by Jody Kessler
Chestnut Hill Academy and The Haverford School matched up Saturday in an epic battle that would go a long way in deciding the Inter-Ac football championship. Both teams came in undefeated in the league at 3-0.
The first half was an exercise in futility for both teams. The Fords started with possession and moved down the field successfully, gaining four first downs before attempting a field goal. It looked good, but as the home field announcer reported it was “apparently wide.” The teams traded futile possessions but then Haverford was on the move again, to start the second quarter. Using smash-mouth football, running right up the gut, they produced three more first downs. Big Joseph McCallion bulled his way forward leading Haverford to the 15-yard line.
But then the futility kicked in. First, a big holding call dampened the Haverford threat. The penalty was followed by a sack that took them out of scoring range and forced a punt. When Chestnut Hill finally broke a long gain, a reverse run by Forrest Rall, it was called back for holding. They were forced to punt. With eight seconds to go in the half, Haverford completed a pass and attempted a hail Mary that was knocked down keeping the score 0-0.
The Blue Devils had the ball to start the second half and quarterback Danny Gallagher kicked it off with a quick first down run. Then he passed to Bobby Keyes for a first down. Then running back Cedric Madden got in the mix with a nine-yard gain. After a first down run, Keyes had a big gain, and almost broke away for a long one, but he stepped out of bounds.
This proved to be a big play. CHA couldn’t convert a first down and was forced to turn the ball over and set the Fords up for the first scoring drive of the game.
McCallion went to work running hard for first downs. When the Fords got down to the eight-yard line for a first and goal another holding call backed them up. They faced what looked like an insurmountable second and 29. Quarterback Stephen Fitzgerald dropped back to pass and under-threw the ball to Goran Murray, but Murray made the catch on the one-yard line and fell into the end zone for a touchdown that sent the Haverford home crowd wild.
CHA, however, pulled off a big play when the Devils’ Brian Dones blocked the extra point. CHA would get two good opportunities to come back but failed on each outing. First Corbin Booker returned the next Haverford kickoff to the 46-yard line. He would have made it farther if not for Haverford kicker Aron Morgan who made a saving tackle. Although they would have to punt, Ford punt returner Nick Craig fumbled the ball and CHA recovered inside Ford territory. Gallagher rolled out on a bootleg but was picked off by Ethan Brown who ran it all the way back for a touchdown taking the wind out of CHA’s sails for good.
CHA had a four and out on the next possession, and Haverford hit the nail in the coffin on their next drive, with a 18-yard touchdown by Carl Walrath to finish the scoring at Haverford 18, CHA 0. The Fords moved to 4-6 with the win. With a win next week, Haverford can win the league outright, something they have not done in 38 years. CHA was left wondering what if, but should not hang their heads as they played their hearts out. They will play Malvern next week.
“We didn’t finish what we needed to, that’s what happened,” said Booker. “That’s how the outcome came out how it did. We made a couple critical mistakes on pass plays and some things that didn’t go our way and that’s what costs us.”
CHA coach Rick Knox said, “They have a little bit more experience, other than that I don’t know that there is too much difference. We had a great opportunity with seven minutes left. Unfortunately in a game like this someone has to win and someone has to lose. 18-0 was not indicative of the game. The interception return is what broke our back, they play great defense. We talked about how close and hard fought game it was going to be and it was. We have a great group of kids, they love being together, one week to go, we’re going to get at Malvern. It will be a legacy of a team talent wise not what we have had the last couple years but they worked hard and stuck together.”