PHILADELPHIA — There was only so much that Jolaan Alston could say Saturday afternoon.
For 48 minutes, there was no doubt as to the supremacy of Marple Newtown over his KIPP DuBois Collegiate Academy team, a 33-0 loss to the Tigers at Marcus Foster Memorial Stadium. But for Alston, the Lions’ receiver/strong safety/end rusher, there was more at stake.
“I just have to motivate them. That’s the only thing, motivation, because, look at them,” the senior said, motioning toward the Tigers. “What can I say? We have to play like we’re the big dogs, play hard and be coachable.”
By any measure in this nonleague opener, Marple served as the big dogs against a KIPP side that dressed 22 players and, when cramping piled up in the second half, had somewhere in the high teens available to play. That’s compared to a Marple Newtown side with 14 coaches and at least two-deep depth at each position.
So by the time Charlie Box ran for a pair of first-quarter touchdowns, Brian Joslin ran for his first of two scores and Marple Newtown led 20-0 at the half, the only question was whether the running clock would be triggered. It was also a question if KIPP would get a first down, the first of which didn’t occur until 2:44 left to play.
It was a mismatch that at times seemed to not provide much for either team. This was the second installment of a two-year pact. Marple opened its 2017 season in Florida, an increasingly attractive option, then entered in a reciprocal agreement with KIPP DuBois. This year’s affair was closer than the 43-0 decision, though it takes a bit to tease out each team’s individual benefits.
“This year, 20-0 at half, that’s a game to me, with the disadvantages, with numbers and size,” KIPP coach Marques Brown said. “We’re starting to grow as a program. I like this game because when we go against the other schools that are on our level, we’re more so prepared because we shot for the high bar first.”
“Every week, no matter who you play, it’s about what you’re doing as a team and as units – offensive unit, defensive, special teams – and overall getting better,” Marple Newtown coach Chris Gicking said. “Our job was to come in here, obviously No. 1 is to win. We got everyone in, everyone’s healthy, but we have a ton of things we need to work on.”
Alston was the most impressive player on the field. He had three tackles for loss, a pass breakup and an interception at the one that he returned 49 yards in the third quarter. The Lions’ first first down was a connection between Raheem Seamon and Alston, followed by Alston going up to get a 33-yard prayer over triple coverage.
“For me, I just play like your life is on the line,” Alston said. “You’ve got to put something out there. You’ve got to play for the men to the left and right of you and for your coaches, too. I continue to play, motivate these guys and be great.”
Brian Joslin covers 92 yards in 5 carries (this one for 23 to the 4). Capped by a one-yard TD. 20-0 MN. pic.twitter.com/S82c7B7Sip
— Matthew De George (@sportsdoctormd) August 24, 2019
KIPP got to the 1-yard line on the final play when Seamon was run out of bounds for three yards on fourth-and-goal from the 4. The Lions totaled 88 yards of offense, 80 of them on the final series.
Before that, the Marple Newtown defense conceded precious little, allowing just three rushing yards on 31 carries.
“All week at practice, we were anxious to hit someone,” linebacker Cain Tarquini said. “That played a role. Everyone on the defense likes to hit.”
Marple’s offense was superior if not dominant. Box, who intercepted a Seamon pass, scored on runs of two and 10 yards in the opening frame. Joslin punched in a one-yard dive to cap a drive where he covered all 92 yards on five carries. He finished with 11 carries for 116 yards and two scores.
Joe Paoletti largely struggled under center (9-for-19, 91 yards) but found Tyler Lynch on a busted coverage for a 40-yard touchdown on fourth down in the third quarter. He was often on the run, with KIPP lineman Jaion Williams accounting for 2.5 tackles for loss and Sean Butler-Thomas breaking up a pair of passes to go with a tackle for loss.
The main motivation for Marple, in a game decided early, was to keep on the gas, even if the matchup didn’t dictate it.
“Just have fun with it,” Tarquini said. “That’s what I said in the locker room. Let’s play to have fun, and that kept us going.”