RIDLEY TWP >> Mike Romanofsky has excelled in recent weeks as the new feature back in Haverford High’s offense.
Romanofsky runs low to the ground and loves to hit people. And he tends to run them over.
Friday night at Phil Marion Field, in another big test for a Haverford team that has its eyes locked on a Central League championship, Romanofsky grinded out 71 yards and two touchdowns to lead the streaking Fords to a 21-13 success over Ridley. It marked the third consecutive season that Haverford has beaten Ridley.
“All the stuff that you go through in the summer to get here,” Romanofsky said, “it all pays off.”
Romanofsky wasn’t the star Friday night, one week after he racked up a career-high 138 yards in a 24-12 decision over Radnor, but he was the thunder to quarterback Jack Donaghy’s lightning. Whenever Donaghy needed a blow from carving up Ridley’s athletic secondary, Romanofsky went to work. His 7-yard scoring dash — which was more like a rumble — on the first play of the fourth quarter extended Haverford’s one-point advantage to eight.
“Up front has always been (Ridley’s) strength. They’re very tough and physical,” Donaghy said. “You have to be able to run the ball in a football game, you can’t just be one-dimensional. Mike’s been huge for all us year. So, we took what the defense gave us and our (offensive) line came up big again.”
While the Fords (8-1, 6-0) produced just 81 yards on the ground, the yardage accrued was timely and kept Ridley’s defensive unit — buoyed by Seamus Boyle, who was all over the place — honest.
Because whenever Donaghy dropped back to fire the ball, he was unstoppable.
No, really. He couldn’t miss.
Donaghy, who last week broke Steve Joachim’s 46-year-old program record for most passing yards in a career, had a field day with his receivers, notably Matt Corbett (seven catches, 55 yards) and Bobby McClure (four catches, 96 yards). Donaghy misfired on just one pass, and that was only because his receiver slipped at the last moment. Otherwise, he would have been perfect. Still, though, 16 of 17 for 227 yards and a touchdown is pretty sweet.
Donaghy dinked and dunked against Ridley’s defense to set up the bombs he launched at the most opportune times. He hit Corbett on a pair of 5-yard passes to start the second half before he aired the ball out to McClure 49 yards for a touchdown. McClure made an awkward-looking catch, then darted to the end zone to put the Fords in front to stay, 14-7, early in the third quarter.
“Coming out of the second half we were thinking, let’s take what the defense gives us and not really try and go for it all in one play,” Donaghy said. “But the big stuff did open up and we were able to hit Bobby, which was huge.”
Donaghy said it was important for Haverford to keep a positive mindset after Ridley quarterback Cade Stratton engineered a scoring drive that ended when Stratton found Tom Reilly in the back of the end zone with five seconds to go in the second quarter, tying the score at 7-7.
As the Fords rushed the field for the third quarter, Donaghy feigned a calf injury by going down on one knee, horrifying his teammates.
But he was only messing around.
“Sometimes it’s a little tense out there,” Donaghy said. “Just trying to keep it loose.”
Haverford’s defense in the second half wasn’t a joke. Denis Spaventa sacked Stratton on fourth-and-3 in the fourth quarter. Later, Tyler Kimble tracked down Stratton on third and long to force a punt, and on Ridley’s final drive of the game, Ethan Samel had an interception to seal the Fords’ eighth straight victory.
Containing Stratton, who isn’t afraid to take off with the ball, and Malik Young, Ridley’s leading rusher, were chief concerns for Haverford.
“It was a part of our game plan. We lined up a little bit wider and made sure we were keeping our eye on (Stratton),” said senior linebacker Billy Farrell, who registered a sack. Billy’s junior brother, Jack, also had a big night at the position. “Him and the running back are fast kids.”
Stratton and Young (73 yards, 18 carries) displayed their talent on one particular play that brought the Green Raiders (6-3, 4-3) from within a point of tying the score. Stratton threw the ball to Young in the backfield and Young aired a halfback pass to a wide-open Nadir Forney, who covered 52 yards for a touchdown to cut Haverford’s lead to 14-13 in the third quarter. Stratton’s two-point rush failed.
Stratton, who is only a junior, has a bright future as Ridley’s top signal caller. He entered the week as the fourth-highest rated quarterback in the county with more than 1,029 yards passing.
“We had a lot of momentum going into halftime … but some things didn’t fall for us,” said Stratton, who was 7-of-15 for 77 yards. “We had penalties that brought us back a bit. Stuff like that happens, it’s high school football, but we battled.”
Haverford’s senior class can graduate knowing that it had Ridley’s number in three straight years. And for the third year in a row, the Fords knocked the Green Raiders out of the District One Class AAAA playoff race.
“Whenever you can beat a perennial team like Ridley,” Donaghy said, “it always feels pretty good.”
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