Maurcus McDaniel and Malcolm Folk made the big plays in Episcopal Academy’s dramatic victory over Penn Charter on Saturday in the Inter-Ac League football opener for both teams.
They produced the bricks the Churchmen used to construct a fourth-quarter comeback from a 17-7 deficit for a 21-17 triumph.
Matt Bush supplied the mortar.
“He does all the little things that make the difference for us,” McDaniel, the undefeated Churchmen’s star quarterback, said of Bush.
Episcopal Academy coach Todd Fairlie regards Bush, a senior running back and linebacker, as the unsung hero of the No. 6 team in The Inquirer’s Top 10.
Bush usually operates out of the spotlight as a blocker on offense and run stuffer on defense. He doesn’t mind doing the dirty work.
“I’ve never been one to take the spotlight,” Bush said. “It doesn’t matter to me. Anything to help the team win.”
The visiting Churchmen needed Bush to assume a more visible role in the battle with the Quakers, who held a 10-point lead as the game clocked winked below the 6:00 mark at Maguire Field.
Thrust by injuries into a role as a prime ball-carrier, Bush responded with 96 yards on 16 carries. He produced 25 yards on four carries in the two fourth-quarter scoring drives that rallied the Churchmen to victory.
“I’m not used to having the ball in my hands,” Bush said. “But the O-line makes it easy. Maurcus makes it easy.”
McDaniel ran for one touchdown to cut the lead to 17-14 and hit Folk with a 14-yard strike for the go-ahead score with just 0:32 on the clock.
But it was Bush’s tackle on a third-down scramble by dynamic Penn Charter quarterback Kyle Jones that forced the Quakers to punt, setting the stage for the Churchmen’s final drive.
“He does so many things for us,” Fairlie said of Bush. “He never says a word, just goes out and does his job.”
Episcopal Academy has registered impressive victories over No. 8 Northeast and previously undefeated Penn Charter thanks in large part to the play of McDaniel and Folk, an all-purpose junior standout.
But the Churchmen also have relied heavily on the steady work of Bush and the big guys along both front lines.
“I really do think we’re capable of doing something special,” said Bush, who lives in Garnet Valley. “No one has a super big ego and makes it all about them. Everyone just does their job.”
McDaniel said Bush, his fellow team captain, is the master of the small contributions to the cause: a key block, a 4-yard gain on third-and-3, a key tackle just short of the first-down marker.
Bush has made his share of big plays, too, including a crunching block to clear the way for one of McDaniel’s touchdown runs against Northeast as well as a key interception that night against the then-undefeated Vikings.
“He does everything to keep us moving,” McDaniel said of Bush. “He never complains. Not ever.”
Standing on the field after the pulse-pounding victory over Penn Charter — secured when a Quakers pass on the game’s final play fell incomplete in traffic in the end zone — Bush could only sigh in relief and look ahead to the Churchmen’s final four games in the loaded Inter-Ac League.
“We play four really good teams. It’s going to be really exciting,” Bush said. “If all four games end up like this, I’ll be really happy.”