Malvern

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS -

Chi­azza’s game-ty­ing boot clanked up the left post and through. Tie game. Ring­walt’s 29-yard try did the same thing. The ball smacked off the left post and over the cross­bar with no time left on the clock. Both of­fi­cials raised their arms in the air. Ring­walt’s kick was good. Ring­walt was mobbed by his team­mates in cel­e­bra­tion. Epis­co­pal Academy had won in walkoff fash­ion, 37-34, and avoided the sting of a po­ten­tially dam­ag­ing loss. The Church­men (6-0) had wit­nessed their 34-9 lead dis­in­te­grate af­ter Chi­azza’s field goal evened the score with 46 sec­onds to play.

Ring­walt’s hero­ics im­me­di­ately erased the me­mories of the tense mo­ments in the sec­ond half when the Church­men just couldn’t stop the bleed­ing. Malvern was em­bar­rassed by its first-half per­for­mance and emerged from the locker room a changed team.

“We knew they would give us a bat­tle,” Ring­walt said. For him, mak­ing a clutch field goal was no big deal.

“We go through that ev­ery day at prac­tice,” Ring­walt said. “Not with that kind of pres­sure, but I knew my team­mates had my back. The op­er­a­tion was good and I knew I just had to do my job.”

With emo­tion in his voice, EA coach Todd Fair­lie gave an em­pow­er­ing post-game speech to his play­ers.

“Some­thing from the be­gin­ning of the year, and it’s nice to see the theme come through, is that good foot­ball teams are close and great foot­ball teams are re­ally tight. They love each other and care

for each other,” said Fair­lie, who coached the Church­men to their first vic­tory over Malvern in four years. “That was the mes­sage from day one and that’s what I wanted to say again . ... And I told them be­fore the game that we’re go­ing to win this be­cause we love each other and we’re go­ing to stick to­gether no mat­ter what. if that’s not true af­ter tonight ... to give it all up and to get it back, it’s pretty amaz­ing.”

Epis­co­pal quar­ter­back CJ McAnally en­gi­neered the win­ning drive. He found Dee Wil Bar­lee on a run­ning back screen in the wan­ing mo­ments. Bar­lee rum­bled all the way to the 13-yard line to give McAnally a chance.

But how did Epis­co­pal get to that point? The Church­men played a near-flaw­less open­ing half. McAnally threw for three TDs — in­clud­ing a pair to stud tight end Kyle Vir­bit­sky — and closed the sec­ond quar­ter with a mir­a­cle catch. Jon’avin Free­man took the snap out of the shot­gun and launched a Hail Mary to the end zone. The ball was tipped by a Malvern de­fender then caught by McAnally as time ex­pired.

Epis­co­pal went into the break with a com­fort­able, 27-9 ad­van­tage. And it got tighter when Free­man scored from a yard out to make it 34-9 early in the third quar­ter.

“You’ve got to give a lot of props to Malvern. They showed a lot of heart,” said McAnally, who was 9 of 15 pass­ing with 242 yards and amassed a team-high 93 rush­ing yards. “They did not make it easy for us at all. It’s just a tes­ta­ment to our team, you know? We’re a pretty tight team and that showed tonight. This is one game we had marked on our cal­en­dars. For us, the se­niors, we had never beaten Malvern be­fore.”

McAnally’s fa­ther, un­cles and grand­par­ents all at­tended Malvern. He came very close to fol­low­ing in his fam­ily’s foot­steps.

“This, for me, was my big game,” McAnally said. “I thought I was go­ing here, but it didn’t work out that way. That’s why I love play­ing here. It’s such a spe­cial feel­ing.”

Vir­bit­sky had three catches for 113 yards. He caught a ball over the mid­dle and sprinted 70 yards for the game’s first touch­down in the first quar­ter. At line­backer/de­fen­sive line, he was a men­ace.

“At half­time, we were pretty ex­cited,” Vir­bit­sky said. “Maybe too ex­cited. But, you know what? At the end we got the job done. A cou­ple of times our backs were against the wall and we kept fight­ing back.”

EA mid­dle line­backer Brian Snow was a ma­chine, too, es­pe­cially in the first half. He recorded a sack, a pass de­flec­tion and sev­eral big hits in the back­field. Snow knocked start­ing quar­ter­back Kevin Doyle out of the game with a sack late in the sec­ond quar­ter.

The Fri­ars (3-3, 0-1), how­ever, re­ceived a huge boost from backup quar­ter­back Drew Gun­ther, a sopho­more who flour­ished in a dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion. Gun­ther dis­played his im­mense tal­ent by lead­ing the Fri­ars back from the abyss. He was 16 of 24 for 228 yards and a touch­down. His 1-yard scor­ing plunge in the fourth quar­ter pulled Malvern within three points with 6:29 to go.

But the Church­men reached in deep to fin­ish what they had started Fri­day night. When it was over, they were able to breathe again and thank one an­other.

“This,” Vir­bit­sky said, “is what we are all about. We never gave up.”

PETE BANNAN — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Epis­co­pal Academy’s DeeWil Bar­lee is about to haul in a pass in the third quar­ter against Malvern Prep Fri­day night. The Fri­ars’ Cole McCabe de­fends.

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