Article, Photos and Videos by: John Knebels
PHILADELPHIA –They started slowly, but in the end, they did what they always do.
On a frigid Saturday afternoon at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, Malvern Prep established two school records in a 41-20 victory. The Friars finished 11-0 for the first time in school history, and they captured 16 straight triumphs dating back to last fall, toppling the previous mark of 15.
While outscoring their opponents by an average of 36-16, the Friars also snared the Inter-Academic League title for the third straight season (they shared it with Germantown Academy in 2016) and for the 12th time this century (eight solos, four shares). All told, it was their 34th league title, 24 of them solo.
“Our model of the year was, ‘Earn it,’” said senior quarterback Drew Gunther. “We earned every second of it. In practice, off the field, watching film, eating right, working out. Really earned every second of it, so it’s a very special feeling working that hard and seeing it all pay off.”
Gunther finished with six completions in 10 attempts for 97 yards and two touchdowns, giving him 24 for the season. Senior running back Quincy Watson rushed for a career-high 221 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries.
The play of two-way star Keith Maguire proved pivotal. The Clemson University-bound senior enjoyed his first-ever three-touchdown effort and concluded the season with 14 touchdowns – seven rushing, five receiving, and two on interception returns.
The last touch of Maguire’s scholastic career resulted in Malvern’s final points of an epic campaign. Maguire took a handoff, cut left toward the sideline, and outran SCH’s defense 60 yards to the end zone with 4:27 remaining.
For good measure, Maguire dunked the ball through the uprights, acquiring a meaningless penalty.
“I just had to leave my mark a little bit,” said Maguire with a smile. “Had to end it on a good note.”
Maguire and his brother, junior standout Ryan, were flanking their proud father, Keith, in a post-game interview. Both players were asked about the perfect season – Keith as he exits, and Ryan as he tries to maintain the excellence.
“It’s exciting to be the first 11-0 team in Malvern Prep history,” said Keith. “I’m just happy to do it with this team. I couldn’t have asked for a better team to do it with.”
Ryan was asked what he would remember most.
“Looking up to the 23 seniors that we had this year, especially (Keith) being my older brother and playing with him my whole life,” he said. ”Just looking up to all of them, which is a true blessing, and being able to play and leave the mark that we made this year. We’ll definitely come back next year ready to work just like we did this year.”
Another set of relatives were interviewed as well when coach Dave Gueriera and his nephew, senior Nick Gueriera, were asked when they initially thought that this year could be something really special.
They both chose the 28-25, comeback victory over visiting Peddie School (New Jersey) played on September 28.
“We kind of were the underdogs,” said Nick. “But for us, we practiced like it was another team. Honestly, that grit, love, and everything that we talked about our brotherhood, it came to fruition in that game. We ended up winning that game and that kid of set the standard for us.”
Coach Gueriera was asked to summarize the season.
“It’s been a strong brotherhood,” he said. “We have each other’s back in good times and in bad times. When adversity hits, we pick each other up. We’ve had some ups and we’ve had some downs, and during the downs is really when we showed our true mettle as a team.”