Improved Ryan squad set for Turkey Day clash with G.W.

Wash­ing­ton quar­ter­back Dave Gav­rilov is hop­ing to close out his high school ca­reer with a win over Ry­an.

Thanks­giv­ing foot­ball fans at­tend­ing the show­down between Arch­bish­op Ry­an and host George Wash­ing­ton will prob­ably re­cog­nize the uni­forms on the field dur­ing this 36th an­nu­al con­test.

Wash­ing­ton will don its blue and gold with Ry­an in red and black, as they each have for gen­er­a­tions.

Yet, the teams may ap­pear strange any­way.

Ry­an ac­tu­ally looks and per­forms like a play­off team once again after years in the Cath­ol­ic League base­ment. Mean­while, Wash­ing­ton has evolved in­to some­what of a pro­lif­ic passing team, des­pite its long tra­di­tion of win­ning Pub­lic League cham­pi­on­ships via the ground game.

“It’s a bit dif­fer­ent,” said Wash­ing­ton head coach Ron Co­hen, whose Eagles went 8-2 this sea­son and lost to Frank­ford in the Pub­lic League title game on Nov. 10.

The most pro­duct­ive mem­ber of Wash­ing­ton’s run­ning back by com­mit­tee set-up has been seni­or Mar­quis Ed­wards with 390 yards on 84 car­ries. Seni­or Alex Rivera is next with 56 for 268, while ju­ni­or Ken Ever­age has 50 for 254 and seni­or Don­ald Smith has 47 for 232. 

Not a single Wash­ing­ton run­ner has pos­ted a 100-yard game this sea­son, but the afore­men­tioned four­some did have a knack for find­ing the end zone, post­ing 14 rush­ing scores among them.

“Both of our run­ning backs, the guys we ex­pec­ted to carry the ball, got hurt dur­ing the sea­son at dif­fer­ent times,” Co­hen said.

Ever­age missed three con­tests mid-sea­son and hasn’t got­ten back in­to the flow since, gain­ing just 86 yards in his last four games. Smith has missed the last four con­tests and had not been cleared med­ic­ally to play as of last Thursday, Co­hen said.

The Eagles have used quar­ter­back Dave Gav­rilov’s arm to com­pensate. The 6-foot seni­or has passed for 880 yards and sev­en touch­downs, in­clud­ing 483 yards and four touch­downs in the last three games. Early in the sea­son, he and seni­or Al Au­gustine split time un­der cen­ter, as they did throughout the 2011 cam­paign. But Co­hen con­cluded that the pla­toon situ­ation didn’t be­ne­fit the per­form­ance of either play­er.

“Last year we threw some­what, but we had two quar­ter­backs. That didn’t work well, even though we won the [2011] cham­pi­on­ship,” the coach said.

After Gav­rilov be­came the full-time starter, “I saw more con­fid­ence in him and Al did a nice job de­fens­ively for us,” Co­hen said.

Au­gustine plays along­side two All-Pub­lic se­lec­tions in the de­fens­ive back­field: Ed­wards and seni­or Shaquon Al­len. De­fens­ive end Justin Moody and wide re­ceiv­er Rene Vil­la­fane, both seni­ors, also made the All-Pub­lic team, as did seni­or kick­er Jake Wright. Gav­rilov and Au­gustine just missed out, as did line­back­ers Melvin “Macho” Gonza­lez and Shawn Hende­r­son and line­men Zaire Holler­way and Dwayne Young.

Even with all that tal­ent, the Eagles know that beat­ing Ry­an this year will be a tough or­der. The Raid­ers went 5-5 over­all, but lost to Ro­man Cath­ol­ic and Car­din­al O’Hara by a touch­down or less.

More im­port­ant, the Raid­ers re­cor­ded their first Cath­ol­ic League di­vi­sion vic­tory in 23 games (a 32-31 over­time win over Fath­er Judge on Oct. 13) and qual­i­fied for the play­offs for the first time since 2005. Ry­an lost to St. Joseph’s Prep, 29-6, on Nov. 2 in the Class AAAA semi­finals.

“We’re mak­ing pro­gress every year and we took an­oth­er step for­ward this year,” said Ry­an Head Coach Frank McArdle. “I felt we could’ve won the O’Hara game and we had a chance versus Ro­man and couldn’t pull it out. If you want to make a huge step as a pro­gram, you’ve got to win the close ones.”

A young Ry­an team beat Wash­ing­ton last Thanks­giv­ing, 19-0, des­pite los­ing their start­ing quar­ter­back to in­jury in the first half. The Raid­ers viewed the res­ult as a har­binger of things to come.

“There’s def­in­itely a pos­it­ive buzz about what’s go­ing on. It’s def­in­itely nice to hear ‘you’re do­ing well’ in­stead of ‘you suck,’” McArdle said. “There’s a buzz in the school, too. Kids are say­ing ‘you’re do­ing bet­ter’ and [our play­ers] feel good.”

With first-year starters at both run­ning back and quar­ter­back, Ry­an’s vet­er­an of­fens­ive line de­serves per­haps most of the cred­it for the team’s re­sur­gence. Three of its mem­bers were All-Cath­ol­ic se­lec­tions in­clud­ing ju­ni­or Joe Hans­bury on the first team and seni­ors Ed Bier and Bri­an Rob­bins on the second team.

In ad­di­tion, ju­ni­or Sean Boylan was a first-team se­lec­tion as a de­fens­ive line­man, while seni­or tackle Joe Ruskowski just missed out on All-Cath­ol­ic re­cog­ni­tion, ac­cord­ing to his coach.

“He’s a run-stop­per and a real tough kid that plays with a good mo­tor,” McArdle said. 

Seni­or line­back­ers Jesse Wire­man and Con­nor Golden, along with seni­or run­ning back Jeremi­ah Ag­rio, were second-team All-Cath­ol­ic choices. Ag­rio racked up 979 rush­ing yards on 194 car­ries, in­clud­ing 246 yards in the pivotal Judge game that clinched Ry­an’s post­season berth.

“The alumni, they ex­pect us to be in the play­offs every year and I agree with them,” McArdle said. “If you’re alumni and you could pick any two games to win each year, it would be Fath­er Judge and Wash­ing­ton.” ••

Re­port­er Wil­li­am Kenny can be reached at 215-354-3031 or

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