Malvern Prep not battle tested, but eager to stay atop standings
No matter what happened, Malvern Prep football coach Dave Gueriera knew his team had the mettle and moxie to deal with any situation last season.
It was a veteran group with 15 players who will play collegiately this season, nine at the Division I level so the Friars not only were talented, but battle tested, too.
Malvern Prep rebounded from a 1-4 start in 2017 to finish 6-4 and win their 33rd Inter-Academic League title. That also laid the groundwork for 2018, when the Friars became just the second team in I-A history to go 11-0.
Only four starters are back from that team that brings a 16-game winning streak into the season, but that’s not what concerns Gueriera as he enters his third season as the head coach. The 1995 Cardinal O’Hara grad feels he has enough talent coming back to keep the Friars at the top of the league standings. They’re just not battle tested.
“This group is eager as heck to learn,” Gueriera said. “They’re very passionate and coachable so I think that’s going to be our biggest question. If we go down 7-0 or 10-0, how are we going to react? I think I know how it’s going to go, but to me that’s the biggest question.”
Gueriera will find out early because he has put together another tough nonleague schedule to get the Friars ready for Inter-Ac League play. Malvern opens with McDonogh, the No. 11 team in Maryland, according to MaxPreps.com. Up next is Catholic League runner-up La Salle (5-6), then PIAA Class 4A runner-up Imhotep Charter (11-3), Class 4A quarterfinalist Berks Catholic (11-3) and Archbishop Spalding (6-3-1) out of Severn, Md.
“We do have talent,” Gueriera said. “It’s going to be interesting to see how it fills in. We’ll find out soon enough.”
Gueriera also has a roster big enough to go two-platoon, except for certain situations. Leading that cast of returnees is Lonnie White, a second-team All-Inter-Ac receiver who moves from wide receiver to quarterback. He’s a Clemson baseball commit. Also back are linemen Brendan Flynn and Will Redden (UMass offer) and all-state defensive back Caimin Hayes.
Another returnee is wide receiver/outside linebacker Isaac White. He moved to Colorado with his family for his junior year after playing for the Friars as a freshman and sophomore, but is back at Malvern for his senior year.
“It’s an interesting year, but I do believe there are going to be some guys who break out that no one knows about,” Gueriera said. “We have to understand the difference between being the hunter and the hunted. Being the hunted is good, but that just requires you to work that much harder. The words we use in our vocabulary is we’re never satisfied. We’re never content. Once you’re satisfied and once you’re content, you’re primed to get beat.”
Penn Charter (8-2, 4-1) finished second to Malvern in each of the last two seasons and should be in the championship hunt once again.
Kyle Jones is back for his senior year. He was second-team all-league at quarterback and first-team as a defensive back. He threw for nearly 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns last season, according to tedsilary.com.
Offensive linemen Ty Needham and Ryan Wreath, and defensive back Matthew Marshall earned second-team all-league honors. The Quakers and Friars meet Oct. 19 at Penn Charter.
Don’t count Episcopal Academy (7-3, 3-2) out of the title hunt. The Churchmen have a veteran quarterback in Marcus McDaniel and enough returnees to challenge for their first championship since 2012. The biggest issue will be replacing all-time leading rusher DeeWil Barlee, who’s now at Villanova.
EA will be solid on defense, especially at linebacker and in the secondary with the likes of senior Matt Bush and junior Malcolm Folk, who is receiving quite a bit of Division I interest.
Germantown Academy (6-4, 1-4) will go as running back Trae Vance goes. The 5-10, 195-pound Howard commit finished fourth in the league in rushing as a junior and is the top returning runner in the Inter-Ac League. Vance rushed for 1,110 yards and nine touchdowns to earn second-team all-league honors.
Springside Chestnut Hill (6-5, 1-4) has two of its top offensive weapons back in receiver Ke’Shawn Williams and running back Aaron Rascoe. Williams earned first-team all-league honors after catching 67 passes for 1,006 yards and 11 TDs. He also ran for 204 yards and five scores. Rascoe led the Devils in rushing (758, eight TDs) and was named second-team all-league.
The Haverford School (3-6, 1-4) looks to get back to its winning ways after back-to-back losing seasons. Head coach Mike Murphy is counting on a solid group of veterans to make that a reality. Senior Dante Perri takes over at quarterback after sharing the job last season. Senior Daiyaan Hawkins and junior Kevin Thomas have speed to burn and senior Kwaku Adubofour is a solid two-way performer up front.
By Terry Toohey, firstname.lastname@example.org