ARDMORE >> Lower Merion was looking good to get on the board first in Saturday’s Central League football game against Conestoga. They were sitting on the 1-yard line, poised to go in. It never happened. Quarterback Brendon Jones dropped back, and threw the ball into traffic and into the arms of Pete Jean, who returned it 99 yards for a touchdown as the Pioneers (1-0, 2-1) went on to stave off the Aces, 19-13.
“I saw the quarterback roll out, I stayed in my zone, saw their best player number 27 (Issac Iglesias), who had a great game, look for a pass, and I just stepped in front of it and took it back,” said Jean. “Our goal is to have turnover each game — we had three of them, which is good, but we still let up 13 points, which is too many.”
The interception wasn’t Lower Merion’s only chance to score in the half, they were in the red zone three times, passing up field goal chances, but those opportunities went wanting when they failed to convert on fourth down each time.
Conestoga held a 7-0 lead at the half, but turned the ball over to start the third quarter.
The Aces were backed up in their own end when Conestoga’s defense made another huge play. William Grandisek picked off Jean and jogged 20 yuards into the end zone for another touchdown return and a 13-0 advantage.
“We told ourselves we needed to eliminate the big turnovers and we just didn’t do it today (Saturday) and it cost us,” said Lower Merion coach Bryan Scopelliti. “We have to get out of the idea that we played and are happy with a close loss, because losing sucks.”
Conestoga played ball control for most of the half, with running back Nick Manning doing most of the damage. He gained 129 yards on 21 carries. He was rarely stopped by the first defender who hit and bled the clock for a large portion of the fourth.
“I have to always thank my linemen and my blockers. I wouldn’t be able to do it without them,” Manning said. “I just run hard and look for space, but we have to do a better job of finishing our drives.
Lower Merion did score twice in the fourth to make it interesting. Jones hits Rashon Cooke for a 10-yard score, then Mike Berg ran it in from the five. Ingelsias had success running against the Pioneers, gaining 115 yards before with leaving due to an injury in the third period.
“Lower Merion made plays,” said Conestoga coach John Vogan. “I said all along that this is the best team they have had in the last four or five year. Those guys have been playing together since they were freshmen, and it shows. Inglesias, Berg, (linebacker Tommy) Tice, they’re all excellent football players.We are walking out of here lucky to get the win.”