CONCORD >> Ridley senior Allen Martin was told at halftime to be ready to make a big play. Not just any old play — the game-winning play.
“They came up to me and said, ‘A-Mart, you’re winning the game for us.’ That’s what I was told,” Martin said Friday night, recalling what coaches and teammates told him in the locker room at Garnet Valley.
— Matt Smith (@DTMattSmith) September 10, 2016
The Green Raiders had done this before. Quarterback Cade Stratton takes the snap and flips the ball to running back Malik Young behind the line of scrimmage. Young fakes as if he is going to run, stops and fires a pass to a wide receiver streaking down the sideline.
“I mean, I wasn’t nervous about it,” Young said. “If you look back from last year, I had the same passing play. The coaches this year saw it the day we did that and they believed in me that I could to do it again.”
This would be a defining moment in a young season.
“My boy A-Mart made a beautiful catch and we just rocked with it,” Young said. “The coaches believed in me, the line blocked beautifully and we just completed the play.”
Young connected with Martin for a 36-yard touchdown to allow Ridley to tie the game with 3:29 to go in the fourth quarter. Kyran Baker drilled the extra point to put the Green Raiders ahead to stay.
In an incredible, must-see Central League showdown between two Delco heavyweights, Ridley earned a 28-20 victory. It was the Green Raiders’ first win over the Jaguars since 2012.
— Matt Smith (@DTMattSmith) September 9, 2016
Ridley sealed the win with old-school Green Raiders defense. Tough and in-your-face, coach Dave Wood’s crew never relented. They dominated the second half, allowing just 21 yards of offense. Linebacker Ryan Gricco and John Sheldon were stars on defense.
The trickery that catapulted the Green Raiders in front late was nice, but it was the Green Raiders’ ability to control the clock that made the difference. In the second half, Ridley ran 64 offensive plays to Garnet Valley’s 25.
“It’s something we had in our back pocket, but … were able to run the football and not allow them to have the football as much,” Wood said. “At times, we got pinned down our end and they had great field position. I think we made two outstanding defensive stands in the second half and we just kept plugging away.”
On fourth-and-long, Ridley’s defense forced Nick Juliano to fire an incomplete pass. All the Green Raiders (3-0, 2-0) needed was to run out the clock. Ociele Miller broke a few tackles for a 13-yard gainer to get to the Garnet Valley 1-yard line. Two plays later, Stratton pushed through a slew of bodies at the line of scrimmage to hit paydirt, giving Ridley a 28-20 lead.
Two Ridley interceptions put the game to bed. Brock Anderson, who was awesome all night, had the first. On the final play of the night, Gricco picked off Juliano. Game over.
Garnet Valley did its damage in the return game. On the opening kickoff, Danny Guy took the ball 85 yards to the house to give the Jaguars (2-1, 1-1) an early advantage. Then, in the fourth quarter and with the teams deadlocked, 14-14, Jacob Buttermore sprinted 73 yards to the end zone to put GV up by six.
“The punt return, we talked about it all week. Our corner just pinched a little and Buttermore made a great play,” Wood said. “I always say that in any big games, your best players need to step up. Buttermore did it for them, and for us, Stratton, Anderson, Malik, those guys did.
“This is a group … that we’re seeing is finally developing a little bit. They just have to keep working, one day at a time and one play at a time. In the past, I think that’s been their downfall…
“Hey, we could have easily folded in this game. The kickoff goes 80 yards to start the game and then the punt return in the fourth quarter gave (Garnet Valley) the lead. But our kids kept plugging away and I’m proud of them.”
It’s clear that the Green Mystique is back. Ridley is in a three-way tie for first place in the Central League with Marple Newtown and Springfield.
“It’s 100 percent the best win ever. I’ve never won on this field before,” said Anderson, who was Ridley’s workhorse.
Not only did he make a key interception late in the fourth quarter, Anderson gained 122 yards on 17 carries and scored on a 61-yard run in the first quarter. The do-everything senior also averaged 38.8 yards per punt.
“Coming into this week, we knew we were in for a tough battle. Last week was a tough one, too. They’re a great program, they’re well-coached and they are strong, big kids,” Anderson continued.
“We have a full season ahead of us. We’ll enjoy this one for tonight, but we’ll get back to work for next week.
“We knew tonight we really had to get the extra step on them. We wanted to control the ball and shove it down their throat like we know how to do. We wanted to keep everything in our hands and our coaches did a really great job calling the plays and understanding where to attack their defense.”