Delco Football Notebook: Gallagher trying to keep Haverford players focused

Haverford coach Joe Gallagher’s message to his players Monday afternoon was clear and simple.

“It’s a big step in the right direction, but don’t get too excited,” Gallagher said at Monday night’s Delco Coaches Association meeting.

The Fords (5-1, 3-0 Central League) are riding high after last Saturday’s 29-21 victory over Garnet Valley in what turned out to be an unexpected road game for Haverford. A sinkhole at Haverford’s A.G. Cornog Field forced postponement Friday night. Haverford and Garnet Valley officials then agreed to move the game to Saturday night at the Jags’ home turf, Moe DeFrank Stadium, the site of last year’s shootout. The Fords let a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter fall by the wayside then, a loss they never quite put out of their minds.

Last Saturday, the Fords exorcised their demons.

“A lot of these kids played in last year’s game and it was such a tough loss, it was just ironic that the sinkhole happened,” Gallgher said. “It ended up being a good thing for us because we ended up going back to the scene of a bitter loss. That’s how we ended up viewing it. The biggest thing, and it’s what I told the kids, is we’re in the middle of a season still. We haven’t won anything yet, and that was the focus of our meeting today. If we’re going to pursue a great year, then this game Friday (against Penncrest), we have to be a week better. Every week, we have to be better, and we’ve been doing that, which is good. But it’s the next step. The minute we don’t think that, it’s not going to be good.”

The stars of the victory over Garnet Valley included quarterback Jack Donaghy, receiver/linebacker Chris Trainor and guard/linebacker Jack Farrell.

The junior Trainor has 18 receptions for 356 yards and three touchdowns this year. Last season, Trainor played one-way as a defensive back, but has flourished in his new roles at wide receiver and outside linebacker.

“He is playing lights out. Coming in, we didn’t even know he would be playing receiver,” Gallagher said. “He’s making big catches for us. We moved him to outside linebacker because he’s a physical kid. We moved him from free safety, which was a big change. In our defense the outside linebacker position is critical, and he’s making huge offensive plays to go along with playing really good defense.”

Farrell gets credit for his role at linebacker, but Gallagher noted that the junior has been extremely effective on the offensive line.

“He’s been our anchor on the line,” Gallagher said.

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The PIAA last week approved the move from four to six classifications for football and several other sports beginning in 2016-17.

The Board of Directors voted 26-4 to bump football, boys basketball, girls basketball, baseball and softball to six classifications. Some athletic directors in Delaware County were blindsided by the decision to include sports other than football in the expansion.

“A lot of us thought that they were only going in this direction with football. Maybe lacrosse, too, and they made two classes for that,” said one Central League athletic director. “But not this many (sports).”

One Delco football coach had other ideas.

“When I heard they were moving to six (classifications), I thought they would group all of the superpower 4A teams into 6A to deal with the recruiting issue,” the coach said. “Maybe have all of the private and Catholic schools in 6A as a way of saying, if you’re going to recruit, this is where you’ll play.”

The sixth classification will include male enrollment of 608 and higher for football. The Delco teams that will play in Class AAAAAA are Penn Wood, Haverford, Ridley and Upper Darby. The majority of Delco schools will be grouped in Class AAAAA (410-607). Those schools are Academy Park, Chester, Chichester, Garnet Valley, Interboro, Marple Newtown, Penncrest, Radnor, Springfield and Strath Haven. Glen Mills and Sun Valley will be in Class AAAA (301-409), which would contain only six District One teams in the new system. Delco Christian would stay put in Class A (1-147).

In District 12, Delco’s Catholic League schools — Archbishop Carroll, Bonner-Prendergast and Cardinal O’Hara — would be Class AAAA programs with Philadelphia Public League schools Prep Charter, Mastbaum and School of the Future.

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Episcopal Academy faces its biggest test of the year Friday night when it hosts Malvern Prep, which is considered one of the favorites in the Inter-Ac League. The Friars pulled off a shocking victory over St. Joseph’s Prep two weeks ago.
The Churchmen, the No. 4 team in Delco, will put their 5-0 record on the line.

“They’re typical Malvern, kids with good size who are good athletes,” EA coach Todd Fairlie said. “They just line up and play football and try to wear you down. I think that’s what they’ll try to do to us. They present some matchup problems, but hopefully we do, too, for them.”

Fairlie and his players watched film of Malvern’s victory over St. Joe’s Prep, but it’s not a particular game they spent too much time studying.

“You take that night into consideration, but you also have to factor in the weather for that particular game,” Fairlie said. “They beat them up pretty good, but it’s like an any given night thing. Prep turned the ball over and Malvern took care of the ball and did their job. We just can’t end up doing what Prep did.”

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Moving the Chains >> Radnor defensive lineman Isaiah Coates has been a nightmare for opposing linemen. Coates recorded 10½ tackles in a loss to Ridley two weeks ago and continues to be one of coach Tom Ryan’s best players. … Academy Park and Marple Newtown have allowed the fewest points per game in the county (5.5). Interboro is right behind them with 7.2 ppg.

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