NEWTOWN SQUARE — A little over eight minutes had come off the clock Friday and Episcopal Academy was on its way to a rout.
Then it wasn’t.
The Churchmen still won, 21-7, over Hill School. They are 4-0 for the first time in three years. They had a 14-0 lead in the first quarter and were looking for more. The running clock was warming up. Then their drive fizzled out, the game slowed down and the teams traded fairly equal possessions until the clock hit zero.
That was it. Episcopal Academy had 23 first downs and 340 total yards. Marcus McDaniel rushed for 116 and passed for 103. It did what it wanted to do. But after those first two scoring drives, a little something went wrong on all but one remaining series. That turned an apparent blowout into a rudimentary 14-point victory.
“We just didn’t finish drives,” Episcopal Academy coach Todd Fairlie said. “I never felt like we weren’t in control of the game by any means, felt like there were a lot of things left out there – points. You can never turn the ball over. Big third downs we didn’t execute in their territory.”
The Churchmen drove down the field with ease to begin the game. McDaniel finished things off with a two-yard plunge. After a three-and-out, he gained 13 yards on three carries. He baited Hill School (0-3) with play-action and hit Malcolm Folk on a pretty 63-yard touchdown pass.
Again, Hill School went three-and-out. Again, Episcopal Academy put a drive together. But a holding penalty sent it backward. Then it was a poor third down play. Then a poor first down play and a missed field goal. It remained 14-0 at the half.
“We have this bye week coming up, so we’re going to be able to fix all these mistakes that we had,” McDaniel explained. “It was just miscues and missed opportunities for us, it was on my part. I should’ve got everything together, that’s on me.”
The senior quarterback started the second half by tearing through some weak arm tackles and busting up the gut for a 29-yard score. On the next series, he fumbled, which set up Hill School’s points, which came on a five-yard scoring plunge by Cooper Sugden and Casey Gulati extra point.
Up two scores again, McDaniel fumbled on fourth-and-long on EA’s next possession, and the Churchmen didn’t get another first down. But then, they didn’t need to.
EA held Hill School to 170 total yards. The Churchmen defenders hauled in two interceptions and forced five punts. They made sure there was no drama. Overall, they know their team can do better.
“We’ve just got to make up for a few little missed opportunities down here in the red zone,” said McDaniel, who also plays defense. “We’ll be better, we’ll get that fixed.”
Episcopal Academy’s football team has a bye week and one more nonleague game before the Inter-Ac League season starts. It is No. 2 in the Daily Times’ Super 7. It is undefeated, has a full student section and has created a buzz around campus.
It’s just not enough.
“If we’re not getting better every week, we’re going to struggle in our league,” Fairlie said. “Every game’s probably winnable, but every game’s losable if you don’t show up and clean some stuff up. If we turn the ball over and don’t finish drives like we did tonight, we probably won’t win that game, against whoever it is, in the Inter-Ac. We have work to do.”
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