NEWTOWN SQUARE–Todd Fairlie had been looking for this since he took the job as head coach at Episcopal Academy. Fairlie wanted to see an unbending attitude from his team, despite the situation, an iron resolve that in the end would rise above adversity to win.
On Saturday, Fairlie received it. Despite his team losing three players to injuries—one before the game even began—the young Churchmen came back from an early deficit to beat Hill School, 11-8, in a non-league victory that could buoy Episcopal Academy the rest of the season.
The Churchmen evened their record at 2-2, overcoming spells of fatigue when they had problems tackling, could barely move the ball and had young players being asked to perform at a varsity level sooner than expected.
“This was big. This was nice to gut this one out,” Fairlie said. “We’ve lost our quarterback, we lost three players in this game, including our starting linebacker and fullback, so this one was huge, especially the way we finished. We don’t have a large senior class, so we have to rely on sophomores and juniors. We play young guys and don’t let them off the hook. They stepped up, they performed well today.”
And they did.
Ian Strain was starting again for injured quarterback Adam Strouss. The Churchmen were a little one-dimensional for much of the game, not getting their initial first down of the game that didn’t come until the last minute of the first half.
In the meantime, the Hill School clung to an 8-0 lead, when quarterback Grant Smith hit Adam Regenburg for a 32-yard, second-quarter touchdown. The Blue Rams’ touchdown came on fourth-and-18 play.
“We need to get started faster,” said junior Quinn Hager, whose punting kept the Churchmen in contention by backing up the Blue Rams. “We have to get our heads more into the game earlier.”
That began to change at the outset of the second half when the Churchmen got a safety, caused by a high snap that flew over Smith’s head and freshman defensive lineman John Minicozzi was there to tackle Smith in the end zone.
Episcopal went up for good when sophomore Anthony Feliziani plowed into the end zone from five yards out late in the third quarter, giving the Churchmen a 9-8 lead.
Feliziani finished with a hard-earned 65 yards on 20 carries, taking care of some of the load left by the injured Nick Wojdak, who was lost for the game with an injury in the first quarter. When the Churchmen needed to grind down the clock, they turned to Feliziani to make some key yards.
The Churchmen sealed the victory when defensive lineman Dante Addona sacked Smith again in the end zone for another safety with 1:34 left in the game.
“Last year, these types of games, we’d lose,” Addona said. “We’re so much more conditioned than we were last year. We’ve shown more conditioning and a lot more heart. That’s why this is substantial for us. We didn’t back down. We fought until the end.”