HAVERFORD >> Haverford High quarterback Jack Donaghy kicked extra points and field goals this season when his good buddy and regular Fords kicker Evan Boyce missed several games due to injury.
Kicking was Donaghy’s hidden talent. Since he was a little boy, Donaghy has been a member of the Delco Gaels, one of the premier Irish football clubs in the country. The Gaels are based in Haverford.
“The sport is like rugby, soccer and handball rolled into one,” Donaghy said. “We won five (national championships) in a row and lost the sixth one this year in San Francisco. I’ve become best friends with kids all over Delaware County, and even some Bucks County and Montgomery County kids. Those friends will last forever just because we’ve been playing the sport together since we were 6 years old.
“In fact, the Bradley twins (Haverford School’s Conor and Shane) that were (Daily Times) Players of the Year in soccer (in 2013 and 2014), their dad runs the whole program and they’re two of the best gaelic football players on the whole continent. It’s a pretty crazy sport, but it’s a whole lot of fun to play.”
So, when the Fords needed someone to serve as kicker and punter, Donaghy gladly volunteered his services. Those gaelic football skills came in handy.
“I would be clueless out there otherwise,” Donaghy said, laughing. “Just having that little bit of foot skill makes a difference.”
Donaghy is pretty good at his day job, too, which entails throwing the ball, not kicking it. In a senior year to cherish, Donaghy guided Haverford to its first Central League title in 20 years with an epic, 49-42 victory over Upper Darby on Thanksgiving. He threw for 307 yards and scored seven touchdowns that day, including five through the air. The greatest Turkey Day game in county history ended with Donaghy running 19 yards to the end zone with 18 seconds to go in the fourth quarter to give Haverford the lead. With that touchdown scamper, Donaghy locked up 2015 Daily Times Player of the Year honors.
Donaghy headlines the 2015 All-Delco football team selected after consultation with county coaches.
Joining Donaghy on the All-Delco offensive team are running backs Isaiah Bruce (Upper Darby), Jermaine Wesley (Academy Park) and Derrick West (Garnet Valley), receivers Abel Hoff (Marple Newtown) and Dox Aitken (Haverford School), and linemen Brian Denoncour (Haverford School), Lou Lombardo (Bonner & Prendergast), Nykeal Jalloh (Academy Park), Justin George (Garnet Valley) and Shawn Page (Upper Darby).
The All-Delco defensive team consists of linemen Togba Porte (Academy Park), Frank Cresta (Haverford School) and Tim Bradley (Garnet Valley), linebackers Mickey Kober (Haverford School), Jack Farrell (Haverford), Dario Falcone (Radnor) and Tom Becker (Springfield), and defensive backs Clarence Buchanan (Academy Park), Teddy Wright (Academy Park), Calvin Fielding (Upper Darby) and Naiqjuan McKenzie (Upper Darby).
Academy Park’s Jawan Collins and Haverford School’s Micah Sims were selected for their all-purpose abilities, while Marple Newtown kicker George Lambritsios is the specialist. Hoff, Aitken, Denoncour, Lombardo, Falcone and Buchanan are All-Delco selections for the second straight year.
Bruce and Aitken were both in the running for the Player of the Year award. Bruce became the county’s all-time single-season rushing king while Aitken guided Haverford School to a perfect season and third straight Inter-Ac League title.
At 5-foot-9, Donaghy chuckles at the thought of wishing he was a few inches taller. But his diminutive stature has never deterred him from achieving his goals.
“It was probably second grade, maybe, when I started understanding the game a little bit. I started playing flag football with Annunciation (BVM),” Donaghy recalled. “That’s when I noticed I was throwing the ball a little bit farther than some of the other kids. They just gave me the ball a little more and more, and that’s when it started to hit me that, yeah, I wanted to be the guy that throws the ball.”
Donaghy remembers how nervous he was the night he received his first significant playing time on varsity. It was freshman year and the Fords were in the first round of the District One Class AAAA playoffs. They were losing by three touchdowns to a superior Central Bucks South team when All-Delco quarterback Eddie Durkin was knocked out of the game with an injury. That’s when coach Joe Gallagher called Donaghy’s number.
“I just remember at halftime, my whole body was shaking,” Donaghy said. “Kev Leyden (All-Delco running back) came up to me and said, ‘Just relax. You’re not on this team because you’re not a good football player. We trust you.’ That helped me.”
Donaghy passed for 116 yards with a touchdown and an interception in a 24-point loss. He would go on to start every game at Haverford the next three years.
By senior year, Donaghy had established himself as one of the top QBs in Delco. He shattered Haverford legend Steve Joachim’s career passing record that had stood since 1969. He beat Ridley for a third straight year and led the Fords to victory over Garnet Valley, a win that had the team brimming with confidence on its journey to becoming Central League champs. His 2,706 yards this year are the second most in county history, and he became just the second Delco quarterback to throw for more than 5,000 yards in a career.
When it was over, Donaghy had completed 62.6 percent of his pass attempts for 5,296 yards and 65 touchdowns. That resume will get him inducted into the Haverford High School Sports Hall of Fame one day.
One college program will be lucky to have Donaghy come next fall. He is receiving interest from Ursinus, Franklin & Marshall, Dickinson, Lycoming and Trinity (Conn.).
Donaghy’s book at Haverford is written.
“It won’t hit me that it’s over until the juniors and underclassmen start lifting again, and I won’t be a part of that routine,” Donaghy said. “All the hard work eventually paid off, and I think that showed this year.”
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