RIDLEY TWP. — Jack Bakey has put in countless hours of preparation, both in the film room and at practice.
He needn’t worry about living up to the lofty expectations that comes with playing quarterback at Ridley High School. He is not the next Matt Blundin or Joe Emmi or John Waller or Dennis Decker, but Bakey is fit to run coordinator Scott Green’s option-based offense.
Bakey and the Green Raiders were roughed up in the first month of the season. But as the quarterback continues to show how much of a grasp he has on the offense, the rest of the team has followed suit and is clicking at the right time.
“We are, with every game, gaining more confidence in each other,” Bakey said Friday night. “We are coming together.”
That much was evident in Ridley’s 42-21 Central League decision over Strath Haven at Phil Marion Field. After losing their first four games, the Green Raiders are riding a three-game winning streak.
Bakey engineered six scoring drives as Ridley’s offense amassed 440 total yards of offense. Of course, most of that damage happened via the run and Bakey played a big part in the offense’s success.
Bakey was the star. The senior ran for three second-half touchdowns and racked up 202 yards on 20 carries. The running backs got in on the fun, too. Dylan Staley (74 yards, 13 carries, two TDs), Elijah Yakpasuo (68 yards, 12 carries, TD) and Hassan Chandler (44 yards, five carries) took advantage of open running space.
“The credit goes to the offensive line,” Bakey said.
Junior center Sean O’Doherty and his fellow starting linemen — Gabe Desmond, Tom Bramwell, Damian Pringle, Vaughn Kertis — appreciate the shoutout.
“We’ve been working all week, and really all year, on one play and it’s been working really effectively and gradually, game by game,” O’Doherty said. “We’ve been working really hard at it in practice, picked up the intensity, and it really worked out.”
Bakey executed the option with aplomb. Showing off his ability to slither out of tight spaces and into open green, Bakey rattled off eight runs of eight or more yards. His 50-yard scamper in the third quarter led to a one-yard sneak, giving Ridley a 28-21 lead it would not relinquish.
“We knew coming into the game that we were going to execute our plays,” Bakey said.
Ridley’s rushers averaged a cool 7.6 yards per carry.
“We were strong upfront,” O’Doherty said. “We just took over and dominated, did our jobs and got the ‘W’.”
For a while, though, the teams traded scoring punches. It began in the first quarter when Strath Haven (3-4, 3-3 Central League) took the opening
kick past midfield and scored on an eight-play drive capped by a Zack Hussein four-yard run. Ridley (3-4, 3-3) answered with an 11-play, 71-yard drive completed when Staley crossed the goal line from a yard out.
Later in the second quarter the Panthers went in front on another touchdown run by Hussein. A botched point-after try led to a two-point conversion run by Jake Fisher.
“We had to keep coming back and fighting,” Bakey said.
And so they did. Right before halftime, Yakpasuo, Ridley’s leading rusher on the season, scored from five yards out to make it a one-point Strath Haven lead at intermission.
It was clear Strath Haven had no way to counter Ridley’s attack. But it was up to the Green Raiders defense to buckle down. The teams traded scores to open the third quarter. Bakey’s one-yard run gave Ridley a brief lead, but Strath Haven quickly moved downfield on the ensuing drive. Fisher’s 43-yard pass to Arion Ford led to a 10-yard run by Ethan Belville, tying the score at 21 apiece.
After the Green Raiders regained the lead for good, Ridley’s defense forced a Strath Haven punt sandwiched between a pair of fumbles.
“The defense, I thought, did a great job in that second half,” Ridley coach Dave Wood said. “They were running the ball against us very well in the first half and we had to make some adjustments. I also think that us controlling the football and wearing them down a little bit … I think that helped us. The offensive line really played well tonight and that’s what we’ve seen the last couple of weeks. We knew we were going to be a very young team, we had to move pieces around in the first three or four weeks. Right now we have one or two guys going both ways … and it’s been a big adjustment for us and it’s starting to help us big time.”
Hussein, who entered the night as the second-leading rusher in Delco with 867 yards, was held to five yards on five carries in the second half. He finished with 63 yards on 19 totes. After a 3-1 start, the Panthers have lost three consecutive games.