Ryan’s role players make huge difference in win

Sean Conway and Aidan Degnan are exactly the kind of players who are willing to do anything for their team.

Sean Conway (76) started at guard for the Archbishop Ryan football team on Thanksgiving. The Raiders downed Washington 38–14. JENN COLLIER / RYAN QUARTERBACK CLUB

Football teams need all types of players.

They need stars who can carry the team.

They need fiery leaders who can lead the team when things hit a rough patch.

Then you need guys who are willing to do whatever it takes to help the team.
That’s exactly the type of players Sean Conway and Aidan Degnan were for the Archbishop Ryan High School football team.

Conway was a starting offensive guard. Degnan was a reserve lineman. And both seniors made sure to come to play every time there was a game, and just as important, every time there was a practice.

“We had a really good year together, it was a lot of fun,” Conway said. “We beat Judge, that was the biggest game of the year for us because they’re like our biggest rivals. Well, them and Washington. Beating Judge was definitely the highlight of the season for me. That’s the game we want to win.”

Good news for Conway and all of the Raiders is that Ryan won its two biggest rivalry games.

On Thanksgiving, Ryan bested Washington, 38–14, in the annual holiday game.

The Raiders relied on their usual key cogs, including senior running back Jason Jefferson, who went for 161 yards and three touchdowns, and junior quarterback Jahlil Sanders, who rushed for 96 yards and touchdown, while adding 50 yards receiving.

But arguably the most exciting run of the game came on the final play when Degnan, best known for being a workhorse lineman in practice, took a handoff 30 yards.

“Watching Aidan run the ball was probably one of the coolest things we saw this season,” Conway said. “He’s a good kid. And he’s a lineman, so it’s fun to watch someone have so much fun out there. He did a great job with it, too, rushing for 30 yards.”

For Degnan, it was a career highlight.

Degnan is a quality player, but his biggest contributions this year came on the scout team when he was helping the Raiders prepare for their opponents in practice. And even the best linemen dream about having a play called for them to touch the ball.

“When we put the play in, I was a little nervous, but during the game, I wasn’t really,” the Somerton native said. “It was really fun. The blocking was great.

“The best part was my uncle found a way to get it on TV when we got home, so we watched it that night. I liked seeing it. It was a great way to end my career.”

Degnan enjoyed posting the run, but he enjoyed helping Ryan any way he could.

He admits he would have liked to see the field more, but he was happy he was able to give the team good looks during the week to help them prepare for the big games.

“I would just try to help them any way I could, and that meant working hard in practice and playing hard,” said Degnan, who missed most of his junior year with a knee injury and started on the junior varsity squad as a sophomore.

“I’m happy that I was able to help the team. I would have liked to play more, but if I wasn’t going to play, it was my job to make sure they were ready when it was time.”

They were.

Ryan advanced to the Catholic League 5A championship and finished the year 6–7 despite playing a schedule that included two games against defending 5A state champion Archbishop Wood, as well as dates with St. Joe’s Prep and La Salle, who are among the top teams in Southeastern Pennsylvania.

One of the team’s strengths was the offensive line, which helped the Raiders pile up plenty of rushing yards during the season.

“It’s fun to run because it means they’re relying on the line,” said Conway, who lives in Calvary. “I think we did pretty good. Against Washington, we got off to a slow start, but once it started clicking, we played well together.”

Neither Conway nor Degnan are happy their high school football careers are over. In all likelihood, neither player will continue their career at the college level, so their playing days are probably over.

But neither senior is upset about that. They’re more upset they won’t return to the practice field this week to prepare for the next game.

“I think I’m ready for it to be over, but I’m definitely going to miss it,” Conway said. “I’m going to miss the players and the coaches. We were always together. We were good friends. I’m going to miss that a lot.”

“I’m going to miss all of the players, but I think I’m going to miss the linemen the most,” said Degnan, who still considers himself a grunt even after starring in the backfield on Thanksgiving. “You spend so much time with the guys on your position. I’m really going to miss just working with them. This was a fun year, and I’m going to miss everything about it. The coaches and the players, and I’ll really miss the guys who I practiced with all year.”