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Football Notebook: Playoffs or not, Ridley will soldier on

Ridley will play through Thanksgiving.

Regardless of his team’s playoff chances, coach Dave Wood doesn’t plan on having his players turn their equipment in anytime soon.

With remaining games against Conestoga and Upper Darby, it’s possible Ridley can sneak into the District 1 Class 6A tournament, provided it wins both contests. Sitting in 19th place, Ridley is three spots from a playoff seed. Following a 2-4 start, Wood’s team has won consecutive games for the first time in 2017.

If the playoff thing doesn’t go their way, the Green Raiders will search for a contingency game in Week 11 before their Thanksgiving showdown against Interboro.

In the meantime, the Green Raiders will continue to go about their business. Jobs will be on the line in the remaining weeks. Youngsters will have a chance to earn more playing time.

“The last couple weeks there has been some new kids at positions that we’ve been rotating on both sides of the ball. We’ve been switching our quarterbacks, we switched some offensive linemen and switched some receivers. We’ve done the same thing up front on the defensive line, with more kids involved there and more kids at outside backer. Some new faces in the secondary, too,” Wood said. “The last two weeks, I think we’ve played better.”

While the focus remains on the 2017 campaign, Wood and his coaching staff are also busy evaluating the program’s future.

“There are kids working extremely hard who, at this point, we’ve got to take a look at. But they have earned that right to get on the field,” Wood said. “The one thing I stress all the time (is) everybody that’s playing needs to do all the things the right way. We have to make changes when things are not going well. We have higher expectations as a program to play better and to compete. Some of these younger kids deserve a shot to play and we’ve started to do that. We’re taking a look and seeing what will we have coming back next year in certain spots. Some kids have done a nice job, but have to continue to grow as a player. That comes with reps and comes with seeing varsity experience.”

Wood challenges his starters to feel unsafe in their roles. Someone else on the depth is always knocking at the door. It’s a motivation tactic that has paid dividends at practice in recent weeks.

“The disappointing thing a couple weeks ago was, I think we weren’t competing in practice,” Wood said. “When you start to give some young kids opportunities in games, it’s a different practice that next week. A kid who was starting maybe isn’t seeing as many reps as before, and practice gets a little bit more competitive real quick the following week.”

Kamal Richardson has been Wood’s most consistent offensive player. The senior fullback leads the team in rushing with 761 yards and seven touchdowns.

“He’s a kid who was behind (All-Delco) Brock (Anderson) last year. The way he’s come in and how he’s prepared in the offseason, every week he seems to get better in this offense,” Wood said. “He’s a different kid this year. He works his tail off. He’s the one kid on that side of the ball, day in and day out, who is preparing hard and doing all the right things. In performing on a weekly basis, he’s been our best kid, no doubt about it.”

Despite the rough patches, Wood has been happy with the play of his few returning seniors from last fall’s Central League championship squad. Senior leaders such as linebacker Sean Crowley, lineman Joe Spillman and running back Ociele “OC” Miller have been great examples through their work ethic and dedication to the program.

“From the defensive side of the ball, the kids have worked their tails off week in and week out, Crowley and Spillman. They’re two major pieces of the defense. They’ve really kept things together,” Wood said. “On the offensive side, OC Miller has done a great job at keeping the side of the ball intact.”

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In eight games, Garnet Valley’s veer option attack has amassed 2,546 yards rushing on 411 carries.

Seldom do you see the Jaguars air the ball out, but last week was an exception. Ryan Hamby, who has started under center the majority of the year, enjoyed his best performance to date. Hamby completed 5 of 8 attempts for 159 yards and three scores.

That got us thinking, when was the last time a Jags quarterback produced similar passing numbers? Per Daily Times records, the last time the Jags recorded at least five completions on eight pass attempts was in last season’s District 1 Class 6A championship loss to North Penn Nick Juliano was 6-for-12 for 64 yards and a touchdown.

You have to go back to 2015 to find the last time GV passed for more than 100 yards in a game. Matt Hamby totaled 156 yards in a loss to Haverford.

And, finally, what about those three touchdown passes? That hasn’t been done by the Jaguars since 2014, when Steve Flanagan was 7-for-9 for 145 yards and three scores in a 42-point thumping of — coincidence? — Harriton.

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After beginning the seasons with losses in two of its first three games, Upper Darby is riding a five-game winning streak into Friday’s matchup with Middletown (Del.).

The Royals have thrived in many facets, but their defense has done an exceptional job against the run. UD’s run stuffers are limiting ball carriers to a paltry 2.4 yards per carry this season. Even the run defense’s worst game wasn’t awful. Back in Week 2, Garnet Valley — the top rushing offense in the county — ran for 258 yards on 56 carries (4.4). Since that game, the Royals have held run offenses to 65.3 yards per game.

Springfield, which is averaging 180.8 rushing yards per night, mustered a season-low 86 yards on 34 carries against Upper Darby in Week 3. UD hasn’t lost since that game.

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DISTRICT PLAYOFF RANKINGS >> Plenty of Delco teams are jockeying for playoff position with two weeks to go in the regular season.

In Class 6A, Garnet Valley (8-0) holds the No. 1 seed and is in line to host Penn Wood (6-2) or Spring-Ford (5-3), who are in a virtual tie for 16th place. Haverford (7-1) and Upper Darby (6-2) are 10th and 13th, respectively.

In Class 5A, Springfield (8-0) sits atop the rankings with Upper Moreland (7-0) nibbling its heels. Academy Park (5-2) is fourth, while seven Delco teams occupy spots 10 through 16: Marple Newtown (4-4), Strath Haven (4-4), Radnor (4-4), Sun Valley (4-4), Chichester (3-4), Glen Mills (2-5) and Penncrest (2-6).

It would appear that a team with as many as seven losses will qualify for the district playoffs in Class 5A.
Interboro (4-4) holds the fourth and final seed in Class 4A. Delco Christian (5-3) is at the top of the rankings in Class A.

To contact Matt Smith, email msmith@delcotimes.com. Follow him on Twitter @DTMattSmith.

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