HAVERFORD >> Before Jack Donaghy could win the game with his legs, he needed his arm to deliver in a big spot Thursday against Upper Darby.
With the Central League championship at stake, and the Fords facing a fourth-and-10 in the waning moments of the fourth quarter while trailing by seven points, Donaghy’s career rested on making this one pass.
Donaghy put his trust in junior Chris Trainor, who had caught a touchdown pass earlier in the day. When the ball left Donaghy’s fingertips, it was high and appeared destined to go incomplete.
Trainor had other ideas. There was no chance he would let the ball sail over his head and out of bounds, which essentially would have ended Haverford’s chances at winning the game. The 5-8, 152-pound trainor leaped in the air and fought through solid coverage by UD’s talented defensive secondary. Trainor made the catch of his life and Haverford was on its way to scoring the game-tying touchdown.
“He’s been making plays for us all year and he made some incredible plays for us today I put it up there in hopes that he would make an incredible catch and I think he did that.”
Trainor snagged a 16-yard reception and, on the next play caught a 16-yard pass. Trainor would finish with four catches for 78 yards.
“I’ve been dreaming about playing in this kind of game since I could walk,” Trainor said. “It had to happen. I had to make that catch.”
Moments later, Donaghy threw the game-tying touchdown pass to Matt Corbett. Upper Darby coughed up the ball on its ensuing drive, setting the stage for a remarkable finish to what was the game of the decade in Delaware County.
Fords coach Joe Gallagher allowed his best player to win the game. Donaghy took a quarterback draw 19 yards to the end zone to give Haverford a lead it would not relinquish.
Final: Haverford 49, Upper Darby 42 for the Central League championship on Thanksgiving. An estimated crowd of 5,000 witnessed an instant classic at A.G. Cornog Field.
When Donaghy darted past a zone rush and maneuvered through oncoming traffic in the form of Upper Darby’s secondary, Donaghy crossed the goal and threw his arms in the air in celebration.
Donaghy with his legs. 19 yards. 19 second left!! https://t.co/clk9DuydBU
— Matthew De George (@sportsdoctormd) November 26, 2015
It was a perfect way to drop the mic on a phenomenal career that saw Donaghy break the Haverford career passing record and come 21 yards shy of setting the county’s record for most yards in a season.
The Fords erased a seven-point deficit — gained by the Royals when Isaiah Bruce ran from seven yards out for his 37th touchdown of the year — with less than four minutes to go. It was a storybook ending to an amazing career for Donaghy. Although it was the Fords’ goal to get into better range for kicker Evan Boyce, Donaghy joked that there was no way he was allowing his best friend — Boyce — to make the game-winner.
This baby was all Donaghy’s.
“Once I saw the opening, I was off,” Donaghy said. “It’s amazing.”
Donaghy was 16-of-26 for 307 yards and accounted for seven touchdowns (five passes and two runs). He ended the year with 3,296 yards and 33 TD passes.
“He’s some kind of special,” Gallagher said.
Despite getting sacked three times (courtesy of defensive back Jeremy Keita each time) and committing three turnovers, Donaghy had a game for the ages. It’s a kind of game that made him a Delco football legend.
Donaghy was the no-doubt-about-it choice for game MVP. Upper Darby’s Shawn Page, a relentless two-way senior lineman, earned defensive MVP honors.
Somehow, the Fords (10-2, 8-0), who captured their first Central League title in 20 years, weathered the storm of running back Isaiah Bruce and quarterback Christoff Minott, the senior stars for the Royals (10-3, 7-1).
Bruce’s fumble on his final high school carry, which was scooped up at the Haverford 48-yard line by Ethan Samel and returned 39 yards the other way to set the Fords up for the winning touchdown, doesn’t overshadow his amazing senior campaign. Bruce shattered the Delco football single-season rushing record (which had stood for 11 years) by ending the year with 2,450 yards. His 37 touchdowns are a county scoring record. Thursday, Bruce amassed 203 yards.
“They are such a good team,” Haverford senior linebacker Jack Farrell said. “That’s exactly what we expected. We kept our heads straight and kept going. Bruce is so good and he’s eventually going to break out. We had him for a little while, but there’s only so much you can do to stop him and Minott.”
Upper Darby ripped off 28 straight points after Haverford jumped out to a 38-14 lead. With time expiring in the opening half, Minott threw a strike to Brandon Morton (six catches, 112 yards) in the end zone to trim the Royals’ deficit to 35-21.
Bruce’s record-setting touchdown — a 1-yard somersault over the goal line — cut the Haverford lead to 35-28 in the third quarter. Minott, who rushed for 110 yards and passed for 132, sprinted eight yards to paydirt with 29 seconds to go in the period, knotting the score, 35-35. Bruce gave the Royals their only lead with 3:57 to play in regulation.
This was dubbed one of the most highly anticpated games in Delaware County history, and both Haverford and Upper Darby gave it everything they had.
After the game, as players lined up to shake hands, Donaghy and Bruce shared a brief hug. It was a nice moment between the county’s best players.
“It’s a pretty surreal feeling,” Donaghy said of the win. “I’ll remember this forever.”
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