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Hawkins’ long, strange trip helps give Germantown Academy the blues

WHITEMARSH TWP. >> Try as they might to script their movements and motions, no defensive back knows precisely where his feet will carry him until he actually makes an interception.

That best describes how The Haverford School’s Daiyaan Hawkins covered 31 yards Saturday afternoon. The junior kept his eyes on a tipped pass, tracked it, and then he traipsed through the arms of three would-be tacklers and across the goal line, the most highlight reel-worthy moment of the Fords’ 38-11 blowout of previously undefeated Germantown Academy.

“I stayed in the flat just in case it wasn’t caught,” Hawkins said. “I didn’t know which way to go. I went outside first, juked one guy, juked another guy, and then I was in the end zone.”

The Haverford School (3-2, 1-0) opened the Inter-Ac League schedule with an improbable victory against a stout opponent in Germantown Academy (5-1, 0-1). The Fords, who led 14-11 at halftime, scored the final 24 points of the game.

Quarterback Ben Gerber finished 9-for-14 with 169 yards and two touchdowns – a shovel pass to Nate Whitaker, who dipped his way to a 32-yard score, and a 60-yard heave to Dan Whaley. Logan Keller and Mekhi Ajose-Williamson had a rushing touchdown apiece.

And Hawkins finished with 96 yards on 13 rushes for the Fords.

“Coach (Mike) Murphy had us ready for this one, with how he schedules the nonleague games,” Gerber said. “That level of competition prepares us for what we’ll see in the Inter-Ac. We knew we were capable of this kind of game because of how we looked in nonleague games.”

That’s not to say the Fords looked the part early on, however.

The Haverford School’s shaky start, including three fumbles on its first four snaps, resulted in exceptional field position for Germantown Academy and, eventually, a 25-yard field goal by GA’s Nick Niemynski.

The Fords rebounded on the third series, stringing together an eight-play, 55-yard drive and culminating in a bullish 15-yard scoring run by Mekhi Ajose-Williamson. That put Haverford School in front, 7-3, with 2:23 to go in the first quarter. The Fords added to that lead two plays into their next possession, when Gerber connected with Whaley for a 60-yard strike in front of the Germantown Academy sideline.

Suddenly, the Fords had found their footing and had pieced together a 14-3 lead only seconds into the third quarter.

“Dan can take the top off of any defense,” Gerber said.

Germantown Academy answered on its next offensive series. Patriots quarterback Matt Brittingham identified a favorite target, sophomore receiver Jerry Griffen-Batchler, and went to him four times for 72 yards, including a nine-yard touchdown pass into the back left corner of the end zone. A run by Luke Strauss on a two-point conversion attempt trimmed Haverford School’s lead to 14-11, where it would remain heading into halftime.

The Fords’ dominance continued after the break, with the second of Gerber’s two touchdown passes and Hawkins’ interception and tapdance en route to a touchdown. 

“We talked about wanting to finish, to control the ball like we did,” Murphy said. “It’s something we’ve been focused on as a team and as an offense. I thought that was a really good job by us in the final two quarters.”

Their effort showed. Germantown Academy’s players began chirping at one another on the sideline, and their coach Matt Dence called a timeout to deliver an impassioned address about sticking by one another and playing hard until the final whistle.

“In the league, starting 1-0 is huge to get our confidence up,” Gerber said. “We needed a game like this against Germantown Academy, and we’re glad we got it.”

“This is a big step for us,” said Hawkins, who would know a thing or two about taking steps in the right direction.

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