Up­per Dublin

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“I just know what we have to do,” Gim­bel said of his 3rd-and-long mind­set. “We have to get the first down, keep the clock run­ning, keep the score go­ing. We had to get back into the game. We had to get those third down plays go­ing.”

Rad­nor fol­lowed with a three-and-out and a beau­ti­ful punt rolled to a stop — again — at the Car­di­nals three.

“I just tell them when I get into the hud­dle, ‘Lis­ten, this is where we scored the first time, let’s do it again,’” Gim­bel said. “We went down and did it again. It’s all we had to do.”

On the first play of the fourth quar­ter and sixth of the drive, Gim­bel con­nected with Boot­man for 24 yards on 3rd-and-7 and then hit Brody Balasa on the next play for 11 more yards. Boot­man fin­ished off the drive with a 13-yard touch­down run — his fourth score of the game — to put the Car­di­nals ahead, 27-21, with 10:02 to go.

Gim­bel had one more trick up his sleeve.

The Car­di­nals faced a 4th-and-1 at Rad­nor’s 48yard line with 2:07 re­main­ing and lead­ing by six. Af­ter a time­out, Gim­bel got un­der cen­ter in a tight for­ma­tion and got a few Raiders to jump off­sides and give Up­per Dublin the first down.

“There was no play called,” Stover said. “I went out in the hud­dle and we sold it up a lit­tle bit, get­ting ev­ery­body juiced. Take a chance on that. You don’t want to give them the ball at mid­field, you don’t want to say we can’t get a yard ... That was fun.”

Boot­man picked up an­other first down on the next play and the Car­di­nals were on their way to a date with No. 4 Academy Park in the quar­ter­fi­nals next Fri­day.

“We played de­fense re­ally well all year,” Rad­nor coach Tom Ryan said. “My hats off to their staff and their play­ers. They had the ball — good time of pos­ses­sion — and they grinded it out. At times we bent. It’s a good foot­ball team right there. I’m proud of my guys.”

Gim­bel fin­ished the game 8-for-14 for 153 yards and a touch­down and 14 rush­ing yards. He threw for 130 of those yards af­ter half­time.

Bold call

Rad­nor faced a 4thand-goal from the three­yard line be­fore half­time. The Raiders, trail­ing 147, called time­out with 3.8 sec­onds left and sent the of­fense back onto the field. Mullarkey took the snap and rolled right. Noth­ing was there and he re­versed his field and ran all the way to the left side, keep­ing his eyes in the end zone. When the one de­fender be­tween Mullarkey and Sheri­dan stepped up to stop Mullarkey from run­ning, the quar­ter­back threw the ball to his wide open re­ceiver to tie the game at 14 go­ing into the break.

“We put that play in all sea­son and we were wait­ing for the right time to use it,” Ryan said. “Kieran did a good job get­ting through the mid­dle and Sean scram­bled re­ally well. He’s a gamer. They both came up big and it was great to go in 14-14 and have some mo­men­tum. The ball just didn’t bounce our way tonight.”

De­fen­sive stand

Up­per Dublin’s de­fense had to make two stops af­ter the of­fense took a 27-21 lea with 10:02 re­main­ing.

On the first drive, the Car­di­nals de­fense forced a three-and-out. Hold­ing and false start penal­ties put the Raiders in a 3rd-and-11 sit­u­a­tion at their own 20 and de­fen­sive line­man Chris Smith ran down Mullarkey for a sack.

The next Rad­nor pos­ses­sion was shut down by se­nior Max Wine­brake. The line­backer found a crack in the of­fen­sive line to break through and force a two­yard loss on 2nd-and-5. On the en­su­ing 3rd-and-7, Wine­brake kept an eye on Mullarkey and made a oneon-one tackle four yards shy of the first down to force a punt.

Rad­nor never got the ball back.

Bright fu­ture

Rad­nor’s two most im­pres­sive play­ers in the district opener — Mullarkey and re­ceiver Jah­mair Rider — are ju­niors and will be back next year. Mullarkey threw for 131 yards and two touch­downs and Rider caught four passes for 97 yards and a touch­down.

That’s not to men­tion all the de­fen­sive tal­ent that the Raiders will bring back in 2018.

“I tell my play­ers I’m re­ally proud of their char­ac­ter and the way they prac­tice,” Ryan said. “It’s just un­for­tu­nate you lose in the play­offs, but this pro­gram is head­ing in the right di­rec­tion. We’re just go­ing to try to keep get­ting bet­ter and bet­ter.”

Stover — who coached Up­per Dublin to a district ti­tle in 2015 — sees good things ahead for Rad­nor.

“They’ve got a re­ally good team,” Stover said. “They’re young. I see so many sim­i­lar­i­ties in that teams and teams we’ve had here. They’re go­ing to be a force in the fu­ture. They’re all ju­niors com­ing back. They knocked on the door tonight. We’ve been there. They’re go­ing to take the step.”

Flag-fest

Rad­nor to­taled 11 penal­ties for 100 yards and Up­per Dublin was flagged eight times for 78 yards.

Each team had a penalty take points off the board.

Car­di­nals se­nior Jack Jami­son re­turned the game’s open­ing kick­off 95 yards for a touch­down af­ter re­ceiv­ing the ball on a re­verse. The play was called back for a per­sonal foul, re­sult­ing in a Car­di­nals first down at their own 15-yard line and the drive even­tu­ally ended in a punt.

Rad­nor’s Mullarkey con­nected with Rider for a 58yard touch­down af­ter the Raiders fell be­hind, 7-0, but the play was called back for hold­ing. They punted three plays later.

“That’s so un­char­ac­ter­is­tic of us,” Ryan said. “We’ve played very sound foot­ball all year. Un­for­tu­nate that it hap­pened in a play­off game.”

GENE WALSH — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Rad­nor quar­ter­back Sean Mullarkey looks to pass dur­ing game against Up­per Dublin Fri­day night.

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