Defense comes of age for Haverford

HAVERFORD >> Through training camp and into the Haverford football season, coach Joe Gallagher was confident on one thing, concerned about another.

With one starter returning on offense, he was interested to see how well the Fords could score. But with eight defensive players back, he was close to sure that Haverford’s opponents wouldn’t score often.

It took most of three games, including a 49-12 victory over visiting Penn Wood Friday night, for that defense to meet the expectations.

“That,” Gallagher said afterward, “was a lot more like it.”

With Jack Donaghy passing for 282 yards and four touchdowns, the Haverford offense was more than sufficient. But it was the defense, which made three interceptions, not including a pick in the end zone of a two-point conversion attempt, and recovered three fumbles that improved Gallagher’s mood as the 2-1 Fords bend toward the Central League season.

“We played a juggernaut in the opener against Downingtown West,” said Gallagher of the Fords’ 41-3 defeat in their nonleague opener. “I mean, that is a really good team. We weren’t quite ready then to be what we want to be. We got a little better last week. And a lot better this week. So that’s the thing I am most pleased with: We’re improving.”

The Fords outlasted Chester, 21-12, in Week 2, then fought past 1-2 Penn Wood, which had its chances but was tormented by the turnovers.

When Amir Vaughn caught the first of his two touchdown passes, on a 62-yard connection with Javon Lindsey-Terrell early in the second quarter, the Patriots were within 7-6. Vaughn would add a six-yard TD catch from Lindsey-Terrell with 3:24 to play.

But Haverford began to hum behind Donaghy, who tossed a 24-yard fourth-down TD pass to Chris Trainor and a 34-yard screen-pass touchdown to Kareem Bernard to key a dominating second-quarter.

Donaghy’s 25-yard scoring pass to Bernard, and Matt Corbett’s second quarterback-keeper touchdown from a wildcat formation helped give the Fords a 35-6 halftime lead.

“We’ve got a lot of weapons,” Bernard said. “We lost a lot of people from last year, but we have a lot of new people in. And they are really pushing it for us. They are working it hard and showing that we can have a good season.”

The Fords will take that momentum on a trip to Conestoga next for the Central League opener. They will also take the defense Gallagher expected.

Friday, Jack Farrell made two interceptions and Corey Hunt added another, returning it 70 yards in the third quarter to the Penn Wood four. That led to Donaghy’s 10-yard touchdown pass to Bernard. Earlier, Trainor ruined the Penn Wood conversion attempt with an end zone pick.

“Obviously, in the first two games, we didn’t play the way we wanted to,” said Farrell of the Fords’ defense. “But tonight, we gave up six points with our starting defense, and six more on our second team. We definitely were not happy with those first two games. Against Downingtown West, we gave up too many points in the first half. We gave up 300 yards to Chester. That’s not what we based our defense on. So we just changed our mindset.

“We really got into it this week. Everybody was focused. Everybody buckled down. We knew what we had to do to come out and win this game.”

That included finishing strong, which the Fords did, as Travis Weiss scored on a 16-yard run with 6:58 to play. Vaughn’s second score, with 3:24 left, provided Penn Wood with a late boost, as did Tayvon Ruley’s 152 rushing yards.

“We’re trying hard and we’re working hard,” Pats’ coach Nick Lincoln said. “I think if we came out on another night, we would have fought them to a tighter game. We got behind early and had some mental breaks. And that snowballs.

“But we have our heads right. We have a game Thursday night at Carroll. So it is a big week for us. We’ve got to turn it around.”

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