Thanksgiving football preview: Washington vs. Ryan

Ry­an seni­or Bobby Ro­mano has ac­coun­ted for eight touch­downs this sea­son.

They don’t award cham­pi­on­ships for win­ning on Thanks­giv­ing. But for the Arch­bish­op Ry­an and George Wash­ing­ton foot­ball teams, vic­tory in their an­nu­al Far North­east show­down would be a wel­come, yet bit­ter­sweet con­sol­a­tion prize.

Dur­ing a sea­son when both pro­grams had a league title in their sights and per­haps a deep run in the state play­offs, their dreams evap­or­ated with un­timely and un­char­ac­ter­ist­ic de­feats.

Wash­ing­ton (5-5), a 12-time Pub­lic League cham­pi­on, lost its first three non-league games, lost twice more to Frank­ford (in­clud­ing the PL title game) and is at risk of its first los­ing sea­son since 1984, the year be­fore head coach Ron Co­hen took charge of the team.

Ry­an (7-3) failed to make the Cath­ol­ic League play­offs des­pite beat­ing two of the league’s di­vi­sion­al cham­pi­ons, St. Joseph’s Prep and Arch­bish­op Wood. A three-game los­ing skid, in­clud­ing a de­feat to ar­chrival Fath­er Judge, dashed the Raid­ers’ post­season hopes.

“Wash­ing­ton, re­cord-wise, they’re not where they wanted to be and neither are we, really,” said Frank McArdle Jr., Ry­an’s fifth-year head coach. “But they were just play­ing for a Pub­lic League cham­pi­on­ship. And if you’re a Ry­an foot­ball play­er, there are two games you really want to win every year — that’s Judge and Wash­ing­ton.”

For the Raid­ers, the game will be the last hur­rah for a seni­or class that will be re­membered for lead­ing the pro­gram back to rel­ev­ance. Ry­an had not qual­i­fied for the Cath­ol­ic League play­offs for sev­en years, nor pos­ted a win­ning re­cord for 13 years be­fore the ju­ni­or-dom­in­ated 2012 group fin­ished 6-5 and earned an AAAA Di­vi­sion semi­final berth.

The Raid­ers opened 2013 on fire and outscored four non-league op­pon­ents 186-37. Then the wheels fell off. They lost by 14 to de­fend­ing champ La Salle, by 12 to Ro­man and by 11 to Judge in suc­cess­ive weeks.

But just when folks were writ­ing off the Raid­ers, they earned a 15-point win over even­tu­al CL AAA champ Wood and a 13-point win over AAAA champ St. Joe’s. Al­though Ry­an fin­ished last via tiebreak­ers in the five-team AAAA Di­vi­sion, it ended the cam­paign ranked among the top teams in South­east­ern Pennsylvania and throughout the state in vari­ous pub­lished polls.

“Our goal was to qual­i­fy for the play­offs and to win it,” McArdle said. “And if we did qual­i­fy, we really could’ve won it.”

“We were destined for a lot big­ger things than a win­ning re­cord,” said seni­or Joe Hans­bury, a first-team All-Cath­ol­ic of­fens­ive line­man. “We fell apart in a couple of big games. Ob­vi­ously, we had the skill and tal­ent to beat two of the best teams in the state.”

That skill showed it­self most along the O-line. Cen­ter An­drew Voro­s­cak and right guard Nick Werez joined Hans­bury, the right tackle, on the All-Cath­ol­ic team. All are seni­ors. They cleared the way for run­ning back Samir Bul­lock’s 1,775 rush­ing yards and 18 touch­downs. Bul­lock, a ju­ni­or, av­er­aged 7.7 yards per carry.

“Be­ing an of­fens­ive line­man, I feel the play­ers to watch the whole time are the of­fens­ive line,” Hans­bury said. “If one of us doesn’t play, the whole game goes to crap. Noth­ing is go­ing to be dif­fer­ent on Thursday. We’re go­ing to line up and run the ball.”

In­ter­est­ingly, the Ry­an line will match up against per­haps Wash­ing­ton’s greatest strength. Co­hen thinks that at least three on the Eagles’ de­fens­ive front have the po­ten­tial to play in col­lege.

Seni­ors Zaire Holler­way and Tyr­one McNeil, along with ju­ni­or Dawayne Young, will try to force Ry­an out of its com­fort zone. McNeil earned first team All-Pub­lic hon­ors as a line­back­er.

“They’re go­ing to be asked to do a lot,” Co­hen said. “It’s a chal­lenge for them be­cause, from what I’ve seen on tape, there’s no ques­tion we’re go­ing to have to stop their run­ning at­tack. They ran well against La Salle and against the Prep. And they ran well against Wood.”

When Ry­an goes to the air, re­ceiv­ers Con­nor Golden and Bobby Ro­mano both pose a threat. The seni­or duo teamed for 933 yards and 10 touch­downs re­ceiv­ing. Golden was a first-team All-Cath­ol­ic pick at the po­s­i­tion. Ro­mano also re­turned three kicks for touch­downs.

Wash­ing­ton seni­or Has­san Brock­man was an All-Pub­lic choice at de­fens­ive back.

Things will be a bit tough­er to pre­dict when Wash­ing­ton has the ball. Seni­or Ken Ever­age led the Eagles in rush­ing with 751 yards and five touch­downs. Mean­while, seni­or quar­ter­back Cedric Wright passed for 889 yards and five scores. Rasheed Black, a seni­or, and Brock­man both bettered 400 re­ceiv­ing yards. Ever­age and Black were All-Pub­lic picks on of­fense, as was the line­man Holler­way.

“The kids want to do well,” Co­hen said. “They want a much bet­ter end­ing than be­gin­ning. I firmly be­lieve we can play with Ry­an if we come to play.”

For Ry­an’s de­fense, Golden has put op­pos­ing re­ceiv­ers on lock­down lately. The safety has three in­ter­cep­tions in each of his last two games and 10 in­ter­cep­tions for the sea­son. He re­turned one for a touch­down and was an All-Cath­ol­ic choice at de­fens­ive back, join­ing team­mate Sean Boylan, a seni­or de­fens­ive end.

For the many seni­or Raid­ers, the game will sig­nal the end of an era.

“They’re our first group of eighth-graders that we brought in (to the pro­gram),” McArdle said. “When they walked in four years ago, they were a group of kids who wanted to stay to­geth­er and play with their friends. And Arch­bish­op Ry­an has a le­git­im­ate pro­gram now.”

“Our seni­ors be­fore us set an ex­ample and we just fol­lowed their ex­ample,” Hans­bury said. “This year, we stumbled in the be­gin­ning but then we proved that Ry­an foot­ball is def­in­itely on the rise.” ••

George Wash­ing­ton alum­nus and au­thor Por­firio Bar­rera will sign cop­ies of his nov­el ‘When Win­ning Hurts’ in­side the sta­di­um. The book chron­icles the cham­pi­on­ship-win­ning 1991 Eagles, in­clud­ing a sec­tion on that year’s Thanks­giv­ing game.


George Wash­ing­ton High School


Thursday, Nov. 28, at 10 a.m.


Ry­an won, 13-7


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