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Cowan, defense loom large as Ridley dispatches Plymouth Whitemarsh

RIDLEY TWP. >> Mike Cowan would probably tell you he’s not going to intimidate people with his size.

Ridley’s diminutive senior cornerback stands 5-8 and weighs 140 pounds, according to the team’s official roster, but don’t let his look fool you.

Cowan can flat-out tackle dudes.

Ridley quarterback Cade Stratton runs for the goal line in the first half against Plymouth Whitemarsh. The Green Raiders won 35-7 to advance to the next round to meet Coatesville in the district playoffs. (Digital First Media/Pete Bannan)

Ridley quarterback Cade Stratton runs for the goal line in the first half against Plymouth Whitemarsh. The Green Raiders won 35-7 to advance to the next round to meet Coatesville in the district playoffs. (Digital First Media/Pete Bannan)

“If the QB has the ball and he’s running to the outside, if it’s a pitch/keeper, pretty much (that’s his responsibility),” Cowan said. “I just want to be there to make a play.”

Cowan had a few key tackles. Senior linebacker Ryan Gricco had, oh, about a dozen or so as Ridley’s excellent defense put the clamps on Plymouth Whitemarsh in a District 1 Class 6A first-round game Friday at Phil Marion Field.

Gricco and fellow linebackers Greg Kimmel and Sean Crowley each had an interception as the fifth-seeded Green Raiders crushed the No. 12 Colonials, 35-7. It was Ridley’s first district playoff win since Nov. 9, 2012.

“We just knew coming into this game that they were an I-Z (inside zone) team, a trap team that was going to run up the middle the whole game,” Gricco said.

Yeah, that didn’t work so well for the Colonials (8-3).

When the Colonials had success on offense, it came outside the tackles. Dontae Wilson took a jet sweep 34 yards for their lone touchdown. Quarterback Joe Stoberi, when he was lucky enough to scamper out of danger, attempted the majority of his passes on the run. He was 11 of 29 for 139 yards.

“We knew our defense was coming in strong, knowing that we’re going to stuff the gaps,” said Gricco, who will be making an appearance in Stoberi’s nightmares. “We knew coming in that the quarterback had a pretty decent arm. He was a good, mobile quarterback who could get out of the pocket. He showed us that tonight. All credit goes to Plymouth Whitemarsh.”

PHOTO GALLERY: Ridley vs. Plymouth Whitemarsh

Gricco was being kind. Ridley’s DBs — Cowan, Allen Martin, Ociele Miller, Malik Young, among them — covered plenty of real estate in the secondary and limited the big play.

“They do some nice things,” Ridley coach Dave Wood said of the visitors. “Their a midline team at times and a jet sweep team. They’ve got good skill players. They fooled us one time on the one nice scoring run they had, we were on the inside rather than the outside. But it starts with playing good defense and we did that tonight.”

Ridley’s offense fed off the defense’s strengths from the get-go. On the first series of the game, Kimmel picked off Stoberi deep inside Plymouth Whitemarsh territory to set up Brock Anderson’s eight-yard touchdown run on the offense’s first play from scrimmage.

“Our offense did a good job controlling the ball again. Cade Stratton is running the offense very well, making good decisions,” Wood said. “You got (running backs) Brock (Anderson), OC (Miller), Malik (Young) doing good things for us. OC and Malik come over and help us do some different things in the secondary, too. It’s a good, all-around effort. We got some turnovers and got some early points … and that gave us a chance to be more on the attack mode and let our offense do what they do.”

Ridley's Gregg Kimmel returns an interception which led to the game's first touchdown against Plymouth Whitemarsh Friday night. (Digital First Media/Pete Bannan)

Ridley’s Gregg Kimmel returns an interception which led to the game’s first touchdown against Plymouth Whitemarsh Friday night. (Digital First Media/Pete Bannan)

Ridley’s defense held Plymouth Whitemarsh’s running attack to 85 yards on 30 carries. Nick DePrinzio and Joseph Spillman, each of whom recorded a sack, were standouts up front.

“We love being out there,” Cowan said. “You saw it with (Crowley’s pick-six). We come right back out. We might be tired, but we always want to come back out.”

Young (59 yards), Stratton (46), Anderson (42), Tahj McCafferty (42) and Miller (37) powered the Green Raiders’ balanced ground assault. Stratton was 4 of 7 passing with 50 yards, including a 29-yard scoring strike to Miller in the second quarter to put Ridley ahead, 28-7. The line of Zach Wagner, Jack Hutt, John Sheldon, Leo Teti-Cassidy and Christian Weber dominated at the point of attack.

Indeed, Friday was a crisp performance all-around for the Green Raiders (10-1). They’ll travel to No. 4 Coatesville in next Friday’s quarterfinal round.

“We knew that this mostly likely was going to be our last time on Marion Field,” Gricco said. “We had to go out with a bang and get ready for Coatesville next week.”

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