LANSDALE — Ryan Quigley’s junior football season at Lansdale Catholic High got off to a rather inauspicious start.
The Crusaders running back/safety had to battle double pneumonia over the first two weeks of the campaign while his team dropped its first two games of the season.
“I wasn’t playing up to expectations,’ Quigley said, “but I was so sick I could hardly carry the ball without getting (physically) sick.’
Sitting out due to that illness was an option, but not for Quigley.
“I considered it,’ he recalled, “but I didn’t want to sit out. The only way I was going to stop playing was if someone dragged me off the field.’
By Week Three, Lansdale Catholic had its first win of the season. And a big reason for that was the healthy return of Quigley,
The Crusaders bested Hatboro-Horsham in Week Three, and Quigley played no small role, leading the team with 90 yards rushing and 89 yards receiving, and then locking down the win with a pair of fourth-quarter interceptions.
For the rest of the season, Quigley became the barometer for the fortunes of the Crusaders.
If he flourished, then normally do did Lansdale Catholic.
“Ryan’s a really special player,’ said Crusaders head coach Tom Kirk. “You take him out of the mix, and we were not the same team.’
Quigley stayed in the mix for the remainder of the year and helped lift LC, which was supposed to be in rebuilding mode following major losses through graduation, to a 5-5 record and a berth in the Philadelphia Catholic League Class AA playoffs.]
While his numbers on both sides of the ball were worthy of what Quigley ultimately became, the Most Valuable Player of the PCL’s Class AA division, it was on the defensive side of things that the junior playmaker made the most noise, controlling games from his free safety position — calling signals, making all of the necessary checks and leading his team with six interceptions while pushing the Crusaders through both his words and actions.
It was also where Quigley became the 39th winner of The Times Herald Defensive Player of the Year award.
“I couldn’t be more honored,’ Quigley said. “I always try and do my best to lead, no matter what I’m doing. Whether it’s school or playing sports, I try and be a leader.’
Quigley, who saw significant time as a sophomore, went into the season uncertain of his permanent defensive position.
“I was pretty sure I was going to be one of our running backs,’ he said, “and I knew I’d be one of our safeties, but I wasn’t sure whether I’d be a strong or free safety.
“In my sophomore year I had to learn the (safety) position, and it took me about two or three weeks to really learn it. And I like it. But to be honest I would have been happy playing wherever my coaches put me. I just love to play.’
Named the starting free safety, Quigley took his position and its responsibilities very seriously, and when the Crusaders snatched that first win, the junior believed they had turned a corner.
“We had a real good week of practice the week before our Hatboro-Horsham game, plus it was our home opener,’ he said. “And that week, we executed real well.
“I knew I had to step up that week. Our whole team needed that jump start, and I thought we got going in the right direction.’
The Crusaders followed their leader’s lead, and followed up the win over Hatboro-Horsham with a victory over Academy Park, a game in which Quigley contributed 122 rushing yards and a 68-yard touchdown, before dropping their league opener to West Catholic.
But by then the die had been cast, and the Crusaders were going into games believing they’d win.
“We were practicing and working hard all the time,’ Quigley said. “Our workload increased after camp and everyone just bared down and did what they needed to do.’
The setback against West Catholic was quickly followed by three straight wins, a stretch Quigley said was the team’s best of the year. Quigley got it started with 226 yards rushing and four touchdowns, including running back an interception, against Bishop McDevitt.
“We beat McDevitt, and I had a pretty good game,’ Quigley said. “Then we played Conwell-Egan, and we knew they were a very good team, and we had to go down to Truman (High School) on a Sunday afternoon, and it turned into a dogfight (with LC emerging with a 7-6 win).’
A win over Archbishop Carroll put the Crusaders at 5-3, with Neumann-Goretti coming up as the team’s regular-season closer.
That weekend, the Crusaders would suffer what would be the first of two losses on consecutive weeks to the Saints.
But as tough as that loss was to take, Quigley said that week was the highlight of the season because of the Crusaders’ success in making a dream come true for 11-year-old Kevin Smith.
Smith, a Lansdale resident with autism and a rare, life-threatening form of epilepsy, joined the LC team that week through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and wound up seeing his life-long dream of playing football come true when, in full LC gear, he was allowed to sweep end for a touchdown at the end of the game’s first quarter.
“All (Smith) wanted to do was play football, and we had him score a (pre-planned, benign) touchdown in our Homecoming game,’ Quigley said. “He strapped on the pads and helmet and did it.
“I met him a couple of days before the game and I still talk to him now.
“I couldn’t be more proud of him. So far, it’s one of the greatest moments of my life.’
The loss to Neumann-Goretti set up a rematch the following week in the opening round of the playoffs. And once again, the Crusaders came up short.
“We had one of our best practice weeks of the season, and we knew it was do-or-die,’ Quigley said, “but a few things in the game didn’t go our way and wound up costing us.’
LC’s season was over, but by then Quigley had been named the PCL Class AA’s MVP.
“It was jaw-dropping,’ he said. “I was so happy, it was an honor.’
There was just one drawback.
“I didn’t want it to be an individual award,’ he said. “It was everybody on the team doing what they did that allowed me to do what I did. I would rather it have been a team award.’
An athlete for all seasons, Quigley is now toiling for the LC basketball team. And once again, his focus is on the team.
“I’ve said this since I was four years old,’ he said. “My favorite sport is whatever season it is.
“I like team sports. I don’t think I would enjoy wrestling or golf.’
But for now, there’s still an awfully successful football season to look back on.
“I think about the season every day,’ Quigley said, “and I think about the guys I’ve played football with, some since kindergarten.
“And the best thing is, I have one more year.’
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