HAVERFORD — Quarterback Tommy Wright and offensive lineman Tommy Touhill sneaked away from coach Luke Dougherty’s postgame speech after Haverford’s 20-14 win over Upper Darby on Thursday at AG Cornog Field.
Wright and Touhill weren’t disrespectful. You were on a mission.
As soon as Dougherty finished speaking, the two seniors reappeared to douse the Haverford coach with a Gatorade bath.
“It’s a tradition here,” Wright said.
Wright didn’t want to break that time-honoured post-game ritual, especially after the 100th Thanksgiving Day reunion between the Fords and the Royals, a game steeped in tradition.
“It’s one of the best feelings ever,” Wright said. “Last year, unfortunately, we didn’t lose a win in this game, so this year we really wanted to. We wanted to prove ourselves.”
That was evident early on when the Fords (6-5, 4-4 Central League) took a 20-0 lead at half-time and then had to fight for their lives to end a 28-21 loss to the Royals (4th Minutes). :7) to avenge , 3-5) last season. Wright and the defense had a lot to do with it.
Wright completed 7 of 15 passes for 197 yards and two TDs, a 65 yarder for Ethan Mahan and a 50 yarder for Tyler Rogers. Mahan caught three passes for 105 yards. He set the Haverford records for a season (12) and career (22) for receiving touchdowns. Wright also ran 13 times for 57 yards and a score. Wright was named the game’s offensive MVP.
Meanwhile, the Haverford defense held the Royals to 32 total yards and 14 for the game in the first half. The Fords had 10 tackles for the loss, three from Chris Cassidy at the defensive end, and held Upper Darby at minus 3 yards to rush to the game.
“It was hard to move the ball against them,” said UD’s Montez Ellis, who rushed for 85 all-purpose yards in the first half. “We hurt ourselves, hit each other, shot each other in the foot and they took every opportunity we gave them.”
The Fords were in the lead, but they didn’t rest on that advantage.
“We knew they were going to give us a fight, especially in the Turkey Bowl,” Wright said. “We knew the game was far from over. We emphasized that.”
Defense and special teams allowed the Royals to make a game out of it. Linebacker Kamar Perlote fired Wright, took the football from him, picked it up and rushed 41 yards to put the Royals on the board.
“I was just grateful to be put in this position to build and shake up my team,” said Perlote, who was voted defensive MVP.
Upper Darby’s defense kept the Fords at bay, but it was special teams that brought the Royals closer to a point. Junior defenseman Kaleel McLaughlin flew in and blocked a punt by Mahan at 8:49 to play in the fourth quarter. Nate O’Donnell interfered from a yard out two games later to make it 20-14 with an 8-07 lead.
However, the comeback was not to be. Upper Darby was stopped on Haverford’s next possession but failed to capitalize. On the first down, Haverford defenseman Ben Fleming picked up an O’Donnell pass intended for Ellis.
It was 4:51 on the clock and the Royals never got the ball back. Offensive linemen Tommy Dixon, Burke Julian, Henry Gillespie, Touhill, Derek Kaercher, Will Cascarina and tight Justin Marciano allowed the Fords to time out and claim their 50th win of the series.
The celebration began with just over two minutes of play when Cassidy hugged Wright and Rogers during a time out and culminated when Wright and Touhill threw a Gatorade bucket at Dougherty.
“It means the world to win this game,” said Mahan, who will play baseball in Rhode Island. “We’ve had so many people come out and support us this year. After last year, that day was forever marked on our calendar.”