by Jonathan Vander Lugt
Most of us attend sporting events to escape the normal rigors of life. They help us express regional pride, support our family and friends, engage in our community or any combination of the three.
Sometimes, though, what happens on the field pulls the real world back into focus. That was the case on Saturday at Penn Charter, when PC sophomore Chandler Turner’s gruesome second-quarter leg injury rendered everything that happened before and after trivial.
Turner went down on a five-yard run and appeared to break his right leg. With about two-and-a-half minutes left in the half, play stopped for over a half-hour until paramedics arrived and carted Turner away.
In the midst of a somber wait, everyone – including the visiting Blue Devils – mourned the unfair end of Chandler’s promising season.
When play resumed, the least his Quaker teammates could do, they figured, was pull out the win.
And so they did, 35-21 over Springside Chestnut Hill, ending their three-game losing slide to start league play.
“Our guys obviously understood the severity of the situation,” said PC head coach Tom Coyle. “They’re a mature group, and it starts with Kyle Jones and our group of seniors.”
“We just rallied behind everyone,” said Jones, the Quakers senior quarterback. “We wanted to win it for Chandler.”
“Our guys had a sense of toughness,” Coyle said. “And in the second half, they came out and imposed their will.”
Coming out of halftime tied 14-14, the Quakers needed just three plays to score on a 36-yard catch-and-run from Jones to Aaron Maione. After a stalled Blue Devil drive, Jones found Maione again – this time for a 41-yard bomb – to go up by a pair of scores.
It’s fair to say that Maione did most of the work on both touchdowns, darting 25 yards after the catch on the first and reeling in a tough jump ball despite a pass interference penalty on the second.
“He’s our best receiver,” Jones said. “If you give him the ball in open space, he’ll make a play. On the first, we saw a good matchup. Then we just took our shot on the second one. It worked out for us.”
The big plays continued on the ensuing drive, when Matthew Marshall made a terrific interception on SCH’s first and only passing attempt of the series.
“That was a huge play,” Coyle said. “They had run some jailbreak screens earlier in the game and faked one on that play. When they ran a kid up the seam, Matt read it and made an outstanding play on the ball. He did a great job.”
Positioned in Blue Devil territory, Penn Charter scored six plays later on a one-yard Jones plunge. In fewer than eight minutes, the Quakers had scored three times and put the game out of reach.
Now rendered one-dimensional and pass-heavy by the game’s margin, the SCH offense struggled for the rest of the game. The best they could muster was a 21-yard catch by Ke’Shawn Williams with 2:35 left to bring the game to its final score.
“We just had a major lull for about 75% of the third quarter,” said SCH head coach Rick Knox. “When you’re down 21, you’ve got to throw every play. That’s predictable.”
Williams had another outstanding day despite the loss, accounting for all three of SCH’s scores – one running and two receiving – while tallying 144 yards on 15 total touches.
The Blue Devils (6-3, 1-3) will face Malvern Prep next week to close their season. After losing their last three games – including two by single-digits – Knox has seen what was once a promising season slip away.
“We were that close to being 7-0,” Knox said. “You’ve got to be able to overcome these hurdles, and we haven’t the last couple weeks … We have to come out with more mental toughness or otherwise we’re going to lose again.”
The Quakers (6-3, 1-3) have the same record as SCH, but left this matchup in an opposite mental place. After a pair of close losses in weeks one and two of Inter-Ac play, PC was blown out last week by the Haverford School. With their season careening off the rails, the Quakers needed to deliver a win.
“It feels great. In the first two weeks, we were right there,” Jones said. “Last week was what it was and bouncing back feels great.”
With a victory in hand, PC can go into next week’s game against Germantown Academy rejuvenated. That game will be the 133rd iteration of the country’s longest continuous scholastic football rivalry.
“We’re really excited to play next week,” Coyle said. “It’s a really great tradition.”
SCH: 7 7 0 7: 21
PC: 7 7 21 0: 35
SCH: A.J. Graham 15 pass to Ke’Shawn Williams; Brian Henesey PAT good (7-0; 7:26)
PC: Chandler Turner 6 run; Ryan Bradby PAT good (7-7; 3:10)
SCH: Willams 7 run; Henesey PAT good (14-7; 11:54)
PC: Matthew Marshall 1 run (14-14; 5:41)
PC: Kyle Jones 36 pass to Aaron Maione; Bradby PAT good (14-21; 10:38)
PC: Jones 41 pass to Maione; Bradby PAT good (14-28; 7:21)
PC: Jones 1 run; Bradby PAT good (14-35; 4:34)
SCH: Graham 21 pass to Williams; Henesey PAT good (21-35; 2:35)
Around the Area:
Germantown Academy won another thriller, this one 56-55 over the Episcopal Academy, while La Salle beat Roman Catholic in the first round of the Catholic League playoffs.
The Patriot (6-2, 2-2) offense picked up right where it left off in last week’s win over SCH. Following an apparent appraisal after dropping its first two league games, GA has transformed its attack by leaning more heavily on junior Lacey Snowden and letting quarterback Jordan Longino air it out. Snowden has 279 yards from scrimmage across the wins, while Longino has thrown for a combined seven touchdowns and 609 yards on 33-of-47 passing. Junior receiver Jerry Griffen-Batchler was outstanding against the Churchmen as well, reeling in 13 catches on 16 targets for 185 yards and three scores. GA will head to PC to close out its season this Saturday.
La Salle (8-2, 4-2) beat Roman Catholic for the second straight week (after closing the regular season against RC, they happened to draw the Cahillites for their first PCL playoff matchup) and will advance to face St. Joe’s Prep in the Catholic League final. The Hawks will be favored – not the least due to a 44-13 win over the Explorers earlier in the season – but a La Salle upset would not be unprecedented. La Salle played SJP in nearly this exact situation back in 2015 and came away with a riveting 29-28 upset. This year’s match will be held at the Germantown Supersite, and if you’re hoping to find a seat (or even a parking spot), plan to arrive well before the 6 p.m. start time.