If the 2011 season was pre-production for the new Archbishop Ryan football program, then the Raiders’ emphatic triumph over Public League champion George Washington High on Thanksgiving was the pilot episode.
By all accounts, Ryan’s ratings went through the roof.
The Raiders showcased defense, running, timely passing and, above all, their deep and talented roster of underclassmen in a 19-0 victory. Ryan got the win despite seeing senior quarterback and captain Mike Anusky fall to injury in the first quarter, leaving the signal-calling to previously untested sophomore Mark Ostaszewski.
The victory lifted the Raiders to a 5-6 record to conclude the season. They had won just three games in the previous three seasons combined.
“We definitely wanted to come in here and show we could play with the best teams and we weren’t no fraud team,” said junior safety Sam Dumond, who transferred from Roman Catholic last summer. “And (show that) Ryan football is back.”
“Our young guys have been working hard this year,” added junior halfback Dylan Rowan. “We’re going to lose a lot of good seniors, but we’re looking forward to next year. I think we’re going to be good.”
The Raiders were plenty good enough to keep a depleted Washington team at arm’s length. In the two weeks leading up to the annual Thanksgiving showdown, the Eagles (8-4) had experienced the highest of highs by winning the Public League title, then the lowest of lows by dropping the city title game to LaSalle by a 41-7 score.
On top of that, Washington’s 1,700-yard rusher Hakeem Sillman, a senior, was forced to miss the game after skipping practices all week. Head coach Ron Cohen said that Sillman had a leg injury all week. Sillman turned up on the Eagles’ sideline for the game, wearing his No. 2 jersey but no pads.
“He’s hurt. He’s run hard all year and got beat up,” Cohen said. “He didn’t make the difference (in the game). It came down to blocking, tackling and who made the least mistakes.”
Washington’s mistakes gave Ryan all the early fuel it needed. Barely three minutes into the game, sophomore linebacker Connor Golden intercepted a pass by Washington’s Alfonso Augustine at the Eagles’ 25. A personal foul penalty then moved the ball to the Eagles’ 12.
From there, Rowan ran twice for five yards, then Anusky dumped a screen pass to Rowan for a seven-yard score. The stunned Washington defense didn’t lay a finger on the halfback during his quick gallop into the end zone.
Ryan missed the extra point kick.
The Raiders’ defense also grabbed the early initiative, pinning the Eagles in their own half throughout the first quarter. Six underclassmen saw most of the playing time, including sophomores Sean Boylan (end), Joe Hansbury (tackle), Jesse Wireman (linebacker), Golden (linebacker) and Bobby Romano (cornerback), along with the junior Dumond (safety). Seniors Chris McMonagle (end), Joe Sullivan (tackle), Lamar Richardson (linebacker), Mike Palmer (cornerback) and Kevin Newell (safety) supplied the experience.
Dumond and Golden provided the big breakthrough two minutes into the second quarter when Dumond blocked a Washington punt, then Golden scooped up the loose ball and raced 40 yards for a touchdown and a 12-0 Raiders lead.
“I lined up in the ‘A’ gap (between center and guard) and used my speed,” said Dumond, who was listed at 5-feet-6 and 160 pounds in the program. “I got through (the line) and my teammate scooped and scored and it changed the game.”
“We schemed it a little bit,” McArdle said. “We thought we could get (a block). We didn’t have one all year until today, so I really wanted it.”
The work was just beginning for Rowan and the Ryan offense.
With a solid, if not comfortable halftime lead, McArdle challenged the Raiders to run the ball and control the clock in the second half.
On Ryan’s initial third-quarter possession and with Anusky standing on the sideline on crutches, Rowan carried the rock eight straight plays, not counting a run that was called back due to a procedure penalty. Ostaszewski ran three times in the drive that ultimately ended with a Ryan punt, but took more than seven minutes off the game clock and changed field position.
The O-line featured junior Ryan McGee and Hansbury at tackles, McMonagle and senior Dan Mulholland at guards, junior Ed Bier at center and Boylan at tight end. Senior Sean Maccari handled lead blocker duties at fullback.
“(McArdle) told me before the game that I was probably going to get twenty or thirty carries,” Rowan said. “You take a lot of hits (doing that), but that’s part of the job and I have fun doing it. The line has been working their butts off all year. Big holes were open and it made it easy for me.”
“We really challenged (our guys) at halftime to be physical, especially since they were loading the (tackle) box against us,” McArdle said.
Persistence paid off in points the next time the Raiders had the ball as they moved 43 yards in five plays to take a three-touchdown lead. Ostaszewski faked a handoff to Rowan then passed to wide receiver Nick LeVan for a 29-yard score.
Matt Martinez converted the extra point.
“Obviously, we hated to see Mike go out like that. He’s our heart and soul. But we have a lot of confidence in Mark and you saw that in the second half,” said Ryan head coach Frank McArdle.
Ryan threatened to extend the lead moments later when McMonagle recovered a Washington fumble at the Eagles’ 35. But Washington’s Adonis Fountain intercepted Ostaszewski’s pass near the goal line on the next play.
Washington made its deepest foray into Ryan territory with six minutes to go in the game, but failed to convert a fourth-and-10 from Ryan’s 19 as Golden tackled running back Ken Everage for a four-yard loss.
“They’re a good football team. We knew that going in,” Washington coach Cohen said. “And they play in the Catholic League, which is stronger than the Public League.”
Ryan’s Palmer ended the game by intercepting Washington’s David Gavrilov near midfield. Dumond also intercepted a Gavrilov pass in the game. In all, Ryan had four takeaways and one turnover.
Rowan finished with 22 carries for 83 yards. Everage led Washington with 13 carries for 45 yards.
Cohen was proud of the Eagles’ season accomplishments despite the defeat.
“We were picked number three in the Public League and came out number one,” he said. “I can’t complain about that. And you’ve got to credit Ryan. This was a championship game for them.” ••
Reporter William Kenny can be reached at 215-354-3031 or firstname.lastname@example.org