UPPER CHICHESTER — Episcopal Academy's 38-20 victory over Chichester was a bit of a homecoming for Churchmen offensive lineman/linebacker Kevin Morgan.
As a young boy, Morgan roamed the sidelines of Anthony Apichella Memorial Field with his father, Don, who spent several years as an assistant coach and eventually head coach of the Eagles. Those memories helped Morgan feel at home as he played a role in fending off an aggressive Chichester team.
"It was kind of cool to see things from the other side,' said Morgan, who was active on both sides of the ball and registered a sack. "I watched a ton of football games here since I was 6years old.
"It was really cool after all these years to finally get the opportunity to play on this field. I've been waiting for this opportunity since I was 8 years old and it was awesome.'
Morgan, whose father is now Dean of Students at Chichester Middle School, contributed on both sides of the ball as the Churchmen were in for a good, old-fashioned brawl.
"There's some stuff that we're going to have to clean up on offense, but in the second half we were able to move the ball really well,' said Morgan. "I thought we played disciplined for the most part defensively, but we did give up a couple of big plays, so we need to have a good week of practice next week, stay focused, and clean some things up.'
The Episcopal Academy offense scuffled through the first half as it was plagued by two turnovers, inconsistency, and some rugged play by the Eagles defense.
After Ryan Whayland connected with Christian Feliziani for a score on the opening drive, the Churchmen never found a rhythm and Chichester capitalized.
Eagles' quarterback Duffy Gilhool hit Dan Sullivan (three catches, 45 yards) for a 12-yard scoring strike to tie the game at 7-7 as Chichester (2-3) proved it would not back down from the Churchmen.
Cody Russell (53 yards) added a touchdown run, and Julio Del Peon kicked a 25-yard field goal to extend the Episcopal Academy lead to 16-7 before the Churchmen caught a nice break.
After Gilhool intercepted Whayland, the Eagles were penalized on the return leaving them with the ball on their own two-yard line. A low shotgun snap evaded Gilhool, and Chichester running back Dejuan Santana dove on the ball in the end zone for an Episcopal Academy safety.
Despite the 18-7 edge, Episcopal Academy's lead was far from secure and the Churchmen knew it.
"We knew coming into the game that they were going to be a tough and gritty team,' said Episcopal Academy tight end/defensive lineman Evan Butts, who had three catches for 111 yards and was a dominant force. "Their quarterback is a helluva player, they've got some big boys up front, and some nice players at the skill positions. They played us really well. When we punched them in the mouth, they punched us right back. You have to give them credit for that.'
Episcopal Academy coach Todd Fairlie noted that he liked the way his team was able to bounce back when called upon.
"I like the fact that every time they answered us, we came right back with a good drive and a score,' said Fairlie, whose team improved to 5-0. "It's always good to see how you react when you get punched in the face.'
The second half saw the Churchmen outscore the Eagles 20-13 to secure the win behind Butts and a steady flow of Dee Barlee, who finished with 24 carries for 124 yards and two touchdowns. Anthony Feliziani added a three-yard scoring run to compliment Barlee in the backfield.
For Chichester, it was a great effort, but felt like a lost opportunity to put itself back in the thick of the Delco football landscape.
"I'm torn because with these guys there's no more ' Great effort guys, we've got to protect the football' talk,' said Eagles coach Ryan Smith. "We're too good to let these ones slip through because of penalties and turnovers.'
"But I'm proud of them and they really played their tails off.'
The Eagles committed eight penalties, lost three fumbles, and threw one interception to hurt themselves, but their resilience was notable.
Led by Gilhool (140 yards passing, 63 yards rushing, two touchdowns), Chichester gave the Churchmen everything they could handle for quarters, largely behind the standout two-way play of Gilhool.
"Duffy is the ultimate competitor,' Smith said. "He's a leader by his actions. He played great and the team really rallied around each other.'