Ryan armed with experience

No longer the down-in-the-dumps team from the past, the Raid­ers ap­pear poised for a prom­ising 2013. 

  • One for all: A 20-game losing streak from a few seasons ago is ancient history for Ryan, which posted its first overall winning season under Frank McArdle in 2012. MARIA POUCHNIKOVA / TIMES PHOTOS

  • Game face; Ryan senior tight end Sean Boylan is one of a plethora of experience players back for the Raiders in 2013. Boylan has a scholarship offer from Colgate, and other schools are interested. MARIA POUCHNIKOVA / TIMES PHOTOS

  • Play call: Ryan head coach Frank McArdle (center) talks with his staff. After a few rocky seasons to start, McArdle, a Ryan alum and former Raider football player, is hoping for his best season yet in his fifth season at the helm. MARIA POUCHNIKOVA / TIMES PHOTOS

As Frank McArdle rattled off the names one-by-one, his smile grew in­creas­ingly wider. 

Jesse Wire­man, three-year starter; Con­nor Rooney, three-year starter; Sean Boylan, three-year starter; Joe Hans­bury, three-year starter; Bobby Ro­mano, three-year starter; Con­nor Golden, three-year starter…

Every men­tion of a re­turn­ing starter made one thing abund­antly clear about the Arch­bish­op Ry­an foot­ball pro­gram: the Raid­ers are back.

Ry­an didn’t get here overnight. In fact, McArdle, a former Raid­er in the ‘90s, in­her­ited a messy pro­gram that had be­come a bot­tom-dwell­er in the Cath­ol­ic League. Now in his fifth sea­son at the helm, McArdle has re-in­stalled a win­ning at­ti­tude to a once-proud pro­gram. The 20-game los­ing streak and in­ab­il­ity to stay com­pet­it­ive against ba­sic­ally every­body?

An­cient his­tory.

Now, a year re­moved from the first win­ning sea­son and first di­vi­sion vic­tory of McArdle’s ten­ure, the Raid­ers bring back a loaded roster of vet­er­ans that has McArdle think­ing his team is ready to be in the mix for the pro­gram’s first league title since 1994.

“We have a lot of kids back, which I’m really ex­cited about,” McArdle said. “For me per­son­ally, the ex­pect­a­tions are what they’ve al­ways been, which is to be one of the best in the league. When I played here, we were that. We might not be to that point yet, but we’re head­ing in that dir­ec­tion. That’s good to see.”

Of the afore­men­tioned hol­d­overs from last sea­son’s group that went 6-5 over­all, Wire­man and Rooney re­turn to sta­bil­ize the line­back­ers; Golden and Ro­mano are skilled on both sides of the ball at WR/DB. Those two, along with two-year starter Jason Dones, com­bined for sev­en in­ter­cep­tions a year ago. Boylan, a TE/DE, already has a schol­ar­ship of­fer from Col­gate. Hans­bury re­turns to an­chor the of­fens­ive line, while gar­ner­ing in­terest from col­leges like Army and James Madis­on. 

“The best thing about all these guys com­ing back is we spend much less time hav­ing to teach them,” McArdle said. “They know how to pre­pare in the off­season and what it takes to com­pete and play at this level. That’s huge for us.”

At quar­ter­back, two-year starter Mark Os­taszewski re­turns after ac­count­ing for 13 total touch­downs a sea­son ago. And while Os­taszewski doesn’t dazzle in any one area, skill-wise, his coach sees something else in him that can get this team over the hump.

“Mark’s com­pet­it­ive­ness is what makes him stand out,” McArdle said. “He’s got a good arm and he can run a little bit, and when you com­bine the three, he’s a very strong play­er al­to­geth­er.”

The Raid­ers countered the loss of run­ning back Jeremi­ah Ag­rio (1,109 rush­ing yards, 9 TDs) with two ac­com­plished trans­fers in Samir Bul­lock (Judge) and Rush­awn Grange (North­east). As a sopho­more at Judge, Bul­lock tal­lied 1,086 yards on the ground, in­clud­ing a 190-yard ef­fort against Ry­an. Grange ad­ded 540 yards, also as a sopho­more.

“Both are very ath­let­ic and light­ning quick,” McArdle said. “That will be a big part of our of­fense this year. Samir is more elu­sive and sees his cuts bet­ter. Rush­awn can pound the ball and be more phys­ic­al. He hits it hard.”

When asked what he thinks of his new digs, Grange’s braces-filled smile lit up. 

“I really love it here,” he said. “Everything about it has been great.”

Oth­er names to look out for are ju­ni­or cen­ter Nick Werez and seni­or guard An­drew Voro­s­cak, who will re­place all-league play­ers Ed Bier and Bri­an Rob­bins on the O-line. Ju­ni­or John Ligouri could also make some noise at tight end. 

While McArdle’s over­all re­cord at Ry­an is still just 14-30, he’s won 11 in the last two years while get­ting the Raid­ers back to be­ing a .500 club. Now, the ex­pect­a­tions are fi­nally high again out­side of the pro­gram, which pleases the head coach.

For his part, McArdle really star­ted to see things turn around in 2011, when the Raid­ers went from two wins in 2010 to five the next. Sud­denly, the games were more com­pet­it­ive from start to fin­ish. McArdle also men­tioned the yearly sea­son-open­er against Car­din­al O’Hara in Ocean City, N.J., which has pro­gress­ively evolved in Ry­an’s fa­vor; in his first year, the Raid­ers lost 56-0 to O’Hara, then 21-0, then 24-14, then 13-7 a year ago. 

“I think the best thing about those past struggles is that we ap­pre­ci­ate the little things more,” McArdle said. “You ap­pre­ci­ate the wins more when they come. I’m grate­ful for the kids we had when we were los­ing, be­cause they gave it all they had every day. They paved the way, and now we want to con­tin­ue to watch it grow and take it to an­oth­er level.”

Stand­ing un­der the lights fol­low­ing an even­ing prac­tice at the Bustleton Bengals Club, McArdle was asked how he’s grown as a coach in his four sea­sons in charge and how he was able to turn those bru­tal sea­sons in­to something pos­it­ive.

“When I first got here, I wanted to win so badly that every loss crushed me,” he said. “Then I read a great book by (Seattle Seahawks head coach) Pete Car­roll that said, ‘Something good is al­ways about to hap­pen.’ That’s the way we have to think. 

“If you lose a game, it’s not the end of the world. You just have to keep chop­ping away, and if you do, then something good is about to hap­pen.” ••

You can reach at emorrone@bsmphilly.com.

comments powered by Disqus