perfect season of 2012. In some ways, they underachieved. They oozed talent, especially up front on offense and defense. Milton Mamula was a monster at outside linebacker, and Barlee was one of the best running backs in Southeastern Pennsylvania.

But this was a young group whose youth was evident at times.

“Our goal is obviously to win the Inter-Ac,” said Robinson, a senior who started at quarterback the final two weeks. His 10-yard scoring run got the Churchmen on the board in the first quarter. He ran for 81 yards on 23 carries. “Right now, yes, it feels like we are on top of the world. This is a great win for everybody. We didn’t achieve our best goal of winning the Inter-Ac, but this was definitely our second goal of the season. We came out and we performed. It wasn’t the best performance, but we were able to fight back and show what kind of team we really are.”

That sentiment was echoed by fellow seniors.

“It’s the accumulation of our four years here,” lineman Mike McFillin said. “This is what I dreamed of … ever since I was a freshman. It’s a good way for me, personally, to move on in my career. It doesn’t entirely make up for the tough losses, but this is the right way to end the season.”

Barlee’s third touchdown jaunt of the day gave EA a 28-14 advantage late in the third quarter. The Fords (1-9, 0-5), however, never quit. In what was a daunting season, they had saved their best game for last.  

A minute into the fourth quarter, with the Fords facing a 4th-and-21, Gerber connected with Dan Whaley on a short curl route. Shy of the first-down marker, Whaley latereled the ball to Nate Whitaker, who sprinted 15 yards to the end zone.

In the first half, after Episcopal went ahead 14-7, the Fords answered when Gerber found Jake Spencer across the middle of the field. Spencer darted 38 yards for a touchdown.
Gerber, a junior, completed 15 of 34 attempts for 190 yards and two scores. Spencer, a sophomore, made three catches for 77 yards. Senior running back Logan Keller shouldered the load on the ground with 86 yards on 19 carries.

“They had a little bit of a rough season, but I think they’re a heck of a team,” Klein said. “They had a couple of things that didn’t go their way. They’re a great team, they came out firing and gave it everything they had.”

Episcopal will say goodbye to another strong senior class. Barlee, though, is already excited about the future.

“This is just going to lead us into next year. Anything is possible,” Barlee said. “We’re going to prepare harder than ever. Going into the league season, we’re going to have the same attitude as always, but we want it all next year. We want the Inter-Ac title. So we’re going to come back next year with the same focus, the same goal, but we’re going to have to execute better. That’s going to be the key for us. We have the talent coming back.

“I think this was a huge win for us overall.”

 

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