by Jonathan Vander Lugt
There’s no question about it: Penn Charter’s season is going to live and die with running back Edward Saydee.
The do-it-all senior ran it 22 times against Upper Dublin last Friday for an astounding 226 yards. No other Quaker runner tallied more than 17 outside of late-game garbage time.
“The story of the day was really that we ran the football well the entire game,” PC head coach Tom Coyle said, after his team’s 42-17 win over Upper Dublin. “We were efficient there, and had good time of possession. The key was getting stops on defense and running the football effectively.”
“[Edward] is a warrior – we needed him to put on his back today and he was the best player on the field,” Coyle went on. “He’s just what we need.”
Penn Charter started the game with a bang – receiver Aaron Maione returned the opening kick for 92 yards and a touchdown – but Upper Dublin marched right back down the field to tie it.
The subsequent PC drive was punctuated with a 13-yard jaunt by quarterback Kyle Jones, but Saydee did the bulk of the work by running 43 yards on Penn Charter’s first six plays.
UD had the Quakers on their heels again after the next drive – a fourth-down, 22-yard touchdown strike from Mike Slivka to Brody Balasa knotted the game again – and the Cards maintained possession after an onside kick.
To that point, the Upper Dublin was largely able to do what it wanted with the PC defense.
“They’re a well-coached team,” Coyle said. “They’ve got a good quarterback – he’s a big, talented kid.”
“We just had a hard time setting our edges on defense,” he went on. “Setting our edges” is football jargon meaning Penn Charter’s defensive ends struggled to keep Upper Dublin’s runners from bouncing runs to the outside of their offensive tackles. Setting a good edge would force a runner to stay between the tackles, where are many more defenders to contend with and much less wiggle room around them.
Once the ball carrier gets to the outside of his tackles, he has fewer defenders and more space to navigate his way to a big gain. Up to the onside kick, the Cardinals had gained 139 yards in about 13 minutes of football, while 10 of their 21 plays went for more than five yards. When you’re getting five yards every other play, first downs aren’t hard to come by.
“I think our defensive line coaches did a good job of adjusting Ryan Maloney and Gavin Zavorski to set better edges,” Coyle said, about that point in the game. “It really gave our linebackers a chance to make plays.”
Upper Dublin went three-and-out after its onside kick, and only tallied 131 yards in the game’s next 35 minutes. Only 12 of 31 plays went for more than five yards.
From there, Saydee stole the show. It took him just four carries to run for 61 more yards and a pair of scores by the half’s end, and he went on to notch another three-yard score in the third before ending his day with a 66-yard dagger to put the game fully out of Cardinal reach in the fourth.
“On that play, I saw the middle linebacker slant to the left – my lineman saw it and picked him up, and I just bursted back up through the middle,” Saydee said. “My offensive line was putting it to them all game.”
It was the second consecutive four-touchdown game for Saydee, who now has 579 yards (on just 58 carries) for the season. He has 11 total touchdowns: eight on the ground, and one each from a punt, kickoff and interception return.
“This is one of the best games I’ve ever had – last week I had four touchdowns as well – but this one was better because everybody had a part in it,” Saydee said.
“He’s a great kid – and he’s going to be an even better player at Temple,” Coyle said. “We ask him to do so much on offense and defense. Penn Charter’s a better place because he’s here.”
Up next for Saydee and the Quakers (3-1) is their last non-conference game against Blair Academy (Blairstown, N.J.) next Saturday. Saydee knows he’ll to carry PC on both sides of the ball as they transition to Inter-Ac play, but it seems as though he’s up to the task.
“You can never put your head down,” he said. “You’ve always got to be the leader. Even through the bad plays, you’ve got to keep your head up the entire game – you’ve got to lead the team no matter what.”
“It’s hard,” he went on, “but every day I try to be better.”
Around the Area:
Northwest Philadelphia’s other Inter-Ac teams split the week: Germantown Academy (4-0) easily handled KIPP DuBois Collegiate Academy in its 49-0 win, while Springside Chestnut Hill (3-1) suffered its first loss of the season to Archbishop Ryan, 45-20.
Against KIPP Dubois, the Pats did much of what they’ve done for the whole season: feed Trae Vance (12 carries for 109 yards and two touchdowns), and keep Jordan Longino in his limited – but still effective – role, as the sophomore quarterback threw for 95 yards and a score on a very efficient 7-for-8 day. Vance, a junior, is proving to be a standout: he has yet to rush for less than 100 yards in a game, and already has seven touchdowns. GA plays at the Lawrenceville School (Lawrenceville, N.J.) next week in its last pre-Inter-Ac contest.
The Blue Devils, on the other hand, struggled. SCH moved the ball with relative ease – QB Aaron Angelos threw for 169 yards, and SCH runners combined for 205 more (led by Rob Gentile’s 87 and Aaron Rascoe’s 105), but suffered five turnovers. The Blue Devils will look to rebound against the Hill School next week, and will forgo a bye before their Inter-Ac slate with a game against Springfield Township the following week.
La Salle College High School did not play ahead of its conference-opener next week against St. Joe’s Prep. As one of southeastern Pennsylvania’s biggest rivalries, if one wishes to attend that contest, they should arrive to Widener University well ahead of the 7:30 p.m. kickoff.