HAVERFORD >> Mike Murphy’s exasperation grew as the errors mounted Saturday afternoon.
The long-time Haverford School coach had one picture-perfect reaction that encapsulated the Fords’ disappointing season opener at Sabol Field, a 43-12 drubbing at the hands of Woodson (D.C.).
Woodson executed a long post route in the early moments of the third quarter. Already leading by 23 points, this was the Indians’ chance to bury the Fords. Quarterback Khalil Wright aired one out and Noah Boykin — one of a cavalcade of explosive two-way athletes the Indians possess — hauled in a one-handed reception.
The circus catch was one of those plays you had to see to believe. Murphy saw it, but couldn’t believe it. He tossed his play chart in the air as if to say, “What are you going to do?” Everybody on Haverford’s sideline could empathize with Murphy’s reaction.
Two plays later, Woodson reached the end zone for a fourth time and the game, for all intents and purposes, was over.
“I hate reacting like that … ” Murphy said. “Listen, (Woodson is) a very talented football team. Floating footballs and we’re jumping three seconds too soon, that kind of stuff, you know … it’s just one of those days. When you have a team that has players like that, and when you’re going to make those kinds of mistakes, obviously it’s going to be a long day. And it was a long day.”
This was no ordinary loss for a team expected to again compete for an Inter-Ac title. At best, it was pride-bruising.
“There’s a lot to learn from this game. As a team, I can’t remember the last time we took a whooping like this,” said All-Delco lineman Colin Hurlbrink. “It’s up to the seniors, like myself, to lead the team. Everybody is going to be looking up to us, you know? We’re going to get in next week, we’re going to learn from our mistakes and we’re going to turn our attention to West Catholic.”
If there is any positive to take from such a defeat, the Fords can take solace in the long way to go before the Inter-Ac season starts. They can take the first month of the season to grow and develop with a relatively inexperienced team.
Not like that’s any excuse for Saturday’s performance.
“We built this program to where this doesn’t happen on this field,” Murphy said “We’re not going to accept it and I’m glad their pride is hurt because I don’t think they particularly played Haverford School football. Win, lose or draw, we play football a certain way here and I don’t feel like we had the physicality like we’re used to having.”
The Fords had an impressive opening drive which resulted in a 33-yard field goal by Chris Clark. First-year starting quarterback Ben Gerber engineered a nine-play drive that leaned heavily on a ground attack. Jordan Berry, who finished with 63 yards on 15 carries, was a workhorse in the early going.
But things went downhill fast after the Fords grabbed a 3-0 lead. Seconds later, Mychale Salahuddin (115 yards, nine carries) darted 56 yards to the end zone. The Fords turned the ball over on their next two possessions and trailed 22-3 after 12 minutes.
“I think we got a little shell-shocked early,” Murphy said. “We turned the ball over a few times, which is something we can’t have in these kinds of games. Some of that is, we need our seniors. They have to step up and lead us during some of those tough times. We’re not a young football team, but we are young in certain areas. Our whole defensive backfield are juniors and sophomores. The strength of this team, and the experience of this team, is up front. We’re going to have a blown coverage every now and then; that’s going to happen when you have young players. It’s all about how do we respond from that. Those guys who are expected to lead to the team, they’re going to have to do that.”
Sophomore Pat Toal relieved Gerber late in the fourth quarter and guided the Fords to their lone touchdown. Toal, the younger brother of Tommy, who spent the last three years as the Fords’ No. 1 quarterback, scrambled 13 yards to the end zone with a minute to play.
“We’re a lot better than the scoreboard shows,” Hurlbrink said. “We have a lot to learn from and next week, I promise you, when we play West Catholic we’ll be a 10-times-better football team. I hope they don’t take us for granted because we’re going to play some serious, hard-nosed football.”