NETHER PROVIDENCE >> Radnor might have been kicking itself after a somewhat stumbling start on offense Friday night against an ailing Strath Haven team.
In a tied game in the second quarter, the home-spun but injured Panthers possessing the momentum, it was time for the Raiders to go to a weapon skilled in the art of leaving defenders stumbling in his wake.
Jack Wilson caught a screen pass in the flat, turned and started to spin. Using almost the entire width of the field, he serpentined through Strath Haven’s secondary to oohs and aahs from the crowd … and some of those admiring sounds seemed to come from the opposing stands.
By the time he ran out of room, Wilson had gone 59 yards on that play, setting up a first-and-goal from the 3. Two smashes into the line later by Jack Horvath, and Radnor had a lead it wouldn’t relinquish en route to a 40-12 victory.
It was a memorable play by Wilson, and it wouldn’t be his only one of the night. Along the way, he would also dodge any and all credit.
“It was a great playcall by Larry (DiSipio), our OC,” said Wilson, referring to the Raiders’ offensive coordinator. “Our QB Pat (McDermott) ran it perfectly. I can’t take all the credit — and our O-line, they did a great job blocking on it. Just a complete team effort on that play.
“I just caught it and just started running to open space. Just kept running until they stopped me.”
Wilson might already be passing his Unselfish Interview Techniques elective class, but his ability to change a game on plays like these have long been part of football study halls by other Central League teams.
“We wanted to try to contain (Wilson) the best we could,” said Strath Haven senior Shane Mulhern, who ran up scores of tackles. “We knew they would try to use him in the passing game and try to get him the ball in space. So we would try to make it tough on him and we did. But he’s just a good football player. I give him all the credit in the world.”
Wilson would be mostly used as a set-up man on this night where a Radnor team that had its share of lopsided losses to Strath Haven in past years would really come together. Wilson caught five balls for exactly 100 yards. He also rushed four times for 54 yards, including a one-year touchdown jaunt to put the icing on his night.
Of course, it’s not only about him.
“Good team effort. Most of our guys are back healthy and that helps,” Radnor coach Tom Ryan said. “That’s the key, I think. We’re a really good football team when we’re healthy.”
With superb work by an offensive line that includes 6-6 senior Colin Bradley — who according to Ryan has committed to a full-ride offer by Lafayette — the Raiders (5-4, 3-4 Central League) chewed up 201 yards via the ground game. Horvath scored three touchdowns, including a seven-yard end-around to put the Raiders on the board with 1:15 left in the first quarter.
The Panthers (1-8, 1-6) fought back, however, and drew even at 6-all on a three-yard Elijah Crew touchdown blast eight minutes before the half. Strath Haven may have built on that had Wilson not drifted to his right, caught a little pass, then exploded in various directions up the field.
TD plunges by Horvath and Naa’ir Williams would quickly serve up a 20-6 Radnor lead. Haven struck back with a 22-yard touchdown connection from Jayvon Springfield to tight end Kyree Fuller, cutting the lead to 20-12 with just 38 seconds left ‘til intermission.
That’s enough for Wilson. After a 16-yard Horvath dash to the Haven 44, Wilson ran for 13 yards, caught a 22-yard pass, and then, with one second left on the clock, caught a nine-yard strike from McDermott for a killing score.
The Panthers still showed life at the start of the third, but on a fourth-and-5 at the Haven 41, Wilson did it again. He took a handoff and swept left, jigged, hula-ed, then cut right and dashed for a 30-yard gain. Four plays later he danced in from the 1, and the Panthers were left to look for another silver-and-black lining.
“We worked hard as a team, and we have a lot of injuries,” Mulhern said. “That’s what I’m going to take away from today, just how as a team we have a lot of starters out and how we’re able to rally.”