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After outpointing Upper Darby, Ridley sweats numbers game

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UPPER DARBY >> Ridley’s players streamed onto Memorial Field Friday night screaming, “This is our house!” Now, the Green Raiders have to monitor their phones to determine if this is their year.

An early lead helped Ridley set the tone against Upper Darby, leading to a 36-22 victory in the finale of an up-and-down campaign that has the Green Raiders wondering if they will have another game or two left to play.

Ridley running back Ociele Miller weaves his way through Upper Darby traffic during the first half Friday night. (Digital First Media/Pete Bannan)

Outsiders looking in when the night began, the Green Raiders (6-4, 5-4) had been ranked 18th in a 16-team District 1 Class 6A playoff bracket. They would need some help — in the form of losses by other area teams — if they are to reach the playoffs for the second straight season.

“We finally played a complete game,” Ridley coach Dave Wood said. “No matter what happens, if we don’t get in, we’ll have a contingency game next week and we’ll play Interboro on Thanksgiving. We did all we could, and we’re playing football until Nov. 23.”

Kamal Richardson racked up 134 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries for Ridley, leading a ground game that churned out 244 yards. Nick Layden chipped in with 31 yards and two scores on his 10 rushes.

That proved to be enough for Ridley, which took a 30-7 lead deep into the second quarter, and held on late.

“He’s not human,” Layden said of Richardson, who routinely broke through Upper Darby would-be tacklers for big gains.

Richardson had another explanation.

“We saw all the reporters in the paper had Upper Darby winning, and that motivated us to be great,” he said.

In addition to Richardson, Ridley benefited greatly from two special-teams gaffes by Upper Darby (6-4, 5-3). A poison punt nicked an Upper Darby player in the leg on its way down, and Ridley recovered the loose ball. A low snap to the Royals’ punter also resulted in putting Ridley’s offense within 10 yards of the end zone. Both second-quarter plays led to touchdown drives for the Green Raiders.

Ridley running back Kamal Richardson scores his third touchdown against Upper Darby at Memorial Field Friday evening. (Digital First Media/Pete Bannan)

It was a performance the Royals could ill afford. They entered the night as the 16th team in the latest 6A power rankings. The loss likely sealed their fate — missing the playoffs for the third time in four seasons.

“It’s the first time this year that I can say someone took it to our defense, especially in the first half,” Upper Darby coach Rich Gentile said. “Their offense did a lot of shifting that we didn’t see on film, and our guys didn’t get set for that.”

The Royals also had to replace quarterback Josh Gouch, who left in the third quarter after a hit to the head. His backup, sophomore Kevin Kerwood, orchestrated a touchdown drive and got Upper Darby to within a score, 30-22, late in the third quarter.

“I just did what I learned to do running the Ridley scout team this week,” said Kerwood, describing his 28-yard pass to Nasir Greer.

It wasn’t enough for Upper Darby. Meanwhile, Ridley is hoping it did enough to reach the postseason.

“We don’t want this to be the last meaningful game we play,” Layden said.

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