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Heat takes toll, but Toal helps fuel Haverford School comeback

CHESTER >> Since the completion of a perfect football season last winter, the coaches, players and fans of Haverford School were looking for a sign that it could happen again.

By the time they all rolled out of Widener University’s Quick Stadium Friday night after a tell-tale 37-34 victory over nonleague host West Catholic, the sweat and the score were at least hinting at the possibility.

“At halftime, we knew we were either going to tuck away,” quarterback Tommy Toal said, “or try to take the game back. And I’m really proud that these guys were able to do what they did.”

What the 2-0 Fords did was recover after trailing, 20-8, at the half and 26-16 after three with a dominating 21-point fourth quarter. Equally willing, the Burrs nearly concocted their own recovery, drawing within three with a minute to go, dropping to 1-2 only after the final on-side kick attempt failed.

Haverford School’s Mallik Twyman embarks on a power rush Friday night against West Catholic in what became a superb, back-and-forth game won by the Fords at Widener University. (Digital First Media/Anne Neborak)

Haverford School’s Mallik Twyman embarks on a power rush Friday night against West Catholic in what became a superb, back-and-forth game won by the Fords at Widener University. (Digital First Media/Anne Neborak)

“At halftime, I wasn’t happy, not from an X’s and O’s standpoint,” Fords coach Michael Murphy said. “I wasn’t happy with the week of practice we had. I wasn’t really thrilled with the way we competed in the first half. Listen, it was a tough night out here, but I felt like we were feeling sorry for ourselves there a little bit. But we brought it together. I thought our coaches did a great job. And these guys never gave up. And that’s the motto of our football team. We are going to fight. And we did.”

Toal threw for 210 yards, including a 77-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Hudson on the game’s third play from scrimmage, and a 32-yard score to Sam Lindner, good for a lead with 7:40 left. West Catholic quarterback Da’Vion Kidd-Jackson countered with 269 yards passing, throwing for three touchdowns and rushing for a pair.

Mallik Twyman had 171 rushing yards and two Haverford School touchdowns as the Fords won their 21st straight game.

“All the seniors stepped up, the young guys stepped up, it was a team effort tonight, totally,” Twyman said. It wasn’t me. It wasn’t Tom. It was everybody on this football team.

“I think at the beginning of the season, we had aspirations of what we wanted to be. But there was a little doubt about how we could do it. But after this game, I have no doubt in my mind that this team can be great.”

The Fords looked great early, when Toal caught Hudson open for the 77-yard touchdown pass, then connected with Asim Richards for a two-point conversion just 54 seconds after kickoff.

“It was kind of a broken play,” Toal said. “I had back-side pressure and I saw Aaron. He was smart enough to keep dragging across the field. And I threw it up and he ran right under it and took it to the house. That was great to see.”

The Burrs answered with a safety, then benefitted repeatedly from Murphy’s new policy of refusing to punt, even when deep in Haverford School territory, with Kidd-Jackson throwing two touchdown passes to Tahj Powell before scoring on a keeper 18.4 seconds before halftime.

“That’s something we came into the season thinking about,” Murphy said, shaking his head and smiling. “I’ll tell you, it is a lot easier to say it on Wednesday than it is to do it on Friday night.”

Kidd-Jackson hit Ahmad Kent with a 21-yard touchdown pass early in the third, but an interception by the Fords’ Conner Mosebrook helped signal the turnaround. Twyman scored on a 13-yard carry late in the third and Toal matched it early in the fourth. Lindner’s TD reception and a four-yard Twyman scoring run maintained the Fords’ momentum.

Kidd-Jackson scored on a 14-yard run and hit Rovney Dasilva with a two-point conversion with a minute to play. That’s when the three PAT kicks from Chase McCollum proved to make a difference.

“It was a huge win,” Murphy said. “We’ve played them for years and they’ve gotten the better of us more than we’ve gotten them. We’ve gotten them the last two years but that’s always a good football team. They do a great job over there. They will have a great season.”

Haverford School just may have another one, too. Or so read the most recent signs.

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