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