Everything that could have gone wrong for the Malvern Black Knights high school junior football team, did.
After starting strong with a seven-play push, the Black Knights made it within the Blues’ 15-yard line, but failed to make good on the field goal attempt for an early lead.
From there, it was all downhill for Malvern, who made it to the finals in their inaugural season.
“One of the big things we had a problem with was we had a lot of turnovers, which killed us,” said Malvern head coach, Rob Salvatore.
The Blues capitalized immediately, scoring the first touchdown of the game on their next possession against a shaky Black Knights defence. Not 30 seconds later, the Malvern quarterback threw an interception which was run for a 40-yard return, resulting in an eventual touchdown, and a 13–0 deficit after one quarter.
From there, consistent fumbles and wacky plays prevented the Black Knights from any hopes of making a comeback.
We made some big mistakes in the first half.
— Rob Slavatore
“We knew if we were going to stay in the game we had to play a disciplined game and make smart plays,” Salvatore said.
“Unfortunately, this week we made some big mistakes in the first half.”
One such mistake included a funky play in which one of the Black Knights’ running backs took his eye off his quarterback and was struck in the head with the football.
The Black Knights continued to struggle against the tougher Blues squad, who forced a fumble on the next play and recovered the ball in the end zone for an easy touchdown, and a 20–0 lead after the first half.
“They are a big physical football team. We knew we were out-sized and they have a lot more speed than we do,” Salvatore said.
“We struggled on both sides of the ball and especially with their size and their athleticism.”
The experienced Blues team, which has won three of the past four titles, played a swift, persistent game without any major hiccups from both the offensive and defensive squads.
The bigger defensive line stonewalled Malvern for most of the game, and would have shut them out if it weren’t for a late, desperate fourth-quarter safety.
Blues head coach, Rohan Dove, credited the victory to his team’s strong offensive strategy in continually running the ball on the outside. Malvern’s defensive woes were best exposed after a quick motion right that left them stunned, providing enough space for the Blues to drive the outside and open the scoring in the first quarter.
“We were prepared for them,” Dove said.
“We knew their plays pretty well. We executed on defence quite well, which was much better than the last time we played. There were a lot of mistakes and we were able to rectify them.”
The two teams first met last month where the Blues squeaked by with a late touchdown for a 15–6 victory. But Dove’s team managed to maintain pressure against the Black Knights on a day where everything seemed to go wrong.
With less than two minutes left, Malvern’s quarterback tossed the ball laterally to his wide receiver, who, instantly under pressure, threw it right back. The return pass was marginally wide, however, resulting in a turnover and a touchdown, and the icing on the cake.
Despite the tough loss, Salvatore is happy with the Black Knights’ 3–2 record in their first ever regular season. Going 2–1 in the playoffs was above and beyond his expectations, and provides hope for next year’s team he says.
“We knew what to expect from [the Blues], but when it came down to it they were more physical and they were the better football team today,” Salvatore said.
“I think next year we will be a lot farther ahead than we were this year. We just have to continue to grow and improve, and maybe we’ll have a chance to make some more noise.”