HAVERFORD >> Zac Fernandez was running a little behind Saturday.
“I had to take the ACTs this morning,” said Fernandez, Malvern Prep’s dynamic senior running back. “As soon as I was done, I rushed over to Malvern and just made the team bus.”
“It was a little hectic,” Fernandez said.
Fernandez and the Friars passed their test at Haverford School. Fernandez did a little bit of everything — he ran, caught, passed and punted the ball — to lead Malvern to a 24-21 victory.
The loss was the first for Haverford School in Inter-Ac League competition since Oct. 19, 2013.
Fernandez accounted for 164 yards of total offense and pinned the Fords back at their own 1-yard line with 55-and 39-yard punts in the second half.
“There’s a special rivalry between us and Haverford,” said Fernandez, a Wayne resident who is garnering interest from several Ivy League programs. “We’re always very competitive each year and it means so much to get this win, especially on their field. It makes this win a whole lot better.”
Challenging the three-time defending Inter-Ac champs, the Friars (4-3 overall, 1-1 league) grabbed the lead for good in the fourth quarter when Keith
Maguire scored on a four-yard run. Later in the period, Maguire hauled in a 37-yard catch on third-and-21 which enabled Brandon Chiazza to kick a 26-yard field goal to put Malvern ahead by 10 points with 1 minute, 28 seconds to play.
“Coming off a loss last week, this was a big win for us,” said Maguire, a sophomore. The Friars bounced back from a heartbreaking defeat to Episcopal Academy, 37-34.
“We felt that, by the fourth quarter (last week), we were playing some of the best football we had played all year,” said Fernandez, who had 97 yards rushing on 20 carries. “We really wanted to carry that momentum into the week of practice and into this game. I felt like we did a really good job of being physical, executing and making plays happen.”
Malvern presented all sorts of matchup problems for the Fords (5-2, 1-1) in the secondary. Malvern’s receivers had 18 catches for 208 yards. Starting quarterback Drew Gunther, who was thrown into action in the second half in the Episcopal Academy game, was 15 of 26 for 134 yards. Quinn McCahon completed two passes out of the wildcat formation and Fernandez had a 14-yard halfback pass.
“Watching film, we knew they are a really good defense. We have to give them credit,” Fernandez said. “Coach (Aaron) Brady made a great game plan and we relied a lot on our skill players to make plays when it counted. We did and it was awesome.”
Despite the setback, Haverford School coach Mike Murphy was proud of his squad’s effort on defense. The Fords, led by linemen Frank Zepka and Asim Richards, often caused havoc behind the line of scrimmage. The Fords’ downfall was the big play.
“I actually think our defense did a great job today,” Murphy said. “That kid (Fernandez) is going to get what he’s going to get in a game. I think we did what we talked about, which is not letting him escape for easy ones. I feel like he worked for everything he got today as he always does every week. He’s good, but I thought defensively, in that aspect, we did well. We just had too many blown assignments in the secondary. Today it caught up big time, Malvern made some big plays.”
Tommy Toal led the Fords on a scoring drive with less than a minute to go. Toal found Ismail Morrison in the end zone from five yards out to cut the deficit to three points. Malvern spoiled any chance at a Fords comeback by recovering the onside kick.
In the third quarter, Toal engineered a 15-play, 99-yard drive that resulted in the second of two Mallik Twyman scoring runs.
Toal was 9 of 18 for 103 yards and a touchdown. Twyman churned out 114 yards and two TDs on 19 carries.
“We’re not executing well. That’s the bottom line,” Murphy said. “I say each week that I love the fight of this team, but we’re not executing at times well enough to win. We’re missing an assignment here, a block there. It’s been a recurring thing that we’re working on that we’re not just getting done.”