Football Preview: Donaghy lone returnee, not lone star for Haverford

HAVERFORD >> For most of his 23 seasons as the football coach at Haverford High, Joe Gallagher always knew how to create some peace, some quiet, some radio silence. He had only to ask his Fords one question.

“I’d say, ‘Who here has played youth football?’” Gallagher said. “Almost no one would raise their hand.”

Gallagher was telling that story after a recent practice, smiling at how things have changed. And when he realizes that Haverford has been in the district playoffs in two of the past three seasons and has emerged as a regular contender in the Central League, he figures the answer is as simple as the birth of the Haverford youth football program 10 years ago.

“It was 2005, and you have to look at the big picture,” he said. “It’s showing up now, and it is showing up big for us.”
And when he asked that question before training camp this summer, the one that always resulted in the sound of crickets?

“Tons of hands went up,” he said.

With that background, Gallagher figures, the Fords can again contend for a league championship, but not before some challenges. For one, only one starter returns on offense from the 8-4 team that went 7-2 and finished third in the Central last season. And then there’s the one-word answer he will give whenever asked if the Fords have size:


Still, there is optimism around A.G. Cornog Field, for eight starters return on defense, and the returning offensive starter is the sitting All-Central quarterback, Jack Donaghy.

“If you’re only going to have one starter back on offense,” shrugged Gallagher, “that’s a good one to have back.”

Linebackers Jack Farrell (tight end), left, and Mike Romanofsky (running back) are two Fords who should split duty on offense and defense this season. (Times Staff/Rick Kauffman)
Linebackers Jack Farrell (tight end), left, and Mike Romanofsky (running back) are two Fords who should split duty on offense and defense this season. (Times Staff/Rick Kauffman)

As a junior, Donaghy threw for a Delco-best 1,633 yards and 19 touchdowns, three in the Fords’ annual Thanksgiving challenge against Upper Darby, and has been receiving interest from college programs, many at the higher end of the academic scale. Among those, according to Gallagher, is Johns Hopkins. With anything close to an encore, Donaghy could push the Fords back into contention.

“It’s on me to be a leader and kind of set expectations for the team,” the quarterback said. “But they have all been playing since freshman year. So they know what everyone else expects from them as well. We just have to keep getting better every day.”

In addition to Donaghy, the Fords will expect scoring from 200-plus-pound senior running backs Mike Romanofsky and Bill Farrell, junior tight end Jack Farrell, senior receiver Ethan Samel and junior pass-catcher Chris Trainor. The major challenge for Gallagher, who played successfully on the offensive line at the University of Tennessee, will be to find enough line help from his 2014 junior varsity to keep Donaghy protected. But even if that fails and field goals become the priority, the Fords should thrive with senior kicker-punter Evan Boyce, who reportedly dazzled at a recruiting showcase at Temple.

The defense, deep in that experience, should help, particularly early, as the Fords will play at Wissahickon and Downingtown West before their Sept. 11 home opener against Chester.

Jack Farrell, Bill Farrell and Luke McCallion should be prominent amid a deep linebacking staff. Junior Kareem Bernard is a defensive back to watch. Senior Dennis Spaventa will inject his experience into the offensive and defensive lines.

Receiver-linebacker Bob McClure, receiver and defensive back Matt Corbitt and tight end-linebacker Brandon Noga enter the program, providing the promise of immediate help. And a respectable showing in a scrimmage against Council Rock North did spread some confidence.

“We were disappointed last year, because our goal is always to win the Central League,” said Samel, who doubles as a cornerback. “Our coaches always emphasize that.”

The Fords came close last season, losing only to Springfield and Garnet Valley in the league, the 44-41 loss to the Jaguars a classic, decided in the final 29 seconds.

“A tough one,” Samel said. “But after that, it is when we came together as a team. It’s when we bonded.”
The feeder system, 10 years old and humming, has pushed Haverford closer to the Central League elite, providing the proper start. As for a more difficult task?

“We were up by a couple of touchdowns in the fourth quarter of that Garnet Valley game,” Samel said. “But we learned a valuable lesson. We learned that we have to finish.”

And to make some real football noise.

This story appears in the Delco Times Football Preview, available on newsstands Friday.

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