YEADON >> At the end of the day, all Tayvon Ruley could do was smile. Penn Wood’s senior running back made sure to leave his mark at Kerr Field Saturday afternoon.
In his final high school game, Ruley rushed for 236 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Patriots to a convincing, 34-14 victory over Chester.
“It felt great. This is exactly what I wanted us to do,” said Ruley, who touched the ball 31 times and fell a yard shy of matching his career high. “I wanted to go out on a good note so that we could build to next year and keep the tradition going.”
That tradition has taken a hit in recent years, but Ruley believes the program is in good hands moving forward. After going winless in Nick Lincoln’s first year at the helm, the Patriots ended the year with their best record since the 2010 campaign, the last time the program claimed the Del Val League title.
The Patriots are close to competing again. They lose only four seniors, including Ruley and two-way lineman Jordan Johnson, but have a strong nucleus returning next fall.
“I’m leaving on a good note,” Ruley said. “We struggled in the beginning. When I came here, in 10th grade, we only won one game. Our coach always said that it’s a mindset, that we have to build our program because everyone is so young.”
Saturday’s outcome was one the Patriots could be proud of. They went out and defeated the rival Clippers for the first time since 2011.
“We had to stay focused,” Ruley said. “Before the game, I heard they were making fun of us and stuff like that, and we took that to heart. Once we got into the game we just strapped up and balled out.”
When they began the season with a 20-0 victory over Bensalem, the Patriots started to believe what Lincoln had been telling his players all along. Lincoln, a former assistant coach at Imhotep Charter, doesn’t mince words. His goal is to win championships. To Lincoln, setting the bar low accomplishes nothing. The Patriots dropped six straight decisions after their opening-day victory, falling to winning programs such as Marple Newtown, Haverford High and Haverford School, which is the No. 1-ranked team in the county.
“We just weren’t the team that could fight through adversity early in the season,” Lincoln said. “We were in a lot of games that I don’t think people expected us to be in. We were in it against Marple and in it with Academy Park at halftime. Now that I look back on our schedule, we had a reasonably tough schedule out of the league. Just about every one of those teams are playoff teams.
“This was a big win for us against a physical team. Chester has a great front seven. I’ve seen them play against every team that we’ve played against and I felt like we did a good job running the ball. To get Tayvon free like that, it was good to see him able to finishing his career the way he did.”
In the post-game huddle, defensive lineman Kenny Ngaima gave a brief speech thanking his senior teammates. Ngaima is only a junior, but was one of the team captains this year and one of the top students in his grade.
“It was just something that I wanted to say, because I’m really going to miss those guys,” Ngaima said. “It’s kind of weird thinking back when I was a freshman, and I used to always see those guys and follow in their steps, and now that I’m a junior … it’s all going too fast. We didn’t have many of them (seniors), either. It really brought the junior class together. We basically acted like seniors on the team.
“A win today just makes me more hungry. We knew we had it this year, but we had too many mental mistakes and that set us back. Next year … we’re going to handle business. All the things outside of the game, the attitude issues, we’ve got to fix that and just keep proving to ourselves that we can win.”
Chester fired the opening salvo in the first quarter when Jamir Green hooked up with Jaquan Flood for a 64-yard touchdown pass. The Clippers had a chance to take a two-score lead on their first possession of the second quarter.
An impressive 11-play drive flattened out when Green lost a fumble at the Penn Wood 20-yard line. Ruley and the Patriots made the Clippers pay.
Javon Lindsey-Terrell’s 16-yard completion to Tyquon Brodie helped set up Ruley’s first rushing score of the day, a 1-yard plunge with less than three minutes to go before halftime. Ruley converted the two-point run to give the Patriots a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
The Patriots (3-7, 2-3) assumed total control of the game on the first play of the second half. Ruley followed his blocks at the point of attack and jolted 49 yards to the end zone, extending Penn Wood’s lead to 14-6.
“My coach just kept telling us that we’re going to keep attacking them,” Ruley said. “We never stopped.”
Ruley added a 22-yard scoring scamper in the fourth quarter to give the Patriots a 34-6 advantage. He finished his senior season with 1,264 yards.
“I’m really proud of myself, but I give all the credit to my front five and my wide receivers blocking on the outside,” Ruley said.
Lindsey-Terrell completed 13 of 20 passes for 142 yards. Eric Cummings returned one of three Penn Wood interceptions for a touchdown.
Flood led the way for the Clippers (2-7, 2-3) with four catches for 129 yards and also had an interception. Rashee Alexander also recorded a pick in the loss.
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