RIDLEY TWP. >> Given a night to exhale and a morning to relax, chances are Ridley High football coach Dave Wood will be back at it again by Saturday afternoon. By then, he will be demanding flawless football again.
“Coach Wood is on us all the time about it,” Green Raiders linebacker Sean Crowley said. “He wants us to be perfect. Even in practice. We go over everything, over and over and over again.
“We go over it until it is perfect.”
With that solid if not necessarily exclusive philosophy, the Green Raiders came about as close as possible Friday to meeting Wood’s demand. In a 42-0 victory over visiting Penncrest, Ridley made no turnovers, needed to punt only once, played with three-way precision (special teams very much included) and remained, yes, perfect, improving to 5-0 overall and 4-0 in the Central League.
Quarterback Cade Stratton rushed for 89 yards, passed for 13 and scored two touchdowns. Malik Young, Ociele Miller and Tahj McCafferty added a rushing touchdown apiece. And in as perfect a play as the Raiders would execute in the game, Brock Anderson returned a punt 92 yards for a touchdown.
“We finally put an effort together in all three phases,” Wood said. “That’s what we get. We’ve got a pretty explosive football team on offense, defense and the kicking game. If we can eliminate those mistakes we had these last couple of weeks, that’s the performance we are going to have.”
Anxious to entertain a Phil Marion Field crowd for the first time since the season opener and after three road games, the Raiders attacked early, with Stratton completing a nine-play drive with a 20-yard keeper for a score. After the Lions didn’t respond, Wood rolled two punt returners onto the field, Anderson and Young, virtually ensuring a return.
Anderson made the plan work, picking the punt up on one bounce at his own eight and following 10 green shirts to the other end zone.
“I knew it was a little short, so I kind of waited on it,” Anderson said. “I didn’t think I was going to catch it. And it took a good bounce right into my hands. Once I caught the ball, I made some moves and my punt-return team was absolutely amazing. We work at it every day, seven days a week at our practice. And they made amazing blocks and allowed me to get the hole to get to the end zone.”
By then, Penncrest was on notice that the Green Raiders’ 3-0 Central League start was more than a quirk. If not, Crowley made that known when he recovered a fumble at the Lions’ 24. On the next play, Miller charged 24 yards for a touchdown. Kyran Baker, who naturally was a perfect 6-for-6, added the PAT and the Raiders were up, 21-0, less than 10 minutes into the game.
“They’re good,” Lions coach Rick Stroup said. “They are tough to defend. It is responsibility football. We had trouble with our responsibilities. And it was just a tough game getting that down. They did a good job. We need to get better, that’s all. The kids kept playing. They kept playing to the end. I was proud of their effort.”
Stratton scored on another 14-yard keeper early in the second. And with 47 seconds showing before halftime, McCafferty’s one-yard TD run and Baker’s placement would include the multiplier effect of ensuring speed-up rules in the second half.
Chris Chelo completed 70 percent of his passes for the Lions, good for 40 yards, 25 to Mark Ullman. But Young’s short run late in the third quarter gave the Green Raiders a five-touchdown lead … and further evidence that they are capable of controlling the Central League.
“Our coaching staff is amazing,” Anderson said. “Every day we work hard. Every day is like a game-prep, like we are practicing for a game tomorrow. Our slogan for our team is ‘Win today.’ So every day we go out to practice, we want to get better that day. We don’t want to take any steps backwards. We want to go forward every day.
“We had some tough games through this season. All have come out in our favor. I’m sure there’s stuff to fix. But tonight is the best I’ve seen this team play. We played almost to perfection.”
Well … maybe next time.