By: John Knebels
Photos: Zamani Feelings, Patty Morgan & Alexandra Conroy
The final week of the season has suddenly arrived. Talk about time flying.
Inter-Academic League football’s champion has yet to be determined. One team is undefeated; another has one loss. It is conceivable that the other four squads could finish in a four-way tie for third place at 2-3, or three of them could close at 1-4.
Combine that with several individual goals, and Saturday’s three contests possess enough intrigue to warrant one last preview . . . and three fearless predictions.
Malvern Prep at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, 1:00 – The Friars (10-0 overall, 4-0 league) can make school history. They have never finished better than 10-0, nor have they won more than 15 straight. That would change with a win over the Blue Devils.
According to tedsilary.com, Malvern has engineered perfect seasons on six different occasions (9-0 in 1972 and 2001; 10-0 in 1974, 1980, 1995, and 2008). They won 15 in a row by taking the final five in 1979 and all 10 in 1980. Malvern finished on a five-game winning streak last fall, so going 11-0 would increase that streak to school-best 16.
Including last year’s season finale, senior QB Drew Gunther has thrown at least one touchdown in 11 straight. The Friars’ defense has done the same with interceptions. This fall’s secondary has thieved an incredible 19 passes via contributions from seven different players, five of whom have multiple picks.
For SCH (6-4, 1-3), senior QB Aaron Angelos needs two touchdowns to reach 20, while junior Ke’Shawn Williams is 91 yards short of 1,000 receiving yards.
Prediction: Malvern enjoys a historic 33-13 victory.
Malvern Prep Football - PSD Photo by Zamani Feelings
Springside Chestnut Hill Football - PSD Photo by Patty Morgan
Penn Charter at Germantown Academy, 1:00 – The granddaddy of all prep-school competitions will turn 132 years old. The visiting Quakers (7-2, 3-1) lead the uninterrupted rivalry by 84-36-11 and remain alive for a possible share of the crown. Temple University-bound senior Eddie Saydee’s brilliant scholastic career is about to conclude. The all-time leading rusher in school history has amassed 1,169 yards and 20 touchdowns this fall. Junior quarterback Kyle Jones needs one more rushing touchdowns to reach double digits.
“This game is the biggest game of the year by far because of the great rivalry,” said Penn Charter senior two-way end Ryan Maloney. “It’s definitely sad for it to be over, but I am also excited what the next level is in store for me.”
For Germantown Academy, durable senior tackle Justin Wajda will become the first player in school history to start all 40 of his games from freshman through senior year. Including Duke University two-way lineman Elijah Wroten, the offensive line will try to help junior Trae Vance gain 16 rushing yards and score a touchdown to reach 1,000 and 10, respectively.
After starting on a five-game touchdown streak, an injury ended sophomore Jordan Longino’s season. His replacement, senior Matt Brittingham, has thrown at least one touchdown in each of his four starts.
Germantown Academy Football - PSD Photo by Zamani Feelings
William Penn Charter Football - PSD Photo by Zamani Feelings
“There is a pretty big rivalry between Germantown Academy and Penn Charter,” said GA senior Timmy Ruth, who starts on offense, defense, and special teams. “We take our games a week at a time and focus on every opponent for each week, but this game always lingers in the back of our minds until it comes time to play.
“It would be a dream come true if we were remembered as one of the teams that beat PC. While it is definitely exciting and while my teammates and I can’t wait to get on the field and play, there is definitely some sadness that this will be our last game representing Germantown Academy football. I wish I could have more time to play as a Patriot and to play with my brothers, but we want to finish strong and leave everything we have on the field.”
Prediction: GA played very well at Malvern, but Penn Charter is too strong. The Quakers add yet another notch to their rival dominance, 27-19.
Episcopal Academy at Haverford School, 1:30 – EA senior DeeWil Barlee is 69 rushing yards away from 1,000. Churchmen receivers Jack Bush(18 catches for 367 yards), Malcolm Folk(15-186), and Barlee (17-301) could all finish with 20 receptions, a true rarity in high school sports. Episcopal (6-3, 2-2) is 28 receiving yards shy of 1,000.
Haverford School (3-5, 1-3) would like at least one back to rush for 100 yards. Sophomore Mekhi Ajose-Williamson has come close with 87 and 82. He leads the Fords with five touchdowns; four teammates have scored four apiece.
“We don’t just want this win,” said Haverford senior standout Nate Whitaker, who remains undecided about which college he’ll attend. “We need it so we can prove that losing and Haverford don’t go together. I’m definitely nostalgic, but at the same time, I’m more excited to see what jersey I will be wearing next fall.”
Prediction: The Fords battle, but the Churchmen prevail, 24-17
Haverford School Football- PSD Photo by Zamani Feelings
Episcopal Academy Football - PSD Photo by EA Jr. Reporter Alexandra Conroy
Battle of the kickers: Three different kickers – Malvern Prep senior Sebastian Constantini, Penn Charter junior Ryan Bradby, and Germantown Academy sophomore Nick Niemynski– are tied for the scoring lead with 39 points. The only difference is that Niemynski has kicked a league-best four field goals while the other two have drilled three apiece.
(John Knebels can be reached at Jknebels@gmail.com or on Twitter @johnknebels.)