[tps_title]Radnor Raiders [/tps_title]
DiLella’s turn should be Raiders’ gain
RADNOR >> If the last football season proved one thing, it was that Tom Ryan’s strategy had worked. The next one will reveal how long the plan can endure.
The long-term idea, the one with the trust-the-process approach, was to build a robust feeder system that one day would elevate the Radnor football program toward the top of the Central League. By last season, with two dozen seniors having risen through that farm system, the Raiders would finish second in the Central, earning a 9-3 overall record and a postseason berth.
“So it’s probably going into Year 7 now,” Ryan, the Raiders’ coach, was saying after a training-camp practice. “It started with the Radnor Raiders, then they switched to the Wayne Wildcats. The majority of my team started with youth ball and then went on and played at Radnor Middle.
“Now we are just trying to keep this thing rolling and get Radnor back to where it belongs in the winning column and hopefully get back into the playoffs for the fourth year in a row.”
The question: Are the Raiders ready to re-load? Or after surviving a 24-ply Senior Night, do they have to break it down and start again?
“We always have a lot of new guys coming in,” said senior wide receiver and cornerback Brendan Surbeck. “We are always coached up. That’s definitely a big help. All these guys have been playing together since middle school. They played JV together, freshman together, and it’s our time to put it all together on varsity.”
For that, begin at the usual spot: Quarterback. Gone is two-plus-year starter Sean Mullarkey, a Dickinson-bound honorable-mention All-Delco. He will be replaced by senior Sam DiLella, who did a little filling-in last season, earning high praise.
“He has really waited his turn, but I think he is going to be a good one,” Ryan said. “He’s got a little bit of experience. He did a great job with the JV program last year. I know he is excited to hit the ground running and start playing for real.”
DiLella will have some help, particularly with versatile Taylor Margolis, a second-team All-Delco linebacker and dangerous running back.
“Taylor was a really, really good linebacker for us as a junior,” Ryan said. “He has a bunch of I-AA interest right now. Taylor will not only play great defense but will get his 8-10 carries or so on offense.”
Cam Williams, a 6-3, 205-pound tight end, will double at free safety and has committed to Penn. Surbeck and junior Jahmir Dixon will be difficult matchups in the passing lanes.
The offensive line will include guard Nick Hart, tackles Peter Dustin and Lincoln Twedt and be built around 6-3, 240-pound force Pat Boujoukos, a senior guard and developing defensive-line player.
“Last year felt great, beating teams that we haven’t beaten since 1970 and really giving it to them, competing every game,” Margolis said. “That gives inspiration to the whole team. I think everyone believes in this team. We had the great season last year and everyone is excited to keep going.
“We lost a lot of players, but I think we still have a solid squad this year.”
Ryan’s 13th team should be strong defensively with Margolis and promising sophomore Damian Falcone teaming with Austin Stanley and Scott Belveal at linebacker. Surbeck and Kodi Nixon will man the corners, with Williams looming large at safety. And the Raiders expect help from junior wide receiver, linebacker and defensive back Mark McKeon.
“We knew we had a lot of shoes to fill graduating that many,” Ryan said. “But we had a great summer. And we had a really good winter and spring lifting. And most of my kids were here most of the summer.”
The question is how long they will play into the chillier months.
“We’re looking like we are going to be a great team,” DiLella said. “We lost a lot of experience from last year but we have a lot of new guys coming in to take over those spots.”
Offensive Player to Watch
Sam DiLella, Quarterback >> Though new to a full-time starting role after being trapped behind successful Sean Mullarkey, DiLella excelled when he had his chance in a 9-3 season last year, throwing two touchdown passes against Harriton and preparing for his chance to start as a senior.
“I had my role as a holder last year, but this year is a different season,” he said. “The last couple of years I have been waiting for this season to start.”
Defensive Player to Watch
Pat Boujoukos, Defensive Tackle >> Realizing his 6-3, 250-pound frame was better suited for football, he abandoned soccer, dazzled on both lines and quickly was elected by his teammates as a captain.
“To be voted on that by his peers after only playing one season,” coach Tom Ryan said, “was a pretty good story.”
By Christopher A. Vito; For Pa Prep Live