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Marple Newtown opens Box, finds dominating offense in opening victory at Harriton

Charlie Box, in action last season, ran for 117 yards and two touchdowns to lead Marple Newtown to a 43-8 victory over Harriton in the season opener for both teams. (Pete Bannan/MediaNews Group)

LOWER MERION >> As he entered a shortened but promising season Friday, Marple Newtown High football coach Chris Gicking faced the usually lengthy list of mysteries.

Then, there was a short list of near-certainties, the one he would capsulize after a 43-8 opening night victory at Harriton.

“Charlie is Charlie,” he said. “You’re going to get everything you’ve got from him.”

Charlie Box is the Tigers’ do-plenty junior, and Friday he ran for 117 yards and two touchdowns, set up another score with a 47-yard run and provided an interception.



“We’ve been playing together for the past 10 years, and he’s always been the same,” said Tigers quarterback Joey Paoletti. “We played together with the Marple Junior Tigers, went to middle school together, and we’re finally here together now.”

Not that the Tigers didn’t splash any optimism with appropriate caution, both during training camp and after winning the Central League opener by 37, but there is reason to anticipate something of a special season. Marple Newtown has returned 11 starters from an eight-win team last season and is boosted by 16 seniors.

Expecting excellence is one thing. Showing it is another. Early and often Friday, the Tigers were dominating, rolling to a 30-0 halftime lead behind a big offensive line and backs refusing to be toppled. That included Brian Joslin, who would run for 79 yards and two touchdowns, and Box, who capped the Tigers’ first possession with a four-yard touchdown run, then scored on an 11-yard burst 1:14 into the second quarter.

“He’s tough to bring down,” said Paoletti, breaking into a smile. “I think I can bring him down. But I don’t know if anyone else can.”

Paoletti, who would pass for 117 yards, found Eric McKee with a 35-yard touchdown pass with 6:02 left in the first half to help open a 23-0 lead. The senior quarterback also had two TD passes nullified by penalties.

“We have a solid core now,” Paoletti said. “I’ve got all the tools to work with.”

The depth of that offense was on display late in the first half when Box unloaded a 47-yard run and Joslin raced 22 yards to the Harriton one. A penalty complicated the drive, but Joslin finished it with a six-yard burst.

Joslin’s one-yard TD gave the Tigers a 36-0 lead and kept the clock running. With Gicking able to turn to his depth, Paulie Defruscio provided a two-yard scoring run early in the fourth.

Harriton responded with a 52-yard scoring pass from Logan Rothberg to Teddy Molineaux, and Molineaux flipped a two-point conversion to Matt Krebbs. Soon enough, though, the Tigers were 1-0 and equally excited and concerned about a big Central League opportunity next week against visiting Strath Haven.

“We are able to spread the ball around everywhere,” Box said. “We can pass. We can run the ball. Brian Joslin is a great running back. Joey Small, Michael Schumacher outside. We just have a lot of weapons.”

Few, though, are as versatile as Box.

“He’s good at everything he does,” Gicking said. “His work ethic is just second to none. He’s an unbelievable worker. You name it: Before practice, after practice, film study, weight room, classroom, community, all of the above. Just overall, the way he carries himself, he is a great role model for our team and our community.”

Harriton dressed just 28 players, but Rothberg passed for 138 yards, and Molineaux, a handful all night in the return game, had 83 combined yards rushing and receiving.

“Our players played as hard as they could play, and that’s all we ever ask from them,” coach Justin Mellor said. “We were down, 30-0, at halftime, and a lot of teams could have just folded. But we don’t do that. That’s not what we do.

“I am proud of my dudes. They competed. They got to play. And that’s all we ever asked.”

In a different stage of program development, the Tigers are demanding even more of themselves.

“We want to go undefeated,” Box said.

They are one game closer to that task … not that Gicking is quick to let them believe as much.

“The defense played very well, but our special teams and our offense needs to get better,” Gicking said. “We’ve got to clean up a lot of things. Strath Haven is a very good team and we have a lot to work on to be ready.”

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