Donaghy, Bruce deliver records, memories in classic clash

HAVERFORD >> Entering Thursday, the numbers were so gaudy, the potential accolades so hallowed, that they demanded attention.

History would be made at A.G. Cornog Field Thursday: Certainly by a team ending a title drought of either two or five decades. But also perhaps by a pair of special athletes whose names are destined to endure among the all-time gridiron greats Delaware County has ever seen.

But befitting the roller-coaster Thanksgiving Day slugfest that was Haverford’s 49-42 win over Upper Darby, there was a twist in the historical accounting.

Upper Darby's Isaiah Bruce ran for 203 yards to set the single-season Delaware County record Thursday, but his fumble led to Haverford's game-winning score in a 49-42 Fords win. (Times Staff/Robert J. Gurecki)
Upper Darby’s Isaiah Bruce ran for 203 yards to set the single-season Delaware County record Thursday, but his fumble led to Haverford’s game-winning score in a 49-42 Fords win. (Times Staff/Robert J. Gurecki)

For Jack Donaghy, whose arm mounted an all-out assault on history this season, the yards that most define his storybook campaign were covered by his legs.

For Isaiah Bruce, the final feet of his journey through the record books that took him over that revered benchmark for running backs, 200 yards, packed the most pain of the day.

First, the numbers. Haverford quarterback Donaghy went 16-for-26 for 307 yards, tossing for five touchdowns to four receivers, including two to Kareem Bernard.

His last starring effort raises his pass yardage total to 2,716 for the season and 5,306 for his storied career, both second all-time in Delaware County history.

He fell just 31 yards shy of Ridley legend Dennis Decker’s single-season record. So when the Fords faced a second-and-long at the Upper Darby 19 with 40 seconds to play in a tie game, all signs should’ve pointed to Donaghy airing it out.

Instead, Donaghy dropped back, paused to allow the Upper Darby pass rush that gave him uncharacteristic fits all day to get upfield, then tucked down and ran up the gut, 19 yards, for the game-winning points.

In a final burst of irony, for all the yards gained by both sides (853 total, if you’re keeping score), Donaghy’s last score was on a play that wasn’t even designed to gain much more than good field position for his kicker.

“It was to set it up in the middle of the field to let Evan Boyce kick the winning field goal,” Donaghy said. “I’ve known Evan Boyce since he was born, pretty much. He lives five doors down from me. So I wasn’t going to let my best friend win the game. I was going to take it to the house.”

You wouldn’t know it from the dejected tone in Bruce’s voice, but history looks more favorably on the facts and figures he compiled Thursday.

Bruce ran for 203 yards, what seems like his 18th 200-yard game of the season. He scored a pair of touchdowns and powered the ball into the line 36 times as the heart of the Royals offense.

Bruce finishes his high school career with 2,450 yards this season, destroying Tony Canci’s county record (2,323). For his career, Bruce tallied 3,341, breaking Simoni Lawrence’s program record (3,217) and finishing as the 14th-highest total in Delco history.

But Bruce’s final carry was his most forgettable: A 16-yard gain in the final minute across the 50 where he was stripped by defensive back Josh Lafferty for Ethan Samel to scoop up and return 39 yards to put the Fords in business at the 14. “It means more or less something for my team, not really me, because we didn’t come out and win tonight,” Bruce said of the records, choking back tears. “I could’ve done more. It’s great to have a good season, but I wanted to have my team win.” It sells two outstanding supporting casts too short to bill Thursday’s classic as merely a collision of superstar players. But the scoreboard indicated that they had their say, more than most. The first half belonged to Donaghy, who had 207 yards at the break, shifting the question of downing Decker’s record more to “by how much” than “if.” He orchestrated five first-half scores, including tosses of 43 and 6 yards to Bernard, 36 to Chris Trainor and 21 to Bobby McClure. Donaghy’s lunge over the goal line from two yards out with 19.1 seconds left in the half appeared to guarantee the Fords a 35-14 lead at the break.

But Upper Darby struck back, first with Christoff Minott hitting Brandon Morton for 31 yards as the horn sounded to cut the deficit to two scores.

Then came Bruce’s half, first as a decoy that allowed Minott (105 yards rushing) to get the Royals moving.

“We needed to rally together and come together and get the points back that we lost,” Bruce said. “We knew they’d key on me the whole game, so we tried to get other players going.”

But Donaghy had one last shot. Leader that he is, he came though. After just one completion in the third quarter, he set to work in the fourth. Down 42-35, he hit Trainor for 16 yards on fourth-and-10 at the 45, a game that kept hope alive.

“I’m not going to use the word ‘desperation,’ but our season was on the line there,” Donaghy said. “If we didn’t convert on fourth-and-10, I don’t know what would’ve happened. I just put it up there, and Chris made an incredible catch.”

Another hookup to Trainor allowed him to find Matt Corbett for 15 in the corner of the end zone, ending a streak of 28 straight Upper Darby points. When Bruce’s fumble gave the Fords another chance, it’s no surprise that Donaghy was the one to capitalize.

“Coach Gal’s been preaching all year about next play,” Donaghy said. “We need to focus on the next play. No matter what happens, it’s gone. It’s in the past. We can’t control what happened, so we have to flip the page, turn the table and get ready to play the next play. And I think that showed in the fourth quarter.”

For all the light of history shining on Haverford, Donaghy showed that and much more.

To contact Matthew De George, email Follow him on Twitter @sportsdoctormd.

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