HAVERFORD >> Celebrating championships has become commonplace for the Haverford School’s football veterans. But Saturday’s coronation was more subdued than the previous two.
As the players mingled after finishing a 42-14 win over Germantown Academy that clinched at least a share of a third straight Inter-Ac title, the air of accomplishment was muted. The reason was twofold: Not only was the work not done for the season, but the execution of Saturday’s victory left something to be desired by the Fords’ usual high standards.
“We did not play a perfect game whatsoever,” defensive back/wide receiver Micah Sims said. “Coach (Mike) Murph and the coaching staff will do a great job of telling us what we need to clean up and we’ll execute even better next week.”
Calling a four-score victory that featured a second-half shutout underwhelming may seem harsh, but it speaks to the outstanding level to which the Fords (9-0, 4-0) have often adhered this season. Saturday’s effort — replete with 12 penalties, seven punts and a bevy of missed assignments on both sides of the ball that pushed Murphy to light into his players as the clock ticked under four minutes in the final quarter — was decidedly incomplete.
But in a league that offers few off days, the Fords, even at less than their best, aced the Patriots’ challenge.
Though the defense bent in the second quarter, it held firm in the third when momentum hung in the balance. A 36-yard scoring connection between GA quarterback Kyle McCloskey and Santino Miriello with 28 seconds left in the first half on a busted coverage sent the teams into the break at 28-14 with GA (7-2, 2-2) receiving the second-half kickoff.
But the Patriots’ third-quarter series were a disaster. They went three-and-out on the first thanks to a Keyveat Postell pass breakup, then after a Fords punt, started moving before Forry Smith rushed off the edge to hit McCloskey on a fourth-and-long pass attempt.
Six snaps later, keyed by a sideline route from quarterback Tommy Toal to Postell that covered 34 yards, Malik Twyman bulled in from 15 yards out for his third rushing touchdown, restoring the three-touchdown bump and easing any anxious nerves.
Toal to Aitken for 25, then Tywman finishes. Fords answer, up 28-7 https://t.co/LBA5QwUW08
— Matthew De George (@sportsdoctormd) November 7, 2015
“Coach Murph was just telling us that they’re a great offensive football team,” Sims said. “We have to keep our head on a swivel. They could come out and score and make it a one-possession game right away, so we wanted to get the three-and-out, and that’s what we did. We executed on defense very well.”
“We converted a couple of things,” said McCloskey, who finished 14-for-37 for 220 yards. “A couple of people made some great plays, and our line really stood tall. Our defense made some stops, and we made some big plays to get us back in the game.”
That point was reinforced in the closing minute of the second half, when Postell stepped in front of a pass and sprinted 91 yards for a touchdown. Sims leapt for a fade route in the corner of the end zone four minutes into the fourth quarter, corralling his third interception of the day.
“We knew that if they put it up top, we’d have to make plays, and that’s what we did,” Sims said. “We knew that they’d make a couple of plays themselves, but we just had to come back and have a short memory and get right back at it.”
Where defensive execution dominated the second half, the driving force of the first 24 minutes was provided by the Fords’ offense.Toal capitalized on soft GA coverage to hit Dox Aitken for a 54-yard score on the second series, and he found Twyman for a 12-yard score on the first play of the second quarter, staking the Fords to a 21-0 lead.
The junior completed 10 of his first 11 passes and finished 19-for-27 for 247 yards, hitting six receivers, led by Aitken’s five catches for 113 yards. But what he did best was set up Twyman in short-yardage situations.
The junior tailback notched scoring runs of 4 and 1 yards in the first half, en route to 20 carries for 157 yards.
Tommy Toal to Malik Tywman for a 12-yard TD. Fords up 21-0 https://t.co/3Vc0LM2S1G
— Matthew De George (@sportsdoctormd) November 7, 2015
“I think teams get so used to us throwing the ball,” Twyman said. “Coach Murph is a great coach, we’ll offset them by the pass and then we’ll throw an inside zone run in there, and it usually works. … When we get there, I feel like it is my job to finish the (drive). If we’re not passing, I feel like it is my job.”
On a day where they weren’t at their best, the Fords had enough individual brilliance to get through. The focus of the season’s final week will be ensuring that such an escape won’t be necessary in the rivalry showdown with Episcopal Academy that determines if the Fords are outright champs.
“It’s weird having the last home game here,” Sims said. “But we have one more. We haven’t gotten it yet, and we don’t want to share it. We have one more win to go. We said 10-0 at the beginning of the season, and we’re not there yet.
“We have one more game to go, it’s EA and it’s the big one, so we’re going to be ready to go.”
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