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Inter-Academic League

Kober, Haverford School draw on championship pedigree to prevail

PHILADELPHIA >> Chris Kober’s view of what transpired in overtime Friday is inherently different from what people on the sidelines saw.

As chaos — and most of the Haverford School defensive front — descended on the Penn Charter backfield, the Fords’ linebacker was not sure who got where or who most thoroughly dominated their assignment. All he knows is that the Quakers’ faked extra point failed, sending Haverford School to a 21-20 Inter-Ac road win.

But moments earlier, as Penn Charter deceptively lined up in kick formation fully intent on ending the thrilling league opener with a two-point conversion, Kober was all over every detail of what might occur.

“We’re always looking for the fake, because I know they want to beat us there,” Kober said. “So I just said, ‘check fake, check fake’. We blew up their line, they dropped it and we recovered it.”

The axiomatic difference in the football viewpoint and the spectator standpoint can be bridged on the video: Malik Geathers and Graham Haabestad converged to bat away the shovel pass from holder/quarterback Mike Hnatkowsky to the sweeping split end Brendan Pell, and lineman Ed King fell on the loose ball.

But the other part, Kober’s prescience in preparing his charges, falls in the category of championship traits that Haverford School has proven to possess in monopolizing the Inter-Ac crown the last three years. And it informs why the Fords, on a day when they didn’t play like championship vintages past, still survived a tough Quakers team focused on an upset.

“We weren’t expecting that,” Geathers said. “Chris Kober called it, he told us to stay on the field, and I trust my middle linebacker.”

For three-and-a-half quarters, the Fords (5-1 overall) were deservedly backed into a corner in a generally dour affair. They committed 13 penalties for 112 yards (including one that, appropriately enough, was marched off for 20 yards instead of the prescribed 15). They struggled to establish an offensive rhythm, their longest play of the first three quarters coming when Ben Stallworth caught an overthrown screen pass intended for Malik Twyman and scampered 43 yards.

And the Fords appeared to be doomed by a colossal mistake, a botched punt snap with 4 minutes, 51 seconds left that handed the Quakers the ball at the Haverford School 23-yard line.

Penn Charter (4-1) dutifully milked the clock before Eddie Saydee’s three-yard sweep with 1:54 left put the Quakers up 14-7.

But quarterback Tommy Toal had no intention of seeing it end that way. He found Twyman — who rushed for a first-half touchdown and 119 yards on 23 carries — on a wheel route for 35 yards, the Colgate-bound running back providing the spark as usual. He caught four passes for a team-high 52 yards.

“He’s one of the main engines of this team,” Toal said. “He keeps us going, Malik and the line. He’s really a workhorse.”

They mixed in some runs, including a two-yard dive from Twyman on fourth-and-inches at the 16. With 19.7 ticks left, Toal watched the Penn Charter defense flock to an underneath route as Conner Mosebrook streaked into the end zone on a post pattern Toal hit for a 13-yard score.

Toal, who went 13 for 24 for 188 yards, found Twyman on a 10-yard wheel route to the corner of the end zone on the first play of OT to surge the Fords ahead, Chase McCollum booting the extra point that ultimately made the difference.

“We have a great quality of when our backs are against the wall, we figure out a way to get it done,” quarterback Tommy Toal said. “People step up.”

That cast of “people” ran the gamut. Aaron Hudson picked off Hnatkowsky in the first half, returning it 46 yards, then returned a punt 19 yards to the 21 just before half (on a drive ended by Pell’s strip-sack of Toal recovered by Bill Costello). Hudson also helped keep Hnatkowsky relatively in check (15 for 27 for 155 yards) and limited top target Chris Tucker to one catch for three yards, albeit on the overtime TD, and Hudson hauled in four passes for 45 yards.

Geathers had two tackles for loss, dropping Pell on a fourth-and-1 at the 16 midway through the fourth quarter, and Haabestad fell on a Saydee fumble in the second quarter, allowing Twyman’s 10-yard score to stand at halftime in a 7-0 game.

“Just play every play like it’s your last play,” Geathers said. “Me being a senior, these are my last games on the field, and I have to play every game like it’s my last. I just tell every one of the D-linemen, play like it’s the last moment you’re going to step on the field.”

Hnatkowsky got Penn Charter on the board in the final minute of the third, connecting with Terence Thompson on a three-yard crossing route. Saydee tallied 96 yards on 23 carries.

But if Friday’s disjointed performance didn’t illustrate it clearly, the gumption at game’s end hammered home that the Fords are the champions until further notice. And they’re not giving up the title lightly.

“That’s the way we’re playing right now,” Toal said. “That’s our mentality right now. And it should be, because we’ve deserved it in years past. And we’ll continue to play that way.”

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