MALVERN — Keith Maguire is going to Clemson for several reasons. The Malvern Prep senior and Newtown Square resident is the complete package. A true four-star Division I recruit.
Maguire was recruited as a linebacker, and it’s where he did most of his damage in Saturday’s 24-7 Inter-Ac League victory over Episcopal Academy. But he is excellent at many other things, as the Churchmen found out.
Maguire made a handful of bone-crunching tackles, had an interception to end the first half and hauled in a 62-yard touchdown pass from Drew Gunther early in the third quarter to extend Malvern’s lead to 10 points. Oh, and Maguire is hardly satisfied that Malvern is 8-0 and continues to pound everyone on their schedule. This team is just starting to peak.
“Offensively, I do think we had a little bit of an off-game today, despite the score,” he said. “I think we could’ve played a lot better, but a win’s a win. I’m happy to get it to stay undefeated in the league and overall. I loved how our team played very hard in the second half, especially on defense. It’s back to practice this week to get ready for Haverford (School).”
Malvern (8-0, 2-0) racked up 327 yards of offense against the Churchmen (5-2, 1-1), who entered the weekend winners of four in a row and the No. 3-ranked team in Delco. While the Friars weren’t always crisp — they fumbled the ball away inside the red zone in the third quarter — they are about as well-balanced an offense as any team in the area. They can hit home runs at any second, which is, essentially, how the offense scored both of its touchdowns.
In the first quarter, Michael Hussey snagged a 40-yard pass from Gunther and jetted to the end zone. Maguire’s TD catch was similar: Run a post route, and outrace the defensive back.
“Our offense converted today when we needed it the most,” said running back Nick Gueriera, who is the nephew of coach Dave Gueriera. “We had a turnover deep inside their territory that kind of hurt us, but I felt we bounced back very strong.”
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Gunther was 8-for-16 for 161 yards and connected with six receivers. Speedy running back Quincy Watson received the lion’s share of the handoffs and lit up the Episcopal defense to the tune of 127 yards on 21 carries.
“They a very talented team,” said EA wide receiver/defensive back Malcolm Folk, who had 20 yards receiving and seven yards rushing. “Their outside guys are pretty athletic and their run game is really good. They’re a pretty good team all-around.”
Malvern’s primary concern defensively was making sure Villanova-bound senior DeeWil Barlee didn’t take control of the game. Barlee, per usual, ground out tough yards. But the All-Delco running back was clearly hobbled by an ankle injury that cost him a game earlier in the season. Barlee still played almost every snap on both sides, despite being underutilized offensively, and ran for 76 yards on 12 carries.
“He’s a hard runner, he’s shifty, he’s fast. He’s got it all,” Maguire said of Barlee. “Going in we knew we had to stop him and we also knew they had some threats on the outside with Jack (Bush) and Malcolm. They’re fast kids. ”
No big deal for Malvern. Defensive linemen Harry Stinger, Justin Roberts and John Turley played tough on the inside to limit Barlee’s big gains. The Friars also excelled at pressuring quarterback Maurcus McDaniel, who threw two interceptions and fumbled three times.
“Playing our defense, we can stop anyone and we haven’t had a problem with it all year. We weren’t too worried about it,” Maguire said. “Just come out and hit them hard, keep hitting them and eventually things will end up the way we want them.”
McDaniel engineered EA’s lone scoring drive in the second quarter. The Churchmen marched 81 yards, converting three third downs along the way. Sean Appaneal’s 15-yard reception helped set up McDaniel’s 10-yard scramble to the end zone to tie things at seven apiece.
McDaniel completed 11 of 23 attempts for 110 yards and gained 52 yards on 11 carries.
Malvern responded with a nine-play drive, capped by Sebastian Costantini’s 25-yard field goal with 48 seconds to go before halftime.
Episcopal was forced to punt following a positive start to its opening series of the second half. Then Gunther’s 62-yard scoring strike to Maguire put the Friars in the driver’s seat. They are on their way to a third straight Inter-Ac League championship.
“We’re coming for everyone,” Maguire said, “and we’re hoping to have a few more blowouts.”