They are head coaches of three Delaware County football programs, in three different leagues, but they share a common bond.
You can call it the Widener connection.
Todd Fairlie of Episcopal Academy and Cardinal O’Hara’s B.J. Hogan were standouts under Ridley first-year coach Dave Wood when he was running the show at Widener in the 2000s. Today, all three are enjoying tremendous success coaching their respective teams.
In Wood’s first crack at running a high school program, he’s guided Ridley to a 4-0 record. Hogan, who took over at his alma mater last year, has piloted O’Hara to a 4-0 mark, while Fairlie has led Episcopal to a 3-0 record.
“Woody was one of the best football minds I’ve been around, especially defensively,” Hogan said. “I was with him all four years (at Widener). The first
two years he was the DC and then got promoted to head coach. You just learn a lot about the Xs and Os and about the 3-4 and quarter coverages. Back then, it really helped me. Todd came in when I was there and he was an All-American when I was a senior. It’s a pretty cool connection.”
After his remarkable career at Widener, Fairlie, a four-time All-American in football and lacrosse, became a graduate assistant under Wood. The experience was invaluable to Fairlie, who became head coach at Episcopal after the 2010 season.
“What I always took from Coach Wood was his passion and how every day he would come out firing and ready to go,” Fairlie said. “I also coached under him for two years after I played for him, so just the day-to-day organization and almost the OCD of always being prepared and always being organized in everything we did, it was probably the most important thing that I took from him. The off-the-field organization stuff, it was really great for me to see as a young coach. It’s the same standard I set at Episcopal with my staff.”
Since his arrival, Fairlie has gained the reputation for being one of the brightest young coaching minds in the area. Hogan’s success as an assistant at Tennessee-Chattanooga obviously prepared him for the incredible progress he’s made at O’Hara in less than two years on the job.
But Fairlie and Hogan would agree that Wood has had a major influence on their coaching careers.
“I know Woody is having success with his program and Todd is doing a great job at Episcopal,” Hogan said. “The Widener connection. It’s a cool thing to see.”
Here are five Delco football games to watch this weekend:
Bonner & Prendergast (1-3) at Cardinal O’Hara (4-0), 7
After an impressive Week 1 defeat of Upper Darby, the Friars have been in a tailspin. During their three-game losing streak, the Friars have been outscored, 77-28, including a 16-8 setback at Lansdale Catholic last week. Alex Coll had a big night with nine catches for 113 yards.
The Lions aim for their first win over Bonner since 2013. Unbeaten through four games for the first time in six years, the Lions have received a series of strong performances by quarterback Tommy O’Hara, who threw two touchdowns and ran for 112 yards in a 35-13 rout of Bishop McDevitt last week. Justin Santilla was the recipient of both touchdown strikes.
Marple Newtown (4-0) at Upper Darby (1-3), 7
Junior quarterback Anthony Paoletti put on quite a show in the Tigers’ 38-12 shellacking of Conestoga last week. He connected on three of four touchdown passes in the first half and finished 13 of 21 for 247 yards, his fourth straight game with at least 205 yards through the air. Cameron Mathes and Dash Dulgerian (four catches, 148 yards) each had two touchdown receptions.
The Royals got in the win column for the first time in 2016 with a 40-0 drubbing of Harriton. Senior quarterback Nate Rimel was sharp, going 12 of 15 for 223 yards and two TDs.
Penncrest (2-2) at Ridley (4-0), 7
The Lions look to get back on track following a 28-0 loss at Haverford last week, but doing so won’t be easy. The Green Raiders enter the week as the No. 1-ranked team in Delco. Chris Mills threw for 118 yards and Manny Ruffin had four catches for 85 yards against Haverford.
The Green Raiders are flying high. After a dominating performance at Garnet Valley in Week 4, coach Dave Wood’s squad took down a tough Strath Haven team, 38-17. Malik Young (104 yards), Brock Anderson (98) and Cade Stratton (87) did a ton of damage on the ground as Ridley accrued 370 yards rushing.
Penn Charter (1-0) at Interboro (4-0), 7
The Bucs used a 28-play, 99-yard drive in the fourth quarter to score the go-ahead touchdown in their 20-16 road win over Sussex Central (Del.).
The Quakers are coming off a two-week layoff. They were victorious in their season opener against Lansdale Catholic, 35-14. The Bucs will face one of the top quarterbacks in Southeastern Pa. in Mike Hnatkowsky, who was 6 of 10 for 150 and three TDs in the win over LC. Hnatkowsky passed for 1,771 yards and 23 touchdowns last fall.
Penn Wood (4-0) at Haverford School (2-1), 1
The Patriots will face their stiffest test of the year as they put their perfect record on the line against the Fords, who saw their 21-game winning streak snapped at Perkiomen Valley last week. Rahiem Bowens was a machine in the receiving game, catching seven balls for 141 yards and a touchdown.
Mallik Twyman rushed for 106 yards, but the Fords lost thanks to a late Perkiomen Valley field goal. It was Haverford’s first defeat since Aug. 30, 2014.