NEWTOWN SQUARE — In every football season, there are stories about unusual occurrences that the narrator concludes by saying “you just can’t make something like that up.”
At Marple Newtown, the Tigers are accustomed to having head coach Chris Gicking ‘making up’ plays a day or two before a game and then asking his players to execute whatever is required of them under the Friday night lights.
With Haverford High in town for a Central League contest Friday, Gicking’s creativity and the Tigers ability to do what they were told led to a touchdown early in the first half and another late in the third quarter that helped Marple Newtown claim a 49-16 decision over the Fords in a game that saw several shifts in momentum before the final swing toward the home team.
Marple (3-2 overall, 2-2 Central League) scored on its first play from scrimmage, led at halftime, 21-0, then saw the Fords (2-3, 1-3) cut their deficit to 21-16 before things turned the Tigers way.
“I am so proud of these players and coaches,” Gicking said. “Everything starts with practice, and we just had our best week of practice. They came out tonight with attitude and they were focused and played with energy and enthusiasm, which led to better execution.”
The play Marple executed in the second minute of the game involved a backward pass from quarterback David Bertoline to receiver Eric McKee, who then found Cooper Conroy behind the defense and put the ball in his hands. When Conroy stopped running, he had completed a 64-yard scoring play.
“Haverford is a good football team with a lot of weapons,” Gicking said. “We wanted to get something going right from the start.”
The idea for the play started in the gym after the Tigers were forced to practice indoors because of the heavy rainstorm Thursday afternoon.
“I was ready for it,” Conroy said. “It worked in practice, and I’m glad it worked again today.”
Haverford’s next possession ended with a fumble, one of five turnovers by the Fords. Four minutes later, Charlie Box, who had to fight through the stubborn Haverford defense to get 60 yards on 23 carries, had the first of his three short scoring runs.
Early in the second quarter, Damien Bogsch grabbed another Fords loose ball and took off on a 55-yard jaunt for the third MN touchdown.
Marple’s first possession of the second half ended up with a misplay on a fourth-down snap from punt formation, resulting in a safety. A little more than two minutes later, it was Collin Cassidy, the game’s leading rusher with 64 yards on 20 carries, running six yards for the first Fords TD. With 1:05 left in the third quarter Tommy Wright’s 35-yard toss to Tommy Caruso gave the visitors six more points.
Before the quarter came to a close, Marple’s Bertoline connected with tight end Matthew Cantwell for 48 yards and Box took it in on the next snap.
“It was a fade,” Cantwell said. “We haven’t run it in a game until tonight. (Bertoline) threw it and I had to get the ball away from three defenders.
“Once I did, I just had to run. That was only my third catch of the season.”
The fourth quarter belonged to the home team, with Bertoline and McKee combining on a scoring pass, Charlie Box running for six points after the Fords lost another fumble, and freshman Brian Box running 33 yards for a touchdown following a Ty Can interception to close out the scoring.
“I know we as coaches have to do a better job of getting our players prepared,” first-year Haverford head coach Luke Dougherty said. “We have a small senior group, but they battle hard. Our inexperience hurts at times, but they keep working hard toward our goal of getting better each day.”