By PETER DiGIOVANNI
MALVERN -- Coming into Friday night’s Inter-Academic League clash between Episcopal Academy and host Malvern Prep in the first night game ever at Pellegrini Athletic Complex, the Episcopal defense allowed just 14 points all season.
The Churchmen brought their tremendous defense again, and, by the way, tossed in a superlative performance from senior quarterback and University of Pennsylvania recruit Adam Strouss, who threw two touchdown passes and threw for 251 yards. Malvern was snowed under by the two-pronged attack and Episcopal Academy got a leg up in the Inter-Ac race with a convincing 26-7 triumph.
“We have been waiting for this game all year,” Stouss said. “We knew that Malvern is always at the top of the league and we put a lot of hard work and film study into this game. And it being their first home night game we figured they scheduled us because they thought it would be an easy win.
“We sort of meesed up that plan and we were tired about hearing about us not playing top teams like they do. We feel we are one of the best teams in the area and we played good football tonight.”
The Churchmen (3-0 Inter-Ac, 8-0 overall) took the opening kickoff and marched down the field behind the strong arm of Strouss and the golden hands of Ian Strain, who caught nine balls for 157 yards. They drove 60 yards in eight plays with Strouss going the final five on the ground for a 7-0 lead.
But Malvern (2-1, 5-3) matched the Churchmen on their first possession and scored on a fourth-and-goal when quarterback Bill Ford went in from a yard out to knot the score at 7-7. From there, it was all Episcopal Academy for the last three-and-a-half periods.
The Churchmen defense sacked Ford six times and held Malvern to 101 yards on the ground and 97 through the air. The Episcopal defense was led by Evan Butts, who had two sacks and a fired up bunch up front as they would not let the Friars mount a serious scoring threat after the first drive.
Joe Carlini had a big night catching six balls for 60 yards, but the Friars could never string a series of successful plays together against a defense that had five shutouts on the season coming into the game.
“They took it to us,” Malvern head coach Kevin Pellegrini said. “They got up by two touchdowns in the first half and a lot of that was because we could not get pressure on Strouss. Our defense played better in the second half but offensively we just could not sustain a drive.”
Episcopal was up 14-7 after a 33-yard strike from Strouss to Strain down the left side as the Churchemn QB threaded the needle for the score.
Malvern appeared to have life on the next posession as they drove past midfield on a Connor Bohs run up the middle. But at the end of the play Bohs was stripped by Teddy Ibarguen and the Churchemn recovered the fumble at their own 27-yard line.
The play ignited another Episcopal march as Strouss ran 10 yards and knocked over Malvern defender Eric Purnell during the 20-yard jaunt. Two plays later Strouss hit Troy Gayhardt with a perfect 36-yard TD pass for a 20-6 halftime lead.
Episcopal’s defense really clamped down in the second half, sacking Ford five times and controlling the line of scrimmage. The last score of the game came early in the fourth when Strain went around the right side from the four and Malvern was a game back of the Churchemn and Haverford School in the league race.
“This was a total team effort against a very good Malvern team,” Episcopal Academy head coach Todd Fairlie said. “Adam had a good game and our defense played well.”
Episcopal Academy 26, Malvern Prep 7
Episcopal Academy 7 13 0 6 - 26
Malvern Prep 7 0 0 0 - 7
E-Strouss 5 run (Hager kick)
M-Ford 1 run (Dollfus kick)
E-Strain 33 pass from Strouss (Hager kick)
E-Gayhardt 36 pass from Strouss (kick failed)
E-Strain 4 run (pass failed)
First downs 18 13
Yards rushing 130 101
Yards passing 252 97
Total yards 382 198
Passing 14-28-0 10-18-1
Fumbles-lost 0-0 2-1
Punts-avg 2-33.5 5-31.0
Penalties-yds 2-17 6-28
Rushing: EA: Strouss 20-85, TD; Fellazini 11-36; Smith 3-5; Strain 3-4, TD. MP: Gallen 8-59; Bohs 7-45; Purnell 6-9; Ford 10 (-26), TD.
Passing: EA: Strouss 13-24-0 251 yards, 2TD; Whayland 1-4-0 1 yards. MP: Ford: 10-18-1 97 yards.
Receiving: EA: Strain 9-157, TD; Gayhardt 1-36, TD; Hager 3-47; Perretti 1-12. MP: Carlini 6-60; Ammermann 1-16; Gallen 1-22; Bohs 1 (-9).
Sacks: EA: Butts 2, Mclauhglin, McAvoy, Addona, Ibarguen. MP: None.
Interceptions: EA: Strain. MP: None.
Follow Peter DiGiovannia at twitter.com/dlnsports