As the 28 Lower Merion football players walked off Prevost Field following their 33-14 loss to Radnor Saturday afternoon to end their season, several seniors were teary-eyed.
On the sidelines, Aces' head coach Dana Keith praised the character of his winless squad, who battled the Red Raiders closely for the first three quarters.
"I couldn't ask for more effort and commitment from our seniors,' said Keith. "Considering all [the adversity] they've been through the last four years, I don't know if I could persevere the way they have.'
On Saturday, the outnumbered Aces trailed only by a touchdown (21-14) with 3:14 left in the third quarter.
The day before the 117th annual matchup between Lower Merion and Radnor, the Aces had an emotional day, attending a pep rally at the school in the afternoon and enjoying a team dinner later that evening.
So Saturday's loss was a bitter pill for the Aces, particularly the seniors, to swallow.
Radnor head coach Tom Ryan said, "From what we saw of [Lower Merion] in the films during the week [before the game], we could see that they were a scrappy team that never, ever quit.'
Even in the closing moments of the game, the Aces (0-10) were working on a sustained offensive drive from deep in their own territory toward midfield.
The Aces got off to a good start Saturday, scoring just three minutes into the game. After the Aces used some alert play on the opening kickoff to get into good field position, senior quarterback Andrew Kerber hit junior wide receiver Miles Michnowicz for a 25-yard gain. From the Radnor 6-yard line, LM running back Ari Wilen, a 5-foot-9, 170-pound senior who was one of the Aces' chief contributors Saturday (14 carries for 69 yards), scored to give the visitors a 6-0 lead that held up through the entire first quarter.
In the second quarter, Radnor's running game began to roll behind senior Jimmie Blake (134 yards and three touchdowns on 14 carries), sophomore Jack Wilson (15 carries, 95 yards) and a solid Red Raider offensive line. Radnor (3-8) scored three touchdowns in the second quarter to take a 21-6 lead.
But Lower Merion fought back one more time before halftime. Junior wide receiver/defensive back Malik Ward returned a kickoff 57 yards. Kerber then hit Ward for a 38-yard touchdown pass, and the Aces trailed by only 21-14 at the half.
While the youthful Aces started eight sophomores this year — one of the players Keith praised for his performance Saturday was sophomore end/linebacker Michael Berg (6-2, 205), it was the LM seniors that Keith particularly wanted to remember one last time — 12th-graders such as Wilen, Kerber, linebacker/running back Jack Garton, offensive lineman/linebacker Billy Buckman, wide receiver/defensive back Nate Goodwin and receiver Kristian Anderson, who made contributions to the Aces' effort this fall despite the adversity of a winless season.