RIDLEY TWP. — Myles Turner and the Ridley High defense embraced the challenge that stood before them Friday night at Phil Marion Field.
They had to stop, or limit, bruising Upper Darby running back Kareem Adams, the fourth-leading rusher in Delaware County. Adams is 5-10, 210 pounds of solid rock and is a chore to take down.
“We’re always looking forward to the challenge,” said Turner, a 5-11, 250-pound senior. “After a while, we got to him. He’s got all that weight, I’ve got all this weight. So it was an even trade. I eventually started to figure out how to get him down.”
McAdams was held in check. He ran for only 61 yards, six after halftime. Ridley’s defense sacked UD quarterback Kevin Kerwood three times and picked up a safety when Mike McDonnell tackled McAdams a yard deep in the end zone in a wild third quarter that included a combined four touchdowns and 30 points.
But Ridley’s resurrection from laughingstock to District 1 Class 6A playoff contender has much more to do with the team’s improved play on offense than anything else. The Green Raiders routed Upper Darby, 32-14, to win their fifth straight contest and get above the .500 mark for the first time. The Royals (7-2, 5-2) saw their winning streak snapped at six games.
Ridley produced 392 yards of total offense against, statistically at least, the top-ranked defense in Delco. UD started the night giving up only 176 yards per game. The Green Raiders (5-4, 5-3), though, dominated up front and essentially controlled the tempo the entire night.
— Matt Smith (@DTMattSmith) October 20, 2018
“When you look at the first half, they only had three possessions. We said a couple of weeks ago that we are getting better, better and better. We’re running the football on a very, very good football team,” Ridley coach Dave Wood said. “All of the O-linemen, led by Tommy Bramwell, have done an excellent job. (Quarterback) Jack Bakey continues to do an excellent job running the offense. You’ve got (Dylan) Staley and Yak (Elijah Yakpasuo) who are running the ball really well. We got off to a good first half and it’s because of those guys who are carrying the ball. They’re doing a tremendous job.”
Yakpasuo’s 27-yard scoring scamper late in the first half gave Ridley its first touchdown and a 10-0 cushion. The senior, who got an interception on the final play of regulation, ran for 181 yards on 22 carries and was dazzling at times.
— Matt Smith (@DTMattSmith) October 19, 2018
“We always practice the same plays and we expect the same outcome each and every week,” Yakpasuo said. “I always look for my blockers every time I get outside because I know they’re battling. I just look for my blockers and I hit the corner. It’s always been my style.”
Ridley ran 27 plays for 177 total yards of offense in the opening half. More importantly, perhaps, the Green Raiders (5-4, 5-3) went 5-for-7 on third-down conversions and kept Upper Darby’s high-octane offense off the field. UD had just 15 snaps in the first half and its only encouraging drive ended on a lost fumble at the Ridley 23-yard line.
“They’re so quick and big, but it’s just that the last couple of weeks we’re only running a couple of things. We’re doing it well and we’re putting hats on
hats and we’re making the other teams play assignment football,” Wood said. “It’s things like GV (Garnet Valley) and playoff teams do so well. Everyone says, well, how does GV go to back-to-back District 1 finals? Well, it’s because they run a good system and it’s hard to defend when you’re running it well. Right now, we’re running the ball and our system very well.”
Wood’s offensive coordinator is Scott Green, who held the same position at Garnet Valley for several years before joining Wood’s staff.
Since getting off the schneid, Ridley’s rush offense is averaging 337.6 yards per game. Its ball carriers are averaging close to seven yards (6.7) per tote. So much of the credit goes to an offensive line that is growing every week. Bramwell, a 6-5, 285-pound senior, is the best of the bunch but Matt Shiber, Sean O’Doherty, Vaughn Kertis, and Gabe Desmond have thrived as well.
“We worked hard all week and we knew we could get after it. We knew they were quick on defense, so we had to work hard. We just dominated. That determined the game,” Bramwell said. “It’s amazing. We know the O-line is a major part of the team and we just started clicking. We had to work and we have.”
UD came out firing in the second half. Kerwood (8-for-15, 103 yards) connected with Marson Weh for a 22-yard touchdown pass to cut Ridley’s lead to 10-7. But three plays later, Ridley was back in the end zone. Staley (76 yards, nine carries) broke off a 62-yard run, which set up Hassan Chandler’s five-yard scoring gallop. UD dialed up a fake punt on its next possession. Weh took the snap and sprinted down the Ridley sideline 47 yards to paydirt to make it a 17-14 Ridley advantage.
That was the final highlight for the Royals, whose emotions got the best of them in the final quarter. Players on the Upper Darby sideline had to be pulled a part following a skirmish. It could be a debilitating loss for the Royals, who began the night in position to earn a first-round playoff home game, provided they won Friday and next week against Garnet Valley.
Speaking of playoffs, believe it or not, Ridley has a chance to squeak into the District 1 Class 6A postseason. But they have to beat Delco’s No.2-ranked team, Haverford (8-1), on the road next Friday and get some outside help along the way. Their comeback this year has been nothing short of remarkable.
“We always look for a competition and we remind ourselves that, losing, we’re not used to that,” Turner said. “We feel we can beat any team. We’ve just got to keep that mindset.”
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