RADNOR >> Dylan VanDusen was enjoying his 14th year of playing youth soccer, a center back charged with kicking the ball long, far and into scoring range. That’s when he felt pain in one knee, then in the other and then, in his gut.
His soccer career, he’d fear, was over.
“It was a genetic thing,” VanDusen said. “It was osteochondritis dissecans. There just wasn’t any cartilage in my knees. So if I didn’t catch it then, my knees probably would have given out by my sophomore year of playing soccer.”
When he was in eighth grade, it was caught, treated with preventive surgery and, long and painful story abridged, became as much a reason as any why football hopes are so high, years later, at Radnor. Though VanDusen regained such robust health that he has become a highly recruited college prospect, the recovery time put him too far behind other soccer players of his age to remain a scholarship-level player.
So for kicks … he did just that.
“Everyone used to joke around with me and stuff about kicking for football,” VanDusen said. “So I went out one day and did it. It was just a leap of faith for me, because I had no idea how my parents would react to me playing football, even though I was a kicker. But I fell in love with it.”
Radnor 2018 Schedule
There are plenty of reasons why the Raiders’ stated goal is to reach the postseason for a third consecutive season and, this time, enjoy a home game. A 26-man senior class has been built for such a crescendo, and the resulting enthusiasm made the weight room a serious and productive summertime laboratory. Veteran quarterback Sean Mullarkey is seasoned in coach Tom Ryan’s run-pass option attack. Eight defensive starters return from a 6-6 team that went 4-5 in the rugged Central League. So do seven offensive starters.
But in VanDusen, the Raiders have a particularly effective if understated weapon. As a junior, he had a 35.5-yard average net punt and provided 42 points as a placekicker, mixing in two touchbacks.
“It will increase this year,” the three-year starter said. “Definitely.”
So, apparently, believe the scouts, as VanDusen has reported interest from Lehigh, Gettysburg, Ithaca and RPI amid a growing list.
“I’m lucky,” Ryan said. “That’s one area I don’t have to worry about. It’s the little things people take for granted.”
With long-snapper Logan O’Sullivan and holder Phil Gatti, VanDusen should make Radnor a scoring threat from the red zone and beyond. And his kickoffs, long and consistent, are likely to give the Raiders’ defense its own head start
“You have no idea how much that means,” Ryan said. “We are pretty confident Dylan is going to be able to get the ball consistently in the end zone on kickoffs, which changes the dynamics of the game, starting at the 20. If Dylan can consistently get it in the end zone, it helps us out defensively, for sure.”
And in an ever-competitive and balanced league, any edge can make the difference.
“This is a really special senior class that we have,” VanDusen said. “They can all play.”
At 6-4, 285, VanDusen would not have been out of place physically at another position. Ryan did once view him as a receiver.
“But he is so valuable as a kicker and a punter,” Ryan said, “that we’re just going to let him do that.”
For a player who once didn’t know if genetics would allow him to kick at all, that’s fine.
“I fell in love with kicking,” VanDusen said. “And I love being a part of this team.”
Among the college suitors for the Raiders’ Jahmair Rider was one that required military precision. The 5-11, 160-pound wide receiver and cornerback was invited to a camp at West Point.
“They think I could be a good fit there,” said Rider, who also enjoyed a recruiting trip to Davidson. “But they would like me to play corner, and I am really not that big on corner. I would rather play wide receiver in college.”
The Raiders have 65 players on their combined varsity-JV roster. With incoming freshmen, Ryan says one in six boys at Radnor is involved in the football program. Among the reasons is that a youth program begun six years ago, the Young Raiders, has become a reliable pipeline.
FRONT AND CENTER
The offensive line required some adjustment from last season. But 6-0, 235-pound Henry Collins, a holdover starter, provides stability at center.
“The key to the offense is to stay on track and not make mistakes,” Collins said. “For the offensive line, it’s finding the blocks. And teaching the guys who are going to be first-year starters is going to be key.”
Anthony Laudicina, a 6-6, 280-pound tackle, is the only other returning starter on the offensive line.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER TO WATCH
SEAN MULLARKEY >> The 6-0, 180-pound senior quarterback became a starter due to injury in his sophomore season, and has had plenty of time to gain a full grasp of Radnor’s run-pass option.
“We’ve been building up for this,” Mullarkey said. “At the end of last season, we said, ‘Next year is the year.’ And we have just been working in the winter. There is a special vibe around this team..
DEFENSIVE PLAYER TO WATCH
TEDDY GIRTON >> A linebacker last season, the 5-10, 170-pound senior will return to safety, where he played some as a sophomore. Also a valued wide receiver, Girton’s mobility in the secondary could make a difference.
“I feel comfortable there,” he said. “I am definitely looking forward to it.”
-By Jack McCaffery, firstname.lastname@example.org
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