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Central League

Springfield ‘takes down’ champs to earn its share of title

SPRINGFIELD >> Feeling the pinch of its first loss of the season a week ago, Springfield wasn’t too excited about the idea of sharing the Central League title.

Those feelings changed seven days later after the Cougars unseated last year’s champs, Haverford, with a 24-17 victory Friday night.

The Cougars split the Central League crown three ways with Ridley and Marple Newtown. Springfield beat Ridley. Ridley beat Marple Newtown. Springfield and MN didn’t this year.

Johnny Fanelli, Springfield’s senior quarterback, brought up the point of defeating Haverford. In some respects, the regular-season finale win solidified the Cougars’ season.

Haverford quarterback Jake Ruane, right, gets stripped by a Springfield defender during the Cougars' 24-17 win Friday night. (Digital First Media/Rick Kauffman)

Haverford quarterback Jake Ruane, right, gets stripped by a Springfield defender during the Cougars’ 24-17 win Friday night. (Digital First Media/Rick Kauffman)

“You can’t win the championship until you take down the champion,” said Fanelli, who was 9 of 16 passing for 102 yards and three touchdowns.

Haverford didn’t make it easy. Trailing by 14 points in the fourth quarter, the Fords rallied behind their sophomore quarterback Jake Ruane and receivers Jordan Mosley, Matt Corbett and Chris Trainor. Ruane found Mosley in the corner of the end zone from 17 yards yard to cut the Springfield lead to seven with 4:53 to go.

“Are you kidding me? Down 24-10 with six, seven minutes left and kept battling,” Haverford coach Joe Gallagher said. “I told them in the (post-game) huddle that they acted like a defending champion down 14 points with not much time. If anybody saw this game, I said to them, you acted like a defending champion and did not even consider quitting. In that aspect, I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

Though the Fords would relinquish the title Friday night, regardless of outcome, they were playing for a shot at a District 1 Class 6A playoff berth. A win would have put them in a good situation, but losing may eliminate them from postseason contention.

Can Haverford take any solace in the fact that it battled like crazy?

“No. We wanted to win,” said Mosley, who accumulated 100 yards of total offense. He made a game-high five catches for 43 yards and ran the ball six times for 57 yards. “We were down by a touchdown and we had a chance to win, but we can’t do nothing about it. We knew it wasn’t over. We were with them the whole game. Even when they broke off from us, we knew we could get back in the game, but we just didn’t finish it.”

Indeed, Haverford had a tremendous opportunity to tie the game. It got the ball back with three minutes to go and Ruane found his reliable wide receivers on a few big passes. Trainor (four catches, 79 yards) had a 26-yard grab and Cobrett made an 11-yard catch to get the Fords into the red zone. Then, Ruane rolled out and found Corbett in the end zone with what looked to be the game-tying touchdown. Alas, a block in the back negated the call, and the Fords were unable to dig themselves out of a second-and-27 situation.

“That’s the irony of it,” Gallagher said. “Here’s what I see: we’re two good teams and we played a hell of a football game. But we did some things to not allow us to win the game.”

Springfield’s offense wasn’t particularly exciting, but Fanelli made the clutch throws when he had to. He found do-everything senior Joe Kennedy for a pair of TDs, including a 30-yarder that gave the Cougars the lead late in the third quarter. Then Fanelli was able to find seldom used tight end/wide receiver Chris Finizio for a nine-yard scoring connection to put Springfield in front by two TDs.

“We saw the middle open up. He cut across and it worked,” Fanelli said. “Threw a nice ball and he made a great catch. The line gave me enough time and it was a great play.

“We knew we were able to take our shots like we always do. The line played awesome and gave me time to find Joe down the field on those two touchdowns. When you get time like that, good things will happen.”

Springfield’s defense caused a turnover early in the first half that negated momentum for Haverford. Linebackers Dwayne Snipes and Pat Clemens played well up front along with linemen Derek Strain, Kevin Deal, Justin Shields and Dan Gluck.

“Our game plan was to stay calm and stay in coverage,” Snipes said. “Their quarterback was elusive, but we did the job and got it done.”

And now it’s on to the playoffs. Springfield will likely earn the No. 1 seed in the District 1 Class 5A playoffs. Its opponent will be determined following Saturday’s games.

With their second Central League championship in three years under their belts, the Cougars will focus on bigger and better things, like winning their first district title.

“We’re looking forward to the playoffs and accomplishing bigger goals,” Fanelli said. “Right now, we’re 0-0. It’s a new season. We got this goal out of the way and now we’re looking forward to accomplishing more.”

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