Marple Newtown 42, Oxford 13
● By Steven Hoffman
For the Oxford Hornets, it will take some time for the sting to wear off from a 42-13 loss to Marple Newton in the opening round of the District 1 Class 5A playoffs last Friday night. But when it does, what should be left is an immense sense of pride.
The 2017 Hornets accomplished a lot on their way to six victories and the team’s first playoff berth in 24 years. There were dominant performances and dramatic last-minute wins. The offense scored points and rolled up yards at an impressive rate, while, game after game, the defense toiled tirelessly in the trenches to make those points stand up. The team made great strides in the third year under head coach Mike Means, earning a tenth seed in the District 1 playoffs.
Against seventh-seed Marple Newtown, the Hornets found themselves trying to stop Marple Newtown’s high-powered offense, which is led by quarterback Anthony Paoletti and junior running back Marlon Weathers. Weathers put his team on the board first, scoring from 12 yards out with 2:28 left to play in the first quarter. It was 6-0 when the point-after attempt failed.
The Hornets’ offense went three-and-out on its first three series against a fast, aggressive Marple Newtown defense. Defensive end Kevin Hahn made several big plays early on to pressure Oxford's offense. But Oxford running break Brandon Holz gave his team a spark when he took a handoff on the 34-yard line and bolted 48 yards to the 18 of Marple Newtown as the first quarter came to an end. On the next play, quarterback Chandler England threw a nice slant pass to wide receiver Brandon DeShields for an 18-yard touchdown. Oxford held the lead, 7-6.
The rest of the second quarter belonged to Marple Newtown, as the team scored 29 unanswered points. Marple Newtown’s cause was helped when the defense produced two turnovers—a fumble and an interception. The fumble recovery led to a 20-yard touchdown drive that was capped by a five-yard run by Weathers. Paoletti connected with wide receiver Alden Mathes on the two-point conversion, making it 14-7.
Just a few minutes later, Marple Newtown capitalized after an interception, driving 41 yards on just two plays to make it 21-7. Weathers once again scored, this time from 38 yards out.
With 2:47 seconds left to play in the second quarter, the home team extended its lead to 28-7 when Paoletti threw a 15-yard touchdown to wide receiver Dash Dulgerian. After its defense forced Oxford to punt on the next series, Marple Newtown scored again as Paoletti and Mathes teamed up on a five-yard pass play, making it 35-7.
Tenacity is one reason why Oxford has transformed into a playoff team during the last three years, and the squad wasn’t about to simply mail it in during the second half. The Hornets played much better—on offense and defense.
On the first offensive series of the second half, the Hornets marched 80 yards on just four plays—a 34-yard catch by Holz, two consecutive carries by Holz that picked up 14 yards, and a 26-yard touchdown catch by DeShields. The score was 35-13.
Oxford needed one more touchdown to make it game again. The defense did a much better job of controlling Paoletti and Weathers, keeping Marple Newtown off the scoreboard in the third quarter. Oxford’s offense put together another good drive, but two sacks by the Marple Newtown defense halted it before Oxford could cut into the lead.
With 9:01 left to play in the game, Weathers scored on a 21-yard touchdown run, making it 42-13 and effectively securing the victory for Marple Newtown. Weathers finished with 246 rushing yards and four touchdowns for the game.
For the Hornets, the strong second half allowed England to pass for more than 100 yards for the game. Holz finished with 139 rushing yards.
Marple Newtown now moves on to play Upper Moreland, a second seed, in the next round of the playoffs.