After dropping four of its first five games this season, a flustered Malvern Prep football squad used a much-needed bye week to sort out its issues.
"Sure, there's a level of concern at that point," first-year head coach Dave Gueriera said. "But the way we handled it was to keep working and grinding. As a staff, we believed in what we were doing."
The Friars, who ended up with a 6-4 record, responded to the early disappointment, which included an embarrassing 45-21 defeat at the hands of La Salle, by running the Inter-Ac League table for the first time since 2011.
"La Salle is a good football team, but we really made a lot of mistakes," Gueriera said. "Most of them came on defense. But we learned more about ourselves."
Malvern capped a 5-0 league showing with Saturday afternoon's 52-21 romp over visiting Springside Chestnut Hill Academy. "The kids never wavered in believing we were a solid team," Gueriera said. "It says a lot about their confidence and resiliency."
Drew Gunther converted 8 of 12 throws for 206 yards and four touchdowns in the win over Springside Chestnut Hill. O'Shaan Allison carried 18 times for 118 yards and a pair of scores.
Halfback Quincy Watson hauled in a pair of touchdown passes from Gunther, while receivers Keith Maguire and Quinn McCahon each grabbed one. "We spread the ball around pretty well," Gueriera said.
Gunther passed for 1,667 yards and 18 touchdowns in nine outings. The 6-foot-3, 195-pound junior has drawn recruiting interest from Bucknell, Lehigh, Temple, and Wake Forest.
After missing eight games last season due to injuries, the Ohio University-bound Allison rushed for 1,000-plus yards and 11 touchdowns.
Watson, a 5-9, 180-pound junior and multipurpose threat, is being eyed by the likes of Colgate, Temple, and Villanova. "I think he's going to have a lot of options," Gueriera said.
The Friars offensive line was made up center Harry Stinger, guards Joe Basiura (6-3, 295) and Buck Walsh, tackles Jake Hornibrook (6-4, 270) and Brendan Flynn, and tight end Danny Garrity. Basiura will continue his career at Penn.
A 4-4 defense was headed by tackle Ryan Betz; linebackers Watson, Maguire, Cole McCabe and Nick Gueriera, the coach's nephew; cornerbacks McCahon and Liam McKnight; and safety TyGee Leach.
Betz and McCabe, who returned one of his two interceptions against Springside Chestnut Hill for a score, are both headed to Bucknell,
Maguire, a 6-2, 215-pound junior who is projected to play linebacker in college, has scholarship offers from Baylor, Duke, Syracuse, and West Virginia, among others.
In addition to Gunther, Watson and Maguire, Malvern is expected to bring back fellow juniors Hornibrook, Gueriera, and Leach next season.
Oxford's Chandler England connected on 138 of 240 passes for 2,190 yards and 20 TDs in 11 games.
In two seasons as a starter, the 5-11, 170-pounder threw for 3,738 yards and 28 scores. The Hornets' all-time leading passer is Dan Green, a 2016 graduate who passed for 4,357 yards and 37 touchdowns.
England's primary target, fellow senior Brandon Holz, had 151 catches for 1,073 yards and 10 scores this season.