NEWTOWN SQUARE — When Marple Newtown hosted Radnor for Military Appreciation Night Friday, the Tigers players wore camouflage jerseys bearing the word “Pennsylvania” on the back where their names would have been.
Two young men who once proudly wore the orange and black of Marple Newtown before they displayed the colors of the United States Army on their military uniforms had to appreciate what they saw as their alma mater remained undefeated with a 32-6 Central League decision.
Dan Ervin, a recruiter for the National Guard, and Ryan Fillman, who served four years in the Army, watched with interest as coach Chris Gicking’s Tigers improved to 4-0 overall and 3-0 in Central League play.
“We’re proud to have contributed for our state and our country,” Ervin said. “Doing something for our state is a big part of (the National Guard’s) mission.”
Fillman played under Gicking before he joined the Army.
“I was here for his first season,” Fillman said. “So I go back a little with some of the coaches. It’s great seeing the way the community has come together to get behind this team.”
The Tigers weren’t sharp throughout the contest, but their offense ran up 265 yards on the ground and junior David Bertoline (9-13-1) threw for 196 yards. On the other side of the ball, the Marple defense limited Radnor to 23 yards on the ground and 37 in the air in the second half.
“That shows you what can happen when you play a Central League team,” Gicking said. “(Radnor) has some good backs in (Amir) Byrd and (Tommy) Deshan, and their quarterback (Tucker Graham) can throw. We didn’t get the start we wanted, but if you hold a team to six points you should win the football game. It was a good job by our defense, but we know we’ve got some things to fine-tune before we go to Conestoga next week.”
Radnor’s Deshan had a solid return on the opening kickoff, and Graham got off an 18-yard run to the Marple 18 before the Tigers’ defense closed the door on the Raptors. Jimmy Hally threw Graham for a loss on third down to halt Radnor’s momentum.
Bertoline’s first pass went for 13 yards to Alex Gillan. Eight plays later he teamed with Ty Can for 27 yards and a touchdown to end a 79-yard march.
Radnor answered with a 79-yard drive of its own, Graham covering the final six yards on the first play of the second quarter.
Marple Newtown claimed a 13-6 halftime lead following a 93-yard drive that featured 10 plays and used four of the last 5½ minutes of the quarter. After a penalty put the ball at the Radnor 12, Bertoline ran to the 2, and Brian Box (157 yards on 22 carries) had a pair of short runs, the second resulting in a touchdown.
The Tigers had to go 96 yards on their first possession of the second half, with the connection of Bertoline to Can producing an 80-yard scoring play 1:36 in.
A 15-play drive on which Box earned 53 of his rushing yards ended with a six-yard Bertoline to Joey Yukenavitch TD completion seven minutes after MN had taken possession.
“We have some good backs who can run with the ball,” senior center Josh Tiger-Wesley said. “That’s why we like to run. We had a good second half, but we know that as a team we can do better.”
Tiger-Wesley, who moved into the Marple Newtown School District in 2019, has been playing football for only three years.
“My mom was worried about me getting hurt,” the 6-2, 260-pound lineman said. “After a while, she saw that I was just as big as anyone else so she said I could play.”
Marple’s backs, including Box and freshman Brett Wolski (seven carries, 71 yards), are glad Tiger-Wesley is on the line in front of them along with people like Jake McGowan, Gavin Cooney, Ryan Wagner and tight end John Daddario.
A Box interception with 5:21 to play gave the Tigers one more chance to score. Wolski covered 40 yards with three runs – the first a 31-yarder – and got six points with a five-yard dash one minute before the final whistle.
“We got contributions from different backs, our special teams and our defense, particularly in the second half,” Gicking said. “But there are things we will have to fix before we play next week.”