by Jonathan Vander Lugt
There were three different football teams on the field last Saturday afternoon at the South Philly Supersite.
No, it wasn’t some kind of experimental future-football against more than one opponent. Nor was it that Penn Charter was playing Lawrenceville School with another team waiting for the field’s use.
With those options out of the way, let’s count: there was the Lawrenceville School Big Red. That’s one.
Then, there was the Penn Charter team that went down 28-6 in the second quarter and 35-14 into the half. That’s two.
The third happened to be the same Penn Charter players, but this version scored 22 unanswered points in the second half to go up on a reeling Lawrenceville squad, before the first PC team showed up again and gave up a game-winning touchdown drive.
When it was all said and done, the Quakers lost, 41-36, and it was quite a roller coaster.
“We’re an inconsistent football team,” PC coach Tom Coyle said. “What you saw was an inconsistent effort.”
He went back and forth highlighting the team’s ups and downs. First, the bad: They went down by such a large margin in the second quarter and couldn’t make a stop on defense late in each half to stay in the position they wanted, or to seal the win.
What really did them in in the second quarter (where the Big Red threw up 28 points) was special teams. Lawrenceville School’s three possessions of the frame started, on average, from their own 44. Most damaging though was a blocked Penn Charter punt that got returned five yards for a touchdown – to top off a drive in which the center sent a shotgun snap sailing over quarterback Michael Hnatkowski’s head for a 20-yard loss.
“It was a windy day, and the team that was playing into the wind was at a big disadvantage,” Coyle said. “We got ourselves into an unmanageable situation (with the snap). We might not have punted ourselves out of bad field position, but we would have given our defense a chance.”
Then, the good: They scored 22 unanswered points in the second half to come all the way back and turn the game from a beat-down into a nail-biter. John Washington’s 65-yard interception return in the second quarter that set up an easy score was another positive. Freshman Marqui Johnson had an excellent game as well, finishing with a pair of scores and 118 yards on 15 carries.
“Our kids were great at halftime,” Coyle said. “They talked about some things they felt like they could do. I give them a lot of credit – it looked like all the momentum was in Lawrenceville’s favor.
“Overall, I’m impressed with their effort,” Coyle said. “Particularly in the second half.”
Especially considering the fact that it’s easy to mail it in once you’re down by three touchdowns.
“It’s always great when they have the ‘never-say-die’ attitude,” Coyle went on. “I just wish we would have been a little more consistent.”
Hnatkowski finished with a pretty decent day, throwing for 186 yards and a pair of scores on 11-of-22 passing. Both scores and most of the yards went to Evan Ferrell, who finished with five receptions and 114 yards through the air. Do-it-all back Jake McCain ended up with 61 yards and a score on 16 touches.
The Quakers, now done with their non-conference slate, will head to Haverford School to open Inter-Ac play. The Fords will be a stiff test, so PC needs to figure out which team it wants to be, otherwise it won’t have a shot in what promises to be a difficult run of conference games.
“We’ve got a lot of young, talented kids,” Coyle said. “But we hope that we get a little guidance from our older guys, so the freshman and sophomores can feed off of that energy. Right now, we’re 2-3. We’ve shown that we can be a really good football team.”
“I know it’s coach-speak,” he continued, “but we’re going to get in, practice, run, block, tackle and find what gives us the best chance to win one play at a time. If we can hang in with Haverford, like we did with [Lawrenceville School], we’ll give ourselves a chance.”