UPPER DUBLIN >> Early this season, Upper Dublin High quarterback Ryan Stover raised a few eyebrows when he mixed in a high percentage of runs with his passing and play calling.
Not known as a running quarterback, Stover, nonetheless, proved effective as his runs loosened up opposition defenses and bolstered the Cardinals offense.
This week, however, as Stover and the third-seeded Cardinals prepared to meet Garnet Valley in the opening round of the PIAA District One Class AAAA football playoffs, the Cardinals coaches decided it was time for the running Stover to make his return.
And the senior was all-too-happy to oblige.
Stover ran for four touchdowns and threw for another as the Cardinals eased past the Jaguars, 35-3, to advance to the second round of the postseason.
“I ran a lot to start the year,” Stover said, “but then I put it in my back pocket. But this week, our quarterbacks coach, Paul Winters, told me to take it back out of my pocket and that I was going to carry the ball a lot.
“There were a lot of things we saw on film that they did, coverage-wise, that showed I was going to be able to break the pocket.”
And so he did.
On the first play of the Cardinals’ second series, Stover took the snap from his own 17 and bolted 83 yards to put the home team on top, 7-0, with 7:19 left in the first quarter.
And that was only the beginning.
After forcing a Jaguars punt on the ensuing series, the Cardinals went 84 yards on eight plays to double their lead.
Included in the drive was an incredible diving catch by Jack Rapine right in front of the Cardinals sideline that would be showing ad nauseam had it been made on Saturday or Sunday.
“That was just Jack,” Cardinals head coach Bret Stover said. “That’s what you want from your captain and senior leader.”
Stover polished off the march with a 27-yard dart to Max Winebrake. And it was 14-0 with 1:40 left in the first quarter.
After another defensive stop, the Cardinals tripled their lead when Stover scored from the 3-yard line, a scoring drive keyed by passes of 36 and 25 yards to Rapine.
Garnet Valley finally put a drive together midway through the quarter, and got on the board with a Jacob Buttermore 30-yard field goal with 2:26 left in the half.
It could have been worse for the Cardinals, but after reaching the UD 6-yard line, a dead-ball personal foul call pushed the Jaguars back to the 21.
It cut the Garnet Valley deficit to 18, but the Cardinals weren’t done.
They went 70 yards on 10 plays, the final one a 2-yard Stover touchdown with 21 seconds left in the half.
Stover capped the scoring when he ploughed into the end zone from the 1-yard line with 5:39 left in the third quarter.
And it was on to Round Two.
“We’re kind of used to people saying we shouldn’t be beating these bigger schools,” Ryan Stover said. “Those schools usually run a two-platoon system at us.
“We have a lot of guys that go both ways. But it doesn’t bother us. We’re a gutty team.”
The Cardinals had a scare when end Isaiah Henrich was taken off the field by ambulance early in the fourth quarter.
The extent of his injury was unknown, according to Stover.
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