NEWTOWN SQUARE — It had all of the makings of a classic.
First place in the Inter-Ac Leauge was on the line with one traditional power and the defending champion and new kid on the championship block doing battle under the lights.
Neither team would be deemed the other's No. 1 rival, but as an undercard, Friday night's Inter-Ac League battle between Malvern Prep and Episcopal Academy was about as good as it got. With the teams tied at the half, it looked like things might come down to the wire.
And Troy Gallen had quite enough of that plan, thank you very much. The Delaware verbal commitment erupted for 254 of his Malvern-record 372 yards and four of his five touchdowns in the second half as the Friars routed the Churchmen, 49-21, to create a three-way tie atop the league standings with The Haverford School. The Fords host Penn Charter Saturday at 2:30.
"It was a great night,' said Gallen, understating the obvious just a little bit. "I might have gotten close (to 372 yards) in a CYO game, but not in a high school game. We focused a lot in practice and we had a game plan. We went into the game knowing we were going to run the ball. (Against) Penn Charter, we spread it around passing the ball, split it kind of evenly passing and rushing, but (Friday) our gameplan was definitely to run the ball. We did a great job. Our line did a great job opening up holes and we had a hell of a game.'
Uh, yeah, it wasn't too bad. Gallen's first touchdown of the night, a 23-yarder, followed up a Matt Brown 23-yard touchdown to give the Friars (6-2, 3-1 Inter-Ac) a 14-0 lead, only to have the Churchmen (7-2, 3-1) come storming back before the half. Ryan Whayland found Christian Feliziani on a 15-yard post for one score, then scored on a broken play from a yard out to give EA some life.
"We had a lot of energy going into halftime,' EA lineman John "Moose' Minicozzi said. "Coming out, you take a few shots and they were big plays, couple stupid mistakes. We had a lot of seniors and this is the game they were focusing on, so it's tough to lose, but we've got Haverford next week and we've got to focus on them.'
It'll be hard to put Gallen's night on the backburner. The explosive future Blue Hen took the first play from scrimmage on the second half 59 yards to paydirt, then visited the end zone again on jaunts of 32, 40 and 70 yards, the final score serving as the final nail in the proverbial EA coffin. There wasn't anything overly deceptive about the Friars' Wing-T based offense, but the Malvern offensive line dominated the point of attack to let Gallen gallop into the secondary.
"We just wanted to spread out their defense,' said Gallen, who etched his name into second place in the Inter-Ac single-game rushing record book behind only Germantown Academy's Reed Marko, who had 453 yards in a 2007 game. "Just establish the run game first. ... I always try to establish the run game early, whether it's picking up five yards a carry or whatever it is, but after the first quarter, with the way our line was playing, I knew it was going to be a good night. ... Halftime, it was tied up, 0-0, and we wanted to come out and show out in the second half. They had the momentum going into the half, so we had to get it going early.'
EA finally stopped Malvern's 35-0 second-half run when Whayland (15-for-29, 237 yards, two touchdowns, three interceptions) connected on a 15-yard pass with John McDermott, who eventually caught the touchdown with his legs. For McDermott, a senior, the score marked his first career trip to the end zone in his rookie year of football.
"It was pretty amazing, because I decided to play football for the first time as a senior,' McDermott said. "... We were obviously losing, which is unfortunate, ... but I got thrown (to) in the end zone and was lucky to pull one in.'
Despite the fact that the Friars hold the head-to-head edge over the Churchmen, both teams will be able to compete for an Inter-Ac title next week. If Malvern can knock off Springside Chestnut Hill Academy and EA tops Haverford School for the second straight year, they would be co-champs.
But Friday, there was little doubt who the better team was.