PHILADELPHIA — Most pro football teams look at a road game as a business trip. Just get off the bus and play. The sole objective is to get the victory and get out of town.
Episcopal Academy took a page out of that book and arrived at the campus of a tough William Penn Charter team Friday and simply took care of business.
The Churchmen (7-1, 2-0 Inter-Ac) dotted all the Is and crossed all the Ts during their 30-0 win over the Quakers (4-3, 1-1), underlining the score with a last-minute defensive stand inside the five-yard line to preserve the zero on Penn Charter's side of the scoreboard.
"We really wanted that shutout,' senior linebacker/running back Cody Russell said after the game. "We knew that would be a big statement.'
Russell said the defense very much wanted to establish a level of play that would be needed to defend Episcopal's Inter-Ac League title with the likes of Malvern Prep and the Haverford School still left on the schedule.
"We were just really hungry, especially for a shutout,' Russell said. "We hadn't gotten one all year. So we were really hungry. And our defense knew that.'
The Churchmen's skill players came through with their numbers: Anthony Feliziani carried 13 times for 111 yards and two touchdowns, Dee Barlee carried 14 times for 107 yards and quarterback Ryan Whayland threw for 115 yards on 6-of-12 passing, five of those completions to Evan Butts for 98 yards and a score.
This win, though, belonged to the guys in the dirt.
Episcopal's trench domination was led by junior two-way linemen John "Moose' Minicozzi, Russell and Butts, who also plays defensive end and who scored on a 25-yard fumble recovery in the fourth quarter to finish the scoring for the Churchmen.
Coach Todd Fairlie said his team's line play, dominating both sides of the ball, was the key to the win.
"I thought we did a real good job controlling the line of scrimmage, which was important,' Fairlie said. "They have had success running the ball this year, so it was important to establish progress up front. And always offensively we've got to be able to run the ball. And I think we did a good job and built on our confidence to get better every week and that's the goal every week. It was a step forward.'
The Churchmen caused Penn Charter to fumble on its first drive and was recovered by Minicozzi at midfield. Episcopal went on a nine-play drive that resulted in a 25-yard field goal by Julio Del Peon.
"Every day in practice coach preaches pursuit the ball, constantly yelling in our ear about it,' Minicozzi said. "I guess it was just muscle memory when I saw the ball come out and jumped on it.'
After the Churchmen's defense held the Quakers to a three-and-out, the visitors went 65 yards for a touchdown, a seven-play drive that was highlighted by a 55-yard completion to Butts.
Episcopal Academy never looked back. And its defense never stopped pursuing the football. Episcopal's defensive line came up with 13 tackles for loss, including five sacks. The sacks were for minus-36 yards.
"The little things are which win you games,' Fairlie said. "You can look at the boxscore and all our stats but it's the guys that are winning at the line of scrimmage and defensively, making those tough plays and blocks that are going to lead to a shutout ... Cody and Moose did a great job of that.'
Fairlie said he was not surprised when Butts picked up the Penn Charter fumble with relative ease and took it the distance. It is a play his staff teaches every day.
"It's something we work on and we preach and we rep ... scoop and score ... don't fall on it and that's discipline and that is what type of player he is,' Fairlie said of Butts. "It's something we preach and he did a good job.'
Corey Kelley, who rushed 17 times for 76 yards, and James Biggs-Frazier (16 for 65), led Penn Charter.
Minicozzi said he, and the rest of the linemen don't care that there are no stats for them in the box score. This group just wants to win.
"Throughout my whole football career, playing line you usually don't get a lot of recognition,' Minicozzi said. "But our backs and our linebackers and d-backs ... they are really appreciative of us. We're setting them up to make plays, they are setting us up to make plays. It's just all around a great effort.'