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Defensive adjustments bring another Radnor resurgence

Sean Mullarkey passed for 168 yards to help Radnor earn a 23-21 decision over Strath Haven Friday night.

NETHER PROVIDENCE >> The second quarter was three minutes old and Radnor had run three plays from scrimmage. Things, you might say, were not going as planned.

Previous versions of the Raiders would have crumbled in this situation. This group did not. Radnor survived the first half and controlled the second half to earn an impressive 23-21 road victory Friday against Strath Haven.

These Raiders are now 5-1 overall and 4-1 in the Central League.

This is the best start to a season for Radnor in quite some time. It was accomplished on this night with a senior group that simply did not fold. They were down 14-6 at the half. They scored 17 points on the next three possessions. They gave up a touchdown. They held on. They knew it was going to happen.

“In past years, we wouldn’t win these close games,” quarterback Sean Mullarkey said. “We said at (the) half, this is where we separate ourselves from those past Radnor teams.”

Radnor’s first possession of the second half lasted six plays. A 41-yard Mullarkey pass to Kieran Sheridan did a lot of the work. Matt Cohen finished it from two yards out. The Raiders were down by two.

After a Strath Haven (3-3, 3-2) three-and-out, Radnor went 65 yards on seven plays and scored on Cohen’s one-yard run. He met a defender at the line of scrimmage. He tore through the tackle. The Raiders were up by six.

“Our offensive line just mauled them the second half,” Cohen said. “Just by the numbers, we have a lot more kids than them, a lot less kids playing both ways. We knew we were going to our heavy stuff because they were going to be tired. The offensive line did an amazing job.”

The ensuing Panthers drive fizzled out, mostly due to two key dropped passes. Radnor responded by running more than seven minutes off the clock. Its drive stalled inside the 15-yard line, but Dylan Van Dusen’s 29-yard field goal was the needed result. The Raiders were up by nine.

How did Radnor go from down eight to up nine in about two quarters of football?

“We adjusted,” Radnor coach Tom Ryan said. “We switched some guys on our d-line to their strengths, and I think that was a big thing, That adjustment that our d-line coaches did was a big thing. My linebackers played really well. I’m still trying to process it all.”

Somehow, Strath Haven made it down the field in about three-and-a-half minutes and scored on Zack Hussein’s two-yard plunge. Radnor wasted 94 seconds off the clock before punting. The Panthers had 51 yards to go and 1:54 to get there. A holding penalty sent them backward. Four incomplete passes ended the game.

Radnor had earned this one.

“Coach (Kevin) Clancy’s the winningest coach in (Delaware) County, anytime you go against him, you’ve got to prepare,” Ryan said. “We knew it was going to be a tight game one way or the other. I’m just glad that we came out on top.”

Two classic Clancy clock-eating drives gave Strath Haven its first-half points. The first was finished on Jake Fisher’s one-yard sneak, the second on Hussein’s 24-yard run. Mullarkey’s 39-yard pass to Jahmair Rider sandwiched those scores.

Cohen rushed for 121 yards. Mullarkey threw for 168. The defense yielded just 232 yards to the confusing Wing-T. Radnor’s victory was a full team effort. But it was not a confidence builder. The confidence for this group is well established.

In the midst of a Central League gauntlet (Haverford was last week, Springfield is next week, Garnet Valley follows), the Raiders are aware they belong. They played like it.

“I knew we were going to win the whole game,” Mullarkey said. “Their offense is tricky to stop but our defense is unbelievable. Once they start clicking, they can stop anybody.”

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