In the autumn of 1990, Archbishop Ryan senior running back Mark Ostaszewski helped lead the Raiders to their first of four consecutive Catholic League championships. The diminutive back, standing just 5-foot-6, was a first team All-City selection and an instrumental part of a burgeoning dynasty.
Fast forward 23 years later and you will once again see an Ostaszewski leading the way for the Raiders. Only this time, he lines up on both sides of the ball and is the spark who keeps his team ignited.
Mark Ostaszewski Jr. is a two-way senior standout (QB/DB) for head coach Frank McArdle’s suddenly relevant Raider squad that dismantled neighboring Bensalem High of the Suburban One League National Conference, 53-0, last Thursday evening in a non-league contest for both schools. The Raiders, of the powerful Catholic League AAAA Division, climbed to a perfect 3-0 on the season with the meat of their schedule still to come.
So far, the elder Ostaszewski is impressed with his son’s maturation at the quarterback position.
“I coached my son at Calvary (Athletic Association, in Millbrook), and he always played running back like me,” recalled the proud father during a recent phone interview. “He came home after freshman tryouts and told me that he was practicing with the quarterbacks. He said it was a numbers game (with so many guys trying out for running back), and that he liked his chances lining up under center.”
The young QB must have known what he was talking about. Ever since taking over the reins of the varsity offense in 2012, Ostaszewski has proven that he can more than hold his own despite being undersized (he is listed at 5-foot-8). Against Bensalem, Ostaszewski completed 5 of 8 passes for 151 yards and a touchdown. He also added 60 yards rushing on just five carries.
The offense tallied 301 yards rushing on 33 carries, as junior running backs Samir Bullock and Sean O’Donnell ran roughshod through the Owls defense. Bullock ended the game with 136 yards on 17 carries and three touchdowns. O’Donnell carried the ball 10 times for 103 yards and two scores.
The offensive line that helped produce those gaudy stats included tackles Andrew Hund and Joe Hansbury, along with guards Tom Haughey and Nick Werez. Andrew Voroscak manned the center position while John Liguori lined up at tight end.
When asked to compare and contrast the teams he played on with the current Raiders squad, Mark Sr. had a hard time making comparisons.
“The offenses of today are far more complex,” he suggested. “Things are much more spread out, and there is more passing involved. When I played, we were a running team. We ran more off-tackle stuff.”
The elder Ostaszewski admitted that, despite coaching his son in pound ball, he was unaware of his skill to throw a football.
“I didn’t know he had that good of an arm, but I was definitely faster,” he said with a laugh.
By starting 3-0 and outscoring opponents 132-27, the younger Ostaszewski and his teammates have high expectations for the upcoming Catholic League campaign. The team showed overall improvement on both sides of the ball last year while starting a majority of underclassmen.
The special teams unit is led by all-purpose back and returning first team All-Catholic selection Bobby Romano, who contributed a special teams touchdown return for the second consecutive week. Additionally, the offseason transfer addition of Bullock (another first team selection) from Father Judge has the excitement level reaching a fever pitch on Ryan’s campus.
“The seniors have been together, and we’ve played a lot of varsity ball since we were sophomores,” noted the confident signal caller on his way to the team bus after the rout of Bensalem. “We want to put it all together and win.”
This year’s schedule has to match up as one of the most difficult in Southeastern Pennsylvania. In addition to facing their yearly challenges in AAAA with the likes of annual powers La Salle and St. Joseph’s Prep, the Raiders also added AAA powers Cardinal O’Hara (whom they already defeated, 37-20, in Week 1) and Archbishop Wood to the mix. And don’t forget the annual Thanksgiving Day game with Public League perennial power and neighborhood rival George Washington.
“I accept the challenge to play the best,” the younger Ostaszewski said. “Playing the best is the way to make an impact on our program.”
A Moment to Honor a Legend
Mark Ostaszewski and his wife, Bridget, were on hand, as always, last Thursday to cheer on their son as he quarterbacked the Raiders to their third straight win. Just prior to the game, they joined with other fans in a special moment of silence in honor of John Quinn, the legendary football coach and longtime teacher at Archbishop Ryan, who passed away on Sept. 8.
In addition to the initials ‘AR’ that adorns the side of every Ryan football helmet, a special decal with the initials ‘JQ’ was added to the other side of the helmet to further honor the coaching icon.
“Mr. Quinn had a huge impact on the Ryan community,” McArdle said after Thursday’s win. “He was with the kids every day in the weight room (previously named in his honor) and at practice. And personally, from my first day on the job, Mr. Quinn has been a mentor to me. He continued encouraging me during my first couple of years of coaching when we struggled (to win games).”
Nobody has ever gone through the Ryan football program without getting to know a little something about Quinn. In fact, the elder Ostaszewski was only a sophomore when Quinn won the 1988 Catholic League championship.
“I actually got in on one play during that game,” he recalled. “I remember thinking, ‘Please don’t give me the ball.’”
Ostaszewski’s name appears on the game ball, along with the other players who helped Quinn win his only championship.
“It was just great to see coach Quinn win and to be a part of it,” he said.
Quinn, who was raised in North Philadelphia, starred on the gridiron at North Catholic before going on to play at Notre Dame. In addition to his three coaching stints at Archbishop Ryan, Quinn coached at North, Roman Catholic and Conwell-Egan. ••