LOWER MERION — For the first time since 2006, the Lower Merion football team played under the lights at home Friday night.
Unfortunately for the Aces, it didn't do much to reverse their fortune this season.
Penncrest quarterback Danny Fisher threw two touchdowns and ran for a third and running back Justin Batipps rushed for 91 yards and a score as the Lions defeated Lower Merion, 48-7, in a Central League contest.
Despite the loss, Lower Merion running back Ari Wilen noticed a difference in his team between this game and the previous two Central League blowouts.
"It was an incredible experience,' said Wilen, who scored the Aces' only touchdown. "One thing we wanted to bring back was the community aspect of football here and, tonight, I think we did it. We had the most fans I've seen at a football game here in my four years of playing.'
And for much of the first quarter, Lower Merion put on a defensive show. The Aces (0-4, 0-3) forced Penncrest to punt on its first possession but things went downhill quickly thereafter. The first of five unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on Lower Merion in the game gave the Lions the ball at the Aces' 28-yard line and two plays later, Fisher scampered in for a 26-yard touchdown run and a 7-0 lead.
Lower Merion's defense stopped Penncrest on its next two possessions, but too many turnovers by the offense and too many bad penalties eventually doomed the Aces.
"We started making some plays,' Penncrest coach Rick Stroup said. "We got a couple turnovers, hit a couple passes, hit a couple big plays, had a couple nice runs. They definitely picked things up.'
Two Penncrest touchdowns within five seconds of each other late in the second quarter helped the Lions pull away. Batipps ran in for a 1-yard score before Lower Merion fumbled the ensuing kickoff. It was recovered by the Lions and, on the first play, Fisher hit wideout LaVaughn Frame for the first of his two touchdown receptions on the night to push the Lions lead to 21-0.
After a Lower Merion punt, Fisher connected with Frame on a 35-yard touchdown strike and suddenly the Aces were down 27-0 at halftime.
"We weren't going to take them easily,' Fisher said. "We knew that if we didn't come in and focus, they were going to whip us. We had to focus all week.'
Two early turnovers in the third quarter helped the Lions (4-0, 3-0) seal the Aces' fate. After recovering a fumble, Rashad Johnson broke a 39-yard run for a score. On Lower Merion's ensuing play, quarterback Andrew Kerber threw a lateral that was picked up by Penncrest linebacker Ryan Kinnard, who returned it 22 yards to give the Lions a 41-0 lead en route to the win.
Despite going 4-0, which is the best start in Penncrest's school history, the Lions refused to start thinking about anything other than the next game in front of them.
"We're just looking forward to Springfield next week,' Fisher said.
Meanwhile, for the Aces, it's back to the drawing board. Having a game under the lights at home, however, was a positive step for Lower Merion.
"It feels amazing to know that our community supports us even when they don't want us to have lights, they come out and show they are open to the idea,' Wilen said. "We just have to keep moving forward.'