Ridley game means a lot to Interboro’s Mea

GLENOLDEN >> Danny Mea doesn’t remember all the details of the game 16 years ago. Luckily, his family kept the video tape, a regular feature on the television in the Mea home.

Mea was just 2-years old on Thanksgiving 1999, accompanying his father, Dan Sr., to the final installment of that generation of the family’s storied contributions to the Interboro-Ridley rivalry.

Danny’s uncle, Ryan, a two-time All-Delco and member of the class of 2000, was playing the final downs of his high school career. The offensive lineman powered Interboro to a 24-7 triumph that day, his third rivalry victory is as many tries and the 31st consecutive win overall for Steve Lennox’s teams, in an era where settling a neighborhood score on Turkey Day superseded the quest for a state title.

Danny Mea doesn’t recall much about the day, but a decade and a half later, the significance of his baptism into the football grudge match continues to resonate.

“I was a little kid, like 2- or 3-years old,” Danny Mea said at practice last week. “I have that on video and I used to watch it as a little kid. … I think it’s born into us honestly.”

Ridley's Malik Young, seen against Haverford this year, will lead the Green Raiders out against rival Interboro Thursday. (Times Staff/Tom Kelly IV)
Ridley’s Malik Young, seen against Haverford this year, will lead the Green Raiders out against rival Interboro Thursday. (Times Staff/Tom Kelly IV)

For some players, the heredity of the rivalry is an empty trope. For the player who’ll be under center for Interboro Thursday in the 57th edition of the rivalry with Ridley, the profound meaning of the game is really in the genes.

Time to amble up the Mea family tree: Dan Mea and his two brothers, Jack and Ryan, all offensive linemen, suited up for Interboro in the ’80s and ’90s. Jack and Dan went 0-for-6 against the Green Raiders, their careers having the misfortune of coinciding with an ascendant period in which Ridley won 26 of the rivalry’s first 27 matchups, several of them orchestrated by current Ridley coach, then quarterback, Dennis Decker.

Things changed around the time Ryan came around. The teams swapped wins through the mid-’90s before Ryan helped spur the first three of a four-year stretch of Bucs domination.

With Danny’s contributions, going 1-1 as a Bucs linebacker the last two years, the family record stands at 4-7. (Mea readily recites the relevant stats from the 2013 game, a 12-0 Interboro shutout in which Ridley was limited to just 51 yards of offense, as a point of quintessential linebacker pride.)

But there’s a twist in the family tale. When Jack started a family, they moved into the Ridley school district. His eldest child, daughter Jordan, is a senior at Ridley, where she swims for varsity.

The infiltration of green to the otherwise devout black-and-gold household makes the conversation at the Thanksgiving table, shall we say, livelier.

“They still support Interboro, but their main concern is Ridley,” Danny said. “When that ball is kicked at kickoff, it’s like nothing else. All we do is argue, whoever wins.”

The tectonics of the Mea family may have shifted eastward down MacDade Boulevard, but Danny Mea’s earliest experiences of the rivalry remain with him — early mornings at the fields, the exhilarating roar of the crowd, that holiday-morning glow of a football contest, albeit lopsided or between teams culminating disappointing seasons, that lends it extra significance.

This year, neither team has been particularly disappointing, but that appraisal would be softened considerably with the addition of a season-capping win.

Ridley (6-5) hasn’t won since mid-October. A Week 9 loss to Haverford torpedoed its chances of qualifying for the Class AAAA playoffs, and the hangover led to a 41-18 sleepwalk against Conestoga. Things stabilized in the contingency game against Pennridge, the first team on the outside of AAAA districts, in a hard-fought 17-14 loss that illustrated signs of improvement to Decker.

“When we lost to Haverford, it was a great football game, but they just made more plays that we did,” Decker said. “And it really took the wind out of our sails, and we didn’t come to play against Conestoga and the score showed it. Against Pennridge, we battled.”

Malik Young ran for 148 yards against the Rams while Cade Stratton threw for 112 and Ridley forced seven punts in limiting the Rams to 156 yards of offense. Deflation is an apt description of Interboro’s last two outings. An eight-game winning streak was snapped by a 7-6 loss to Academy Park in the regular-season finale, the Bucs (8-3) finishing a PAT from the Del Val title. The emotional recovery plus a daunting road trip sent them out of the District One Class AAA tournament in the quarterfinals at the hands of Great Valley, 17-8.

Those fluctuating emotions will peak again this week, particularly for seniors like Mea.

For the signal-caller, though, this is the end of a journey that was much more than just three varsity seasons or four high school years in the making.

“It’s amazing having a tradition running through here, being one of the last to go through it, having Coach Lennox as a coach, there’s nothing better than it,” Mea said. “… It’s definitely going to be emotional because it’s my last senior game with Lennox. We’ve been through three years together. I could’ve have picked a better group than this to go through it with.”

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