Football: Bryan, Springfield defenders improve week by week

SPRINGFIELD — Two games don’t make a season, but it’s safe to say that Springfield is legitimately one of the teams to beat in the Central League.

This team is dangerous.

Whether it’s their strong defensive front that offers no resistance, or their dominant offensive line that opens up holes for a fast-paced running game, the Cougars seem to have it all going for them after two weeks. Thursday’s home opener was another one-sided affair. A week after blanking Cardinal O’Hara, Springfield began its Central League schedule with a 36-0 shutout of Radnor.

Springfield’s Nate Romano, left, and Ethan Marshall, right, surround Radnor running back Amir Byrd in the second quarter Thursday night at Springfield High School. (Pete Bannan – MediaNews Group)

In two games, the Cougars (2-0) have outscored the opposition 63-0. And much of its success can be attributed to a new attitude.

“We’ve completely changed our program and there’s nothing like winning twice in a row to start the year,” said Gus Bryan, a 6-2, 240-pound junior lineman. “The intensity, the attitude is just different. We all believe. The offensive line has the hardest working guys in the Central League and to shut out a team, there’s no better feeling.”

Defensive linemen Fred Withrow and Mike Miller brought the heat in the first quarter, getting a nice push down the line of scrimmage and bottling up Radnor’s ball carriers for turnovers. It happened over and over again.

“It all comes down to conditioning, man,” Bryan said. “Conditioning and we lift heavy. It all comes down to wearing them down. It’s the third quarter and we’re still in full sprint… and we also have depth. One man leaves, another enters. We rotate. It’s about strength and conditioning. We love to work hard.”

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Junior linebacker Ryan Johnston ignited the home crowd in the first quarter with an interception by Radnor quarterback Tucker Graham. Johnston carried the ball 20 yards home, breaking multiple tackles along the way, to give the Cougars a 7-0 lead.

Springfield’s Tyler Gougler gets a first down in the second quarter of a win over Radnor on Thursday. (PETE BANNAN-DAILY TIMES)

Springfield’s next offensive possession was controlled by running backs. The Cougars rushed 12 plays, all runs, covering 78 yards. Junior fullback/linebacker Nate Romano capped the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run. Ty Gougler’s two-point conversion run made it 15-0.

Gougler led a balanced running game with 123 yards on 13 carries. Brad Barber added 48 yards on four totals, while Romano had 31 yards on six carries. All three players found the end zone. The Cougars averaged more than 7.5 yards per carry.

“Every time they get the ball, I do my best to block for them,” Romano said. “And when I receive the ball, I run to the fullest. That’s how I think all the time and it’s working well.”

With the success of their running game, the Cougars haven’t had to rely on senior quarterback Jake Rama, who has one of the best arms in Delco. Rama was 4 of 11 for 85 yards, including a beautiful hit to Aidan Kreydt wide for a 43-yard touchdown. It was the first big pass of the season for the Cougars.

“Finally,” Kreydt said with a smile. “It felt good to get one and start 2-0. As long as we’re winning and getting the ball onto the field, that’s all that matters to me. It’s fun.”

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Radnor (1-1) gave Kyle Yeiter a 25-6 victory against West Philadelphia in his head-coaching debut last week in Springfield. His second visit didn’t go so well.

The Raptors couldn’t set up a running game and Graham struggled to connect with his receivers, who had eight knockdowns on the night. The bright spot was senior athlete Amir Byrd, who showed his game-changing ability when the Raptors were able to get the ball into his mitts. Byrd rushed for 62 yards on five carries and had three catches for 25 yards. He also excelled on the defensive secondary.

Yeiter knew Springfield would be very tough, but as many Central League teams will soon find out, he didn’t know how much better the Cougars are compared to last season.

“I mean, you see a ton of movies from last year and a few movies about them this year. This is a much, much better team than last year,” Yeiter said. “The Central League is the Central League, it’s as good a league as there is and these guys are good. Next week we have Garnet Valley, so it won’t be any easier.”

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