by Jonathan Vander Lugt

There’s no beating around the bush: Germantown Academy struggled in its 14-0 loss to West Catholic last week. In its final non-conference game of 2017, the defense performed to expectation, but the offense just couldn’t get moving.

“It was a lot of things. We couldn’t pin it on one,” GA head coach Matt Dence said. “We would start rolling, but then we’d fumble a snap or try to make a short, easy pass for quick yards and wouldn’t complete it.”

Whatever the problem was, the Patriot offense mustered just 65 total yards on offense. Meanwhile, the Burrs tallied 352, despite scoring just twice.

“We called some plays that were bad looks. Sometimes we’d miss a block, and force Colton (Niedzielski) to scramble early,” Dence said. “We played awesome on defense, but they didn’t punt once during the entire game. They converted four fourth downs. When that happens, your defense is on the field an awful lot. They’re a well-coached crew. They fly around, and they’ve got a lot of athletes. They were good, and I thought we matched them on defense and special teams.”

Niedzielski struggled, but seemed to correct the ball-control woes that afflicted him the week prior against the Pennington School, where he threw three interceptions. The senior finished the night with 43 yards on just six-of-24 passing.

“Colton took care of the football. He did fumble the snap a couple of times, but there were times when he was under tremendous pressure and he performed well,” Dence said. “We just couldn’t get the running game going. I thought we’d be able to run the ball a little better. We have to have a ‘do your job’ mentality. We had five drops on offense, and there were a couple of linemen who played their worst game of the season. We just couldn’t get into a rhythm.”

Dence said that the cure may be switching up the play calling, going with more unconventional down-and-distance calls to provide a change of pace. Whatever they decide to do, they’ll have to figure it out quickly, as Haverford School looms this weekend in the Pats’ first conference match.

At 3-2 in the non-league schedule, Dence obviously laments the losses, but still appreciates the challenge that the Pats’ schedule provided.

“We’ll figure out what our strength will be moving forward,” Dence said. “Two years ago when we went 5-0 (GA finished 7-3 that year, 2-3 in the Inter-Ac), I think we played one team that was challenging. The other four weren’t. You don’t go 10-0 playing teams that you’re going to beat 45-6.”

That said, the Pats still seem to be a better team than what they were at the jump.

“No doubt about it. I thought we saw a better team when we saw Judge, before we won another two in a row,” Dence continued. “(Against West), a couple of kids played their worst game, and I probably coached my worst game of the year. Thankfully, that wasn’t against Haverford.”

Elsewhere in the area, La Salle rested, Penn Charter cruised over Southern and Springside Chestnut Hill lost a heartbreaker in overtime to Northeast High School.

For Penn Charter, lead rusher Eddie Saydee bounced back from a heavy workload and a late ankle injury against the Lawrenceville School last week to rush for 60 yards and a pair of scores on seven carries in PC’s 35-6 win. Quarterback Will Samuel was efficient, tossing for 94 yards on 6-of-7 passing for a touchdown. Gavin Tygh, Jalen Jones and Matthew Marshall chipped in with 32, 45 and 46 rushing yards, respectively.

Next week, the Quakers will begin their conference schedule against Malvern Prep.

For the Blue Devils, who take on the Episcopal Academy in their league opener next week, Aaron Angelos led the way statistically with 53 rushing yards and a touchdown on nine carries to go along with 188 and a score through the air. Pat Elliott led the receiving corps with 115 yards on eight receptions, while Miles Hugee caught Angelos’ touchdown pass, a 33-yard strike.