Marple Newtown kicker Josh McMenamin plays the hero in handing Strath Haven its first defeat
Josh McMenamin & Marple Newtown coach Chris Gicking.
WALLINGFORD — Josh McMenamin was seemingly stuck there, frozen in starry-eyed disbelief. The magnitude of what he did appeared to hover around the ether where he was standing 10 minutes later, though not exactly spilling into the 5-foot-8, 150-pound Marple Newtown senior kicker.
McMenamin did it.
He played the hero, booting a walk-off 34-yard field goal to hand Strath Haven its first defeat this season, 23-20, on Friday night at Strath Haven in a memorable game not so much for how it was played—but for how it played out. McMenamin showed great poise in suppressing every nerve in his body in nailing the game-winner with about 10 yards to spare, then taking off around the field in triumph as the rest of his teammates chased him.
Marple Newtown is the No. 3 seed in PIAA District 1 Class 5A thanks to a kicker who never attempted a field goal before Friday night.
And it all started with a knock on his door.
Last year, in mid-September, McMenamin was greeted at his front steps by Tigers’ head coach Chris Gicking, along with a few player’s parents and coaches. Marple Newtown just lost its kicker to injury. Gicking needed to find one fast and enlisted McMenamin, a soccer player who Gicking knew had a strong leg. It also helped that McMenamin was a neighbor.
There was, however, one glaring problem: McMenamin never played football.
“I remember answering the door and there was Coach Gicking. I had no idea what they were there for,” remembered McMenamin, whose father Michael passed away suddenly last April. “I let them in my living room and Coach Gicking told me, ‘I know you play soccer. I’ve seen you kick a ball. I want you to come kick for my team. Our kicker just went down with a big injury. Come out the next day to practice. I need a kicker.’
“For everything this community has done for me and my family, I had to do it. I didn’t imagine this. I’m still nervous. I was nervous when I kicked the ball. I liked hearing the crowd. It didn’t matter who they were yelling for, I felt that they were yelling for me. I kept my head down. I knew it felt good leaving my foot. I knew it had the distance. I saw it go through.”
About 20 minutes after the game, after everyone scattered, Gicking actually asked McMenamin if he ever kicked a field goal before. To the surprise of them both, they realized he had not until that moment.
“Wow, that’s unbelievable, that’s Josh’s first field goal. I’ve known Josh since he was a little kid. I believed in him and I knew we had a special friend watching,” said Gicking, a crack of emotion in his voice in reference to Josh’s father Michael. “I remember going to Josh’s house and telling him he was kicking. He told us he never kicked a football in his life. I told him that I didn’t care (laughs). This is great for Josh, and it’s great for his family.
“Overall, I’m proud of these kid’s efforts. Strath Haven is a great team, and coach (Kevin) Clancy is a legend. We get to enjoy this for two hours. We willed our way back into this game and we focus next on another great team, Garnet Valley.”
To put Marple Newtown and McMenamin in a position to win, the Tigers (7-1) received great performances from senior quarterback David Bertoline, who put the team on his back in completing 18 of 30 for 205 yards and two touchdowns, and senior wide receiver Alex Gillian and senior running back Paul DeFruscio, who combined for 14 catches for 150 yards and a TD.
The Tigers’ defense stymied Strath Haven (7-1) in the second half, holding the Panthers scoreless after Strath Haven had taken a 20-6 lead into halftime. The Panthers, behind their vaunted Wing-T offense, scored on their first three possessions, helped along by costly Marple Newtown penalties.
The Panthers’ counter up the middle was particularly biting. By halftime, Strath Haven had rolled up 184 yards of total offense—all rushing, and nine first downs. In the second half, the Panthers were held to 65 yards of total offense, 48 on the ground, and just three first downs.
Marple Newtown, meanwhile, used exhaustive drives to wear down the Panthers’ defense. The Tigers pounded Strath Haven for 322 total yards of offense, 179 coming in the second half.
Strath Haven led 20-6 entering the fourth quarter when the Panthers made their only mistake of the game, fumbling the ball away at their 12. Marple Newtown sophomore linebacker Aidan Curran pounced on the loose ball and the Tigers converted a crucial fourth-and-one at the Strath Haven 2 to begin the fourth quarter.
From there, Lou DiLuzio bulled his way into the end zone from two yards out, and after another Marple Newtown stop, Bertoline found DeFruscio in the back of the end zone for a 20-20 tie with 6:45 to play.
The Tigers once again put the clamps on Strath Haven with just under three minutes to play at the Marple Newtown 18. From there, junior tailback Brian Box plowed his way through the Panthers’ defense for 35 yards on four carries. A crucial play came on Box’s 11-yard sprint through the right side of the Strath Haven line on a third-and-six at the Tigers’ 22.
Bertoline calmly handled the clock, guiding the Tigers upfield. With two seconds left, he wisely curled up at the left hash mark at the Strath Haven 17, giving McMenamin a better angle to kick.
The only piece missing for McMenamin was that his mother Katie was not there. She missed the game at home sick.
“She knows,” McMenamin said. “I just still have a hard time believing it. This is nothing I could have imagined.”
And it all started with a knock on the door.
Marple Newtown (7-1) 0 6 0 17-23
Strath Haven (7-1) 6 14 0 0-20
SH – James Fisher 34 run (kick failed), 7:20
SH – Shane Green 2 run (Ben Milligan kick), 11:07
MN – Trey Saviour 20 pass from David Bertoline (kick failed), 3:53
SH – Marco Kaufman 5 run (Milligan kick), :20
MN – Lou DiLuzio 2 run (Josh McMenamin kick), 11:54
MN – Paul DeFruscio 26 pass from Bertoline (McMenamin kick), 6:45
MN – McMenamin 34 FG, :00
Joseph Santoliquito is a hall-of-fame, award-winning sportswriter who has been covering high school football since 1992 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be followed on Twitter @JSantoliquito. Follow EasternPAFootball.com on Twitter @EPAFootball.
Follow EasternPAFootball.com on Twitter @EPAFootball
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