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Quakers rout Maret, 35-6
(Published October 3, 2005)

By MICHAEL HOFFMAN
Special to The Common Denominator

They were down 14-6 late in the second quarter Oct. 1, fighting neck and neck with a team that had only lost one league game in six years, but the undermanned and previously 1-8 Maret Frogs had to feel good about their position.

It appeared that they would at least start the second half with a fighting chance.

Suddenly though, and out of nowhere, reality struck harshly like an unsightly car crash on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. It would be a play on defense that perfectly illustrated why the Sidwell Friends Quakers have won five championships in five years of playing in the Mid-Atlantic Athletic Conference.

As Maret quarterback John Moffett threw the ball just a tad too slow to receiver Alex Kennedy, who on the previous play made a perfectly timed reception against two downfield defenders for a first down, Christian Stephens showed the speed and catching ability that he uses on offense as a wide receiver, leaping in front of Kennedy and ripping the ball out of the air for a 40-yard interception.

The run to the endzone gave Sidwell a 21-6 lead going into halftime during a game the Quakers would eventually win 35-6.

As the second half began, Sidwell took advantage of a Maret special team mistake. On Maret's first drive of the half, the overwhelmed team played with little confidence and faced a recharged and relentless Sidwell defense. The Frogs were forced to punt on a fourth and 12 play from their own 25-yard line.

Center David Klien, who often had trouble snapping the ball, made his most costly mistake of the game, sending a low snap to kicker Oliver Umpleby. Umpleby, while attempting to retrieve the ball from the ground, was mobbed by two Sidwell defenders who tackled him at the 8-yard line, where Sidwell took over on offense. A couple of plays later, running back Andrew Kessner dived in for his second touchdown of the game, as Sidwell increased its lead to 28-6 midway into the third quarter.

Despite Sidwell's steady play in the middle of the game, the beginning of the game -- while ample in opportunities -- was by no means a cakewalk for the Quakers. After twice moving the ball inside the opposing 20-yard line in the first quarter, Sidwell failed to score on either drive.

The Quakers weren't the only ones who had trouble taking charge of opportunities, though. With 4:48 left in the first quarter, Maret's Moffett completed a pass to Alex Kirby at Maret's 41-yard line. Kirby nimbly darted toward the sideline and sped down the left side for 50 yards to the Sidwell 20. On the next play, though, Maret gave the ball right back to Sidwell, as Moffett botched the snap and Sidwell recovered

Maret bounced back from the fumble, and the Frogs squad took an early lead on the perennial powerhouse. The score was set up on a 26-yard catch by tight end Willie Fix, who was wide open five yards down the middle of the field, as Sidwell sent all of its linebackers on a blitz. Fix received the ball and fell forward while plowing over a Sidwell defender at the 3-yard line. After two running plays which went nowhere, Moffett surprised Sidwell defenders by taking the ball himself and running three yards for a touchdown on a sweep to the left side.

Maret's extra point was blocked, but it was evident that the Frogs were unified and euphoric about their position. As Maret prepared to kick off, the entire team -- including those on the sideline -- began rhythmically pounding their knee pads in unison.

That feeling of confidence was short-lived, as on Sidwell's next drive, Andrew Lyons-Berg -- a 6-foot-1, 200-pund junior who usually spends time playing offensive line -- ran steadily down the left side for a first down into Maret territory at the 39-yard line. After moving the ball down to the 31-yard line, fullback Zac Mueller used the full force of his 185-pound frame to bounce defenders off and employ a crafty spin move to evade Maret's middle linebacker. Junior Maret linebacker Patrick Carr reached out and tugged Mueller down at the 14 for a touchdown-saving tackle.

But based on its previous running plays, Sidwell had reason to believe it would soon be it business. And it soon was.

Maret hunkered down and forced Sidwell into a fourth and 2 play at its 6-yard line, but Sidwell's Kessner ran through a hole in the middle, built on the blocking of Quinn Coleman, and scampered into the endzone. After the extra point, Sidwell had a 7-6 lead with 6:16 left in the second quarter and would hold on dominantly throughout the rest of the game.

Later in the first half, senior Ben Baker made a 35-yard reception on a perfectly thrown high-arching spiral, which set up a touchdown a couple of plays later. Stephens's 40-yard interception dash down the sideline spearheaded Sidwell's 21-6 lead.

The day ended with one more astonishing play by Sidwell to account for the final score of the game. The Sidwell defensive line, through its speed and aggression, constantly beat its Maret counterparts on offense and once again pressured Maret quarterback Moffett.

As Moffett went back to pass late in the fourth quarter, Sidwell's Coleman lunging at him unguarded from the middle of the field. Moffett, to avoid the sack, lobbed the ball toward the middle of the field, but Coleman hit Moffett's hand as he wound up to throw, disrupting the pass, which went directly to defensive back Jon Mishoe behind the line of scrimmage. Mishoe followed his lead blockers and enlivened a previously nonchalant Sidwell crowd, as they watched him go 90 yards down the field for a touchdown, making the final score 35-6.

Despite his team's dominant play, Sidwell Head Coach John Simon noted that his Quaker squad still needs to improve its cornerback play and decrease its penalties. But Simon was more than happy at the play of his running backs.

"When we get going, nobody can stop our running backs," he said.

Copyright 2005 The Common Denominator