Defense has just enough left for Marple Newtown

NEWTOWN SQUARE >> The call went up on the Marple Newtown sidelines for “any fresh bodies,” midway through the fourth quarter.

The answer resounded from enough individuals to keep their slim lead intact.

Up against it the entire second half, the Tigers’ defense did just enough to hold off Penn Wood in a 22-14 decision.

Three times in the second half, Marple (2-0) stonewalled Penn Wood on drives in its territory, including standing up Tayvon Ruley after a bad snap on a fourth-and-goal at the 2 in the third quarter. They did it under severe strain, on a steamy night during which Penn Wood ran 35 second-half offensive snaps to Marple’s 23, which included four punts and two kneel-downs.

“You’ve just got to bang,” senior lineman Matt Trainor said. “We love to play defense here at Marple. We like to hit. We just get out there, it’s our field, we’ve got to stop them. Don’t let them move the ball. Bottom line.”

Trainor provided one of the final, decisive stops, twirling quarterback Javon Lindsey-Terrell for a 17-yard loss on third-and-seven at the Marple 27 with two minutes left and the Tigers nursing the one-score lead. The ensuing fourth-and-long was an incompletion, allowing the Tigers to take over.

The Tigers still had to punt once more with less than a minute to go, but when Reilly Fillman’s punt bounded down to the 11, wasting eight seconds in the process to back the Patriots up, Teron Johnson’s interception was a mere formality.

The biggest stands were authored earlier in a half where Marple was almost exclusively on defense. Ruley brought the Patriots to within eight with eight minutes to go in the third quarter, scampering in from three yards out. The score brought him over 100 yards on the day en route to 24 carries for 162.

The next drive was a 10-play, 76-yard march, but Lindsey-Terrell was surprised by the snap on fourth-and-goal, leading to a busted pitch to Ruley that was sniffed out by Trainor and Gino DiCamillo for the loss.

“All four of our D-linemen were getting a good push,” Trainor said. “We got a good push and we recovered. It takes a whole team to make a play like that.”

Another bad snap on the following possession on fourth-and-1 at the 23 led to another meeting at the quarterback and a 19-yard loss.

The rhythm that Penn Wood (1-1) developed in the second half was similar to what Marple conjured in the first. The used their rotating quarterback system to perfection, particularly when Abel Hoff was on the receiving end.

Hoff caught a 9-yard TD from starter Anthony Paoletti early in the second quarter, then a 9-yarder from Bobby Siderio with 23 ticks left in the half.

“In the first half offensively, we were just outflanking them to the outside to get our guys to the outside and use our speed,” Hoff said. “Our receivers were doing a great job blocking. They kind of tightened it up in the second half.”

The other score, a 3-yard dive by Jack Fallows, was set up by the other weapon in the passing arsenal: Last year’s quarterback Marcus Weathers, who completed a 23-yard sideline route with Chris Rufo on a fourth-and-10 halfback pass.

Paoletti finished with 99 yards, Siderio with 55, both relatively mistake-free. Weathers added five catches for 59 yards, while Hoff had six for 77 while also leading the Tigers in rushing with 33 yards.

Those first-half stumbles increased Penn Wood’s regret at evening’s end. For a team that broke through with its first win in two years last week, Friday could’ve been another major leap forward. Instead, the Patriots settled for a moral victory and an indication of what the next steps that need to be taken are.

“It’s a horrible feeling,” Ruley said. “We didn’t play to our potential in the first half. We gave it to them in the first half. If we could’ve played better in the first half, we would’ve won this game.”

The last laugh belonged to the Marple defense, though. For all the exhaustion, they at least left with the feeling of a job fully done.

“We toughen up,” Trainor said. “We take our lumps, but we get back out there and make plays.”

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