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Haverford School feasts on turnovers in season finale win over Episcopal

HAVERFORD >> Will Towle offers a little surprise assessing his outing Saturday afternoon.

The Haverford School safety didn’t miss assignments, and he can provide a step-by-step breakdown of the key moments of the rivalry clash with Episcopal Academy.

Haverford School’s Nate Whitaker, right, hauls in his second interception of the day. The Fords capitalized on five turnovers — and a defensive stop on a late two-point conversion pass — to edge Episcopal Academy, 21-19. (Digital First Media/Pete Bannan)

Haverford School’s Nate Whitaker, right, hauls in his second interception of the day. The Fords capitalized on five turnovers — and a defensive stop on a late two-point conversion pass — to edge Episcopal Academy, 21-19. (Digital First Media/Pete Bannan)

But what Towle can’t quite figure out is how after waiting all season for a forced fumble, two found him in the biggest game of the season.

“I don’t know how that happened,” Towle said. “But I’m glad it did.”

Towle not only helped the Fords cause five Episcopal Academy turnovers, but his hand was on the ball at the pivotal moment, batting away a two-point conversion attempt aimed at tight end Kyle Virbitsky in the final minute to preserve a 21-19 win for the Fords.

“I always go into the game aggressive,” Towle said. “Today, I don’t know, the holes opened up, they started running at me, and I was able to show what I’ve got.”

In a game defined by giveaways, Towle loomed large. He twice stripped EA ball-carriers, recovering one. Aaron Hudson pocketed another, while Nate Whitaker hauled in two interceptions.

In all, EA put the ball on the turf six times.

“It’s pretty tough knowing that I left a few drives out there, made a few mistakes for my team,” Episcopal quarterback CJ McAnally said. “It’s tough to look back on, but they’re a great team. I give them a lot of credit. They made the plays when they needed to.”

The tone was set early… as in the first snap, where usually sure-handed Haverford School running back Malik Twyman coughed up the ball, forced by Dallas Taylor and recovered by Virbitsky. Towle responded in kind, picking McAnally’s pocket.

Hudson was on the scene early in the third quarter in a 14-13 game, dispossessing Dan Baker on a 10-yard completion that would’ve gained a first down. Even though EA maintained possession, an Anthony Reginelli strip-sack of McNallay for an 11-yard loss meant the momentum was irrevocably dented.

Episcopal Academy quarterback CJ McAnally bursts through the line en route to 101 rushing yards, but the Churchmen fell to Haverford School, 21-19, Saturday. (Digital First Media/Pete Bannan)

Episcopal Academy quarterback CJ McAnally bursts through the line en route to 101 rushing yards, but the Churchmen fell to Haverford School, 21-19, Saturday. (Digital First Media/Pete Bannan)

“I know he’s quick on his feet and he feels very comfortable running,” Reginelli said of McAnally. “So we decided, we’re just going to have our tackles rush and our ends played a lot of contain and we kept him in the pocket. And when we kept him in the pocket, good things happened.”

Towle’s biggest intervention came late in the third. Virbitsky took a swing pass from McAnally at the eight and charged for the goal line. But Towle flew in, jarred the ball loose and watched it roll off the pylon — a touchback for the Fords (7-3, 3-2 Inter-Ac).

Even when EA (7-3, 2-3) got going, usually by the sheer force of McAnally’s will, Towle got the last word. McAnally (22 carries for 101 yards) orchestrated a 14-play, 87-yard drive in 2 minutes, 14 seconds, diving across from the three to bring EA within 21-19 with 37 seconds left. The left-hander rolled out on the two-pointer, looking for his lanky tight end. But Towle and Ismail Morrison converged on Virbitsky, and the pass fell incomplete.

“I was told just to guard Virbitsky, an amazing player,” Towle said. “I just kind of reacted and wasn’t really thinking, and the ball was in the air, put my arms through his arms and the ball comes out.”

The offensive battle was largely decided between McAnally and Twyman, atoning from early miscues.

Twyman scored twice in the second quarter, a 25-yard shovel pass from Tommy Toal and a four-yard run. The latter was set up by Toal who, after Whitaker’s first interception, found Whitaker on a 41-yard shovel, then Conner Mosebrook for 42 yards.

Twyman, who gained 169 yards on 27 carries and made four catches for 49, quickly put the fumble in the past.

Haverford School's Conner Mosebrook, right, rises to catch a pass over Episcopal Academy defensive back DeeWil Barlee Saturday in the Fords' 21-19 win. (Digital First Media/Pete Bannan)

Haverford School’s Conner Mosebrook, right, rises to catch a pass over Episcopal Academy defensive back DeeWil Barlee Saturday in the Fords’ 21-19 win. (Digital First Media/Pete Bannan)

“I take full responsibility for the fumble, first,” Twyman said. “But after that, we came to the sideline and I looked at Tom and said, ‘Look, I’ll fix that. That one’s on me. It wasn’t your fault.’ … And we were able to get it going after that.”

McAnally got EA on the board first, finding Baker for a two-yard score. McAnally ran for a 12-yard TD with 5:01 left in the second quarter, but a bad PAT snap forced holder Adam Robinson to improvise, leading to an incompletion and a one-point deficit.

DeeWil Barlee, who was suspended for the first quarter due to an off-field incident according to coach Todd Fairlie, blocked a Chase McCollum 20-yard field goal in the final minute of the second quarter.

The teams played field position in the third until Toal (11 for 17, 180 yards) scampered in from four yards out with 7:13 left, appearing to ice the game at 21-13. But McAnally wasn’t about to give up.

“The seniors, we had two minutes left in our high school careers,” said McAnally, who was 15 for 25 for 137 yards passing. “We weren’t going to go down without a fight. There’s no quit in this team. We just wanted to show everybody who we are.”

EA recovered the ensuing onside kick, but Jon’avin Freeman was whistled for getting his hands on the ball just a fraction before it had traveled the allotted 10 yards.

Ultimately Twyman and company had the final say, a fourth straight win for the seniors over their archrivals.

“It’s a blessing to leave on a win, especially this being my last high school game,” the Colgate signee said. “So it’s lovely to be able to say when I come back here that I won my last high school game here.”

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