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In a flash, Haverford School runs away from Chester in slugfest

HAVERFORD — The points piled up on the scoreboard and the plays piled up on the stat sheet. The game dragged on. Haverford School and Chester combined to run 135 plays from scrimmage in a crisp three hours of football Saturday.

As unappealing as that might sound, it was precisely what the Fords needed.

Haverford took control in the second half and ran away with a 69-34 nonleague victory. In the opening game at a renovated Sabol Field, the Fords turned an eight-point third quarter advantage into a running-clock situation in about seven minutes of game action.

Things turned that quickly for the Fords (2-1), who needed this win. Most teams have already played five games. Action and reps are a necessity. Here, those were achieved in abundance. Haverford was happy to oblige.

“It did feel kind of long,” quarterback Dante Perri said. “Only having one opportunity a week to play football, we’re tuned in all the time. We’re ready to go.”

That was the case in the third quarter. Haverford led Chester 29-20 at the break. The teams traded touchdowns to start the second half. Then, in a flash, it got out of hand.

Mekhi Ajose-Williamson raced in for a 42-yard score at the 7:10 mark. Logan Keller nabbed his second interception of the contest. Two plays later, Bryce Broadus hauled in a 14-yard toss from Perri. Chester turned it over on downs. Four plays later, Ben Gerber rumbled for a six-yard keeper. Broadus grabbed an interception. Gerber hit paydirt on the next play.

Phew. Take a breath. There was 1:04 on the clock in the third quarter. A one-possession game had turned into a running-clock blowout.

“We can see what happens when we execute and not hurt ourselves,” Haverford coach Michael Murphy said. “We challenged them for the second half, to know that we’ve gotta respond and we can’t do that — and for the most part, we didn’t. But we can’t start football games like that. We’re fortunate to get out of here with a ‘W’ playing like that.”

Chester (1-4) took advantage of those mistakes in the first half. Tahree Fuller-Bryan threw two long touchdowns (a 68-yarder to Shaheem Pharr and a 49-yarder to Malik Langley) and ran in another score. The Clippers capitalized on turnovers and drives extended via penalty. But Haverford hung in.

Gerber and Ajose-Williamson had first-quarter touchdown runs. Perri threw a pretty ball to Matthew McKenna for an 34-yard connection. Keller returned an interception 38 yards. The Fords weren’t playing their best, but they were ahead.

“The defense came up with a couple stops, definitely helped us,” Perri said. “The line really came together, too, got a lot of push there. Gave me a lot of time, gave running backs a lot room to run.”

Daiyaan Hawkins (18-yard run) and Langley (five-yard run) added early third quarter scores before the tide turned. Chester’s Malachi Langley (45-yard pass from Fuller-Bryan) and Haverford’s Nate Whitaker (99-yard interception return) put up points amid the running clock.

The Fords, despite the robust score, were out-gained by the Clippers, 453-342. Perri only threw for 131 yards. The team only rushed for 211. But they learned a lot about themselves. The ball was spread around to seven receivers and four ball carriers. With one game to go before Inter-Ac play opens, Haverford has a sense of its identity.

“Now we’re beginning to kind of find out who we are and seeing how this thing works together,” Murphy said. “I think we’re starting to get the flow of that.”

Chester was led by Fuller-Bryan, who threw for 360 yards but four interceptions. The yardage total is tied for the 11th-most in Delco history and sets a Chester school record, surpassing the 327 yards that Najeeb Rasheed threw for against Academy Park in 1997. Pharr had 157 receiving yards in the first half before an ankle injury ended his day. The hope is he is good to go Friday against Penn Wood in the Del Val opener.

The Clippers also hope to take a lesson or two from this defeat.

“We had some pick-sixes, that messed us up,” Chester coach LaDontay Bell said. “It’s a good team, we’ve just got to learn from our mistakes.”

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