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Barlee caps great career with TD, Episcopal win

DeeWil Barlee looks for running room against Malvern Prep Saturday. EA fell, 24-7. (Nate Heckenberger/For Digital First Media)

HAVERFORD — On the last carry of his Episcopal Academy career, DeeWil Barlee ran for a 33-yard touchdown. It capped a typical Barlee day and clinched a 28-14 victory for the Churchmen over their rivals from The Haverford School. The score also put a stamp on a record-setting performance.

With 143 yards on 29 carries, Barlee surpassed older brother Dee’s career school rushing mark. Dee, a 2016 EA graduate, accounted for 2,907 yards in four seasons, according to Daily Times statistics. DeeWil closes his tenure with 2,963.

“Basically, all week, he told me don’t hold anything back,” DeeWil said of Dee’s brotherly advice. “It’s my last go-around, so make the most of it.”

The record-breaker came at a time when, as so often has been the case since 2015, the Churchmen depended on Barlee. They were up 21-14 with just over four minutes to play and back at their own 43.

“I think it’s been seven years,” EA coach Todd Fairlie said, noting the Barlee brothers’ combined careers, “we’ve been able to say, ‘Give the ball to Barlee, and we’ll close out the game.’”

On that final drive, Barlee carried the ball six consecutive plays. His first rush, fittingly, drew him even with Dee after a one-yard gain. His next touch broke the mark.

“It’s all fun and love. It means the world to me,” Barlee said. “I get to talk trash on Thanksgiving, Christmas. So I’m going to make the best of that.”

The 33-yard touchdown was Barlee’s longest rush of the afternoon. He broke out to the right and sprinted down the sideline before cutting to the middle. At any point, he could have gone down and allowed the Churchmen to kneel out the clock. It wasn’t in his plans.

“My guys up front, they did a great job all game,” Barlee said. “So I’m not going to pull up short and not reward them with a touchdown. I just had the easy job of running into the end zone. Kudos to them.”

“That kid is the best football player I’ve ever stepped on the field with and probably ever will,” said one of those linemen, Jack Purcell. “He’s been an incredible role model for everyone in this program since the day he stepped into it. He set the bar extremely high for everyone, and we matched him today.”

Although Barlee and EA were celebrating at the end, they endured a slow start. The Fords forced the Churchmen to turn the ball over on downs on the opening drive, then struck quickly. Daiyann Hawkins took a pitch from Ben Gerber on an option and sprinted 64 yards for a touchdown. Haverford added the two-point conversion to go up 8-0.

EA answered through a Maurcus McDaniel quarterback keeper, but the Fords got it back. After a punt, Haverford’s Adam Campbell scooped up a fumble and returned it to the Churchmen’s 10. Logan Keller eventually got into the end zone on fourth-and-goal from the 3 to give the Fords a 14-7 advantage. They wouldn’t score again.

Barlee completed a 15-play, nearly six-minute drive, with a three-yard bull rush just before the half to pull EA within one.

After the break, the Churchmen smothered the hosts. McDaniel and Co. got the ball with 6:13 to play in the third quarter and proceeded to march 75 yards. By the time the clock hit 0:00, McDaniel was celebrating a 23-yard score. He finished with 98 yards rushing.

EA’s defense did its part, too. The Churchmen limited the Fords to 122 yards on the ground. They also picked off Gerber twice in the fourth quarter as Haverford (3-6, 1-4 Inter-AC) struggled to mount a comeback.

“I’m unbelievably proud of this group,” Purcell said. “When we get rolling, we really get going. I’m proud of the way we responded to a slow start.”

“I think they played better defensively,” Fords coach Mike Murphy said. “We missed a few opportunities we had out there. When you miss the opportunities in a tight ball game, and then they get to go in the other direction, that’s what happens to you.”

Barlee provided the finishing touch for EA (6-4, 3-2), which has now beaten the Fords two consecutive years on Haverford-EA Day. Barlee’s performance drew praise from Murphy, who said, “I would tell you I’m a big fan of having great players in our league. When you compete against a competitor like that for four years, you know what you’re going to get.”

But it left Barlee feeling something bittersweet.

“I have mixed emotions,” he said. “I’m happy we won. I’m happy I broke the record. But I’m so hurt that I won’t put on the EA uniform again.”

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