HAVERFORD TWP. >> For Haverford coach Joe Gallagher, the start of his 25th season at the helm of Haverford started off much better than his 24th.
First off, the temperature was a good 30 degrees cooler. Secondly, he was pleasantly surprised when the school had a ceremony to honor his quarter century of service prior to the season opener at A.G. Cornog stadium.
Third, and perhaps most importantly, his Fords kicked off the 2017 campaign with a measure of revenge in gaining a 40-6 victory over Chester.
It was the Clippers who spoiled the start of Haverford’s season a year ago, swamping them in the oppressive heat and humidity of a late August afternoon. That Haverford team was led by a sophomore quarterback making his first varsity start.
“I can tell you I was really nervous going into that game,” said Jake Ruane.
What a difference a year makes.
“He had a great year last year, but now he knows the offense cold,” Gallagher said. “I give him a lot of credit. He’s come a long way and he’s only going to get better.”
Ruane has a lot of poise, a lot of talent, and is the heartbeat of the Fords’ offense, which could be pretty special this season.
He threw three touchdown passes and ran for a fourth, amassing 139 yards passing. He was only 9-for-19, but there were a few drops in there, a touchdown that was erroneously called incomplete, and an interception when his receiver slipped.
“I have a lot of confidence, but not just in myself,” Ruane said. “I trust all my receivers. We’re really close off the field. I know I can just put it out there and they’re going to make plays.”
A player who could open some eyes for the Fords with his electric speed is running back Travis Weiss, who opened the second half with an 80-yard kickoff return and finished with 125 all-purpose yards.
However, it wasn’t a clean game, as the two teams combined for 150 yards on 16 penalties, and eight fumbles (only one lost), but for Haverford (1-0) the good far outweighed the bad, and on the offensive side, Ruane was responsible for every good play.
Whether he was plunging in for a three-yard touchdown run, or hitting Carrington Hooks in stride for a 20-yard score or hooking up with University of Maryland commit Jordan Mosley on consecutive pass plays, Ruane showed that his second year running the Haverford offense was going to be even better than his successful first.
But the most indicative play of how far Ruane has come in just one calendar year came at the start of the fourth quarter when, on fourth down, he scrambled, directed receiver Ryan Odgers to break his route and head for the end zone, and then put the ball only where his rangy receiver could catch it for a 25-yard touchdown and a 33-6 lead.
Chester had briefly stolen the momentum when Lahneir McBride replaced injured quarterback Tahree-Fuller Bryan and on his first play, ran 95 yards for a score to cut the Haverford lead to 26-6. But the Clippers were victims of their own mistakes, botching four punt team snaps that led to great field position for Haverford and eventually, four touchdowns.
“This is a teachable moment for us,” Chester coach LaDontay Bell said. “We have to be better on offense and on special teams. We didn’t really help our defense out at all.”