by Jonathan Vander Lugt
“We only had seven seniors this year,” Springside Chestnut Hill head coach Rick Knox said following Saturday’s game against the Haverford School. “The biggest goal for today was getting them a victory, a winning season and a multiple-win Inter-Ac season.”
The Blue Devils haven’t had the latter two since 2014, the current seniors’ freshman year. Knox had to be pleased when SCH walked off the field with a 24-20 win over the Fords.
“They deserve it – they’ve been a super class-act group of guys,” Knox said. “I told them yesterday that they truly epitomize student athletes of high character. They’re exactly what I want to coach. To get to work with seven men who work as hard as they do, care as much as they do and are as unselfish as they are has been a pleasure.”
The game was close and tense throughout. The Fords took the game’s opening drive 78 yards for six, punctuated by a five-yard Patrick Toal touchdown run. SCH marched right back, capping a 74 yard drive with a two-yard run by Nick Logue.
Two drives later, a bad snap led to a blocked Haverford School punt, setting the Blue Devils up from the Ford eight-yard line, where Logue took the first play in for a score.
Later, a 34-yard flea-flicker pass from Jack Elliott to Myles Hugee in the second quarter set up an 18-yard Jack Meyer field goal. The 17-7 margin would be the largest that SCH would enjoy.
“We practice certain trick plays and we’ve been practicing that one all year – it was a good spot to use it,” Knox said, of the pass between Elliott and Hugee. “It didn’t get us in the end zone, but the field goal there made a huge difference.”
On the play, Elliott took a pitch from quarterback Aaron Angelos and swept right, but rather than run the ball, Elliott pulled up to throw and found Hugee deep.
After the teams swapped possessions, Haverford School’s Mike Gerber connected with Nate Whitaker for a 36-yard score, bringing the game to 17-14.
In the second half, the Fords weathered three turnovers before scoring to take a 20-17 lead in the fourth on another Gerber-Whitaker strike – this one for 90 yards. Meanwhile, SCH was stumbling all over itself, as the Blue Devils missed a pair of field goals and committed six penalties in the third quarter – three false starts, two holding calls and an unsportsmanlike conduct.
Two drives before Haverford’s go-ahead score, one of the holding calls turned a first-and-10 on the Ford 17 into a first-and-20 from the 27-yard line. After an uninspired run and an eight-yard sack, the Blue Devils were stuck with fourth-and-29 from the 36.
It was too close to the end zone to make a punt useful, too long of a distance on fourth down to go for it and too far to realistically hope for a field goal. Jack Meyers tried anyway but missed, giving the Fords the ball.
Luckily for SCH, the Blue Devils got a break when they needed it. Rob Gentile took the kickoff from Haverford’s touchdown 80 yards to the Ford 18-yard line, where Angelos eventually found Hugee for a 17-yard score. The Blue Devils went up 24-20, and withstood three more Haverford School possessions to keep it that way.
“A win’s a win,” Knox said. “If you look at the majority of the game, we feel like it didn’t need to be as close as it was.”
Haverford School committed 13 penalties and three second-half turnovers, while going three(or less)-and-out nine times, not counting scores. Had SCH not committed nine penalties of their own, or went three-and-out six times themselves, the game’s margin may not have been as narrow.
“That said, (Haverford School) made big plays when they needed to, so you have to give them credit,” Knox said. “Defensively, they really blitzed us hard, and we weren’t able to run the ball as much as we wanted to.”
Hugee led the way for SCH with a stellar day in all facets – special teams, defense and on offense. He led the Blue Devils with a score and 106 yards on six receptions, intercepted a third-quarter Gerber pass and recovered the aforementioned blocked punt.
“He’s really stepped up lately. Obviously, we’re down our other receivers and Myles filled that void,” Knox said. “He’s been tremendous on defense too, with the interceptions, tackles, everything. He’s really become our big-play receiver.”
Elsewhere, Rob Gentile finished with 119 scrimmage yards on 23 touches, and Angelos went 12-of-19 for 189 yards.
The victory seals SCH’s first winning season since 2014, and gave this year’s seniors the ability to leave their last home conference game victorious. The Blue Devils (6-4, 2-2) close their season next week at Malvern Prep (5-4, 4-0), which has already clinched at least a share of the Inter-Ac title.
“To get them two league wins at home, they can really hold their hat on that,” Knox said. “We’ve got one more week together. This is a great group of guys. Against Malvern, we’re going to have a lot of fun, go at it and play our best football.”
As for the rest of the area, La Salle bounced back, while Germantown Academy and Penn Charter each continued their downward and upward trends, respectively.
The Explorers, on the heels of two consecutive losses, walloped Roman Catholic 45-0 in the Philadelphia Catholic League’s Class 6A semifinal. Isaiah Jones led with 74 yards and two scores on 11 carries, and Joey Burnham chipped in with 53 yards on five carries. With the win, La Salle has earned a rematch with St. Joe’s Prep for the league’s 6A title, which will be played Friday at Northeast High School
Germantown Academy failed to score in the double digits for its third straight week in a 28-7 loss to Malvern Prep. Freshman Lacey Snowden has taken over at quarterback, and though he was efficient in a 9-for-12 outing, he failed to move the ball enough, as the Patriots finished with just 106 total yards. GA (4-5, 1-3) faces Penn Charter (8-1, 3-1) Saturday.
Speaking of the Quakers, Penn Charter rolled against the Episcopal Academy. Edward Saydee eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark with a 141-yard performance. Wide receiver John Washington followed up a big game the previous week against SCH with another stellar showing, this time finishing with 123 yards and three scores on just five touches. The Quakers are rolling into their matchup with GA – the country’s longest-running scholastic football rivalry – hot, with a combined 91-28 margin in its last three games. If PC wins, it has a chance to share the league crown if Springside Chestnut Hill can beat Malvern Prep.