As the clock ticked down, most members of the Archbishop Ryan High School football team were celebrating.
Not Matt Malley.
And it’s not because he wasn’t elated the Raiders capped off the season with a win.
Malley is a junior linebacker for the Raiders, and he was just as happy as everybody else dressed in red and black on Thanksgiving morning. But instead of exchanging fist bumps, high fives or headbutts with his teammates, he was trying to catch his breath and not throw up.
“I’ve been sick all week, I was really sick before the game and I was sick on the sidelines at the end,” said Malley, who lives around the corner from his school. “I didn’t think about not playing. I couldn’t do what I usually do, I only played defense today. I have the flu, but I feel a lot better now. I’m ready to eat.”
Malley was talking minutes after exiting the bus back at his school. He was riding high from his team’s 17-6 victory over George Washington in the annual Thanksgiving Day game.
Malley did his part, notching 11 tackles, eight solo, and one sack.
The game, which was broadcast on 94.1 WIP, had many heroes. One was former Washington quarterback Kyle Schumann, who guided the Eagles to a victory over Ryan during his freshman year. He scored a touchdown on a short run, made seven tackles, including two for a loss, and notched a sack.
The Raiders defense gave up an early touchdown to the Eagles, but after that put the squeeze on Washington’s offense.
“We play a really tough schedule, so we were ready for today,” said Malley, who led the Raiders to the Class 4A Catholic League championship, losing to Bonner-Prendergast. “We gave up the early touchdown, but after that we kind of figured out what we had to do. Our coaches had us ready and they had a great game plan.”
Malley was happy to do his part, especially considering he was close to not being able to take the field. But he wasn’t doing it for himself.
“I couldn’t let my seniors down,” Malley said. “They’ve done so much for this team. I had to be there for them. They’re always there for us.
“We have some really good senior leaders on this team. They were great. They always made sure we knew what we were doing. There was no way I was missing this game.”
Ryan had an interesting season. After starting out slow, the Raiders rebounded to finish 6-5, a winning record.
“We played pretty well, we had a good year,” Malley said. “We knew that if we came out and played the way we could, we would be good.
“Today I didn’t play offense, they kept me on defense. We had a lot of seniors really play well today. Today was about them. They’ve done a lot for this team, so (it was good) to see them play like that.”
Malley was one of the top players all season for the Raiders.
On top of chipping in on offense as a blocker, receiver and running back, he led the defense all season, averaging a team-high 6.8 tackles per game and ended the season with six sacks. He also led the team with 18 tackles for loss.
He’s hoping he can be even better for his senior year.
Ryan returns a lot of talent next year, led by Malley, and he’s not taking much time off before he starts training for his senior season as soon as he kicks the flu.
“Last year I wrestled and that really helped me a lot,” Malley said. “I think that made me a better football player. But I’m not wrestling this year. I think I’m going to get into the weight room and start lifting. I’m going to focus on football.
“We have a good team coming back. We learned a lot from the seniors, and we’re going to start working now.”