‘Everyman’ Blair is giving Fords a chance to believe
HAVERFORD >> As Joe Gallagher begins his 26th season as the head coach at Haverford High, he is excited about the following: His running back, his kicker, his punter, his punt-returner, his slot receiver, his kick-returner, his safety, his cornerback and his backup quarterback.
Their names? Trey Blair.
“I’ve never seen anything like him,” Gallagher said. “No. Not like that.”
Never? Not in the Fords’ 2015 Central League championship season? Not even in 1972, when Gallagher was a major-time, Tennessee-bound recruit at St. James?
“Billy Warrington?” he said, trying hard to identify a player with the potential to match Blair’s variety of skills and recalling a long-ago Bulldogs teammate. “Maybe he could have done it.”
And how about Joe Gal his own self?
“Me,” said Gallagher, smiling, even as he was wearing a St. James polo shirt at practice. “No, I couldn’t have done the skill stuff.”
Blair is the 5-11, 183-pound junior, technically listed as a cornerback and a wide receiver. But if he shows up everyplace else too, neither Fords fans nor opposing coaches should be surprised. They have been warned.
“Yeah, I like to do it all,” Blair said. “I don’t think I have a specific strength. I think my strength is that I have a lot of versatility and I can play almost anywhere on the field on both sides of the ball. There’s no specific position that I would choose over another.
“Some games I might be playing safety. Some games I might be playing corner, depending on who we are playing. On offense, I think I’ll get a few handoffs a game, a couple of receptions and, if we need to, I can go into wildcat and play quarterback. And I can return punts and kicks, too.”
Haverford 2018 Schedule
With Blair, and with the returning excellence and experience of quarterback Jake Ruane, Gallagher is confident of fielding another playoff team, despite significant losses on both sides of the line of scrimmage. High among those departures is safety Jordan Mosley, who has surfaced as a linebacker at Maryland. But someone will fill that spot in the Fords’ secondary.
Yep. That would be him.
“Mosley is a big loss, but Trey will play his position at free safety,” Gallagher said. “It was comforting having Jordan back there, He had eight interceptions last year. Having an athlete in the middle of the field is such a comforting thing for a coach. Trey will take his spot.”
An accomplished baseball outfielder who often leaves observers impressed, Blair grew in the Haverford youth programs and began to show his special versatility in middle school.
“When I played in Haverford youth, I really didn’t like football then,” he said. “Then I decided to come back and play for the middle school and that’s when I started to love it. Then I came up here and the coaches here are incredible. That kind of helped me. And my passion for football grew.”
It didn’t take Gallagher long to realize he had something special.
“It’s obvious,” the Fords’ coach said. “It’s known. Anybody who has ever been around him knows it. He could probably be a college baseball player. He’s a special athlete. And the other great thing about it is he’s an incredibly hard worker on top of his natural skills.”
Like Blair, Ruane provides versatility, with a proven ability to both run and pass for touchdowns. Though the Fords will return only eight regulars from a 9-3 team that fell to North Penn in the postseason, Gallagher has plans and high expectations for Paul Denman, Sean Lydon, John Higson, Kevin DePrince and Steve Peta, all of whom sparkled during training camp.
“We’ve been challenging the last few years for the league title and obviously we won it in 2015,” Gallagher said, “so we are very excited about our chances for competing for the Central League.”
For that, he has at least one plan.
“To get Trey Blair the ball,” Gallagher said, “every which way I can.”
WORTH THE WEIGHT
The Fords benefitted from voluntary offseason weight training by Marko Dapkey.
Once a starting football player at Monsignor Bonner, and later at Neshaminy, Dapkey said he was stricken by cancer, ending his playing career. But he recovered, owns a cross-fit gym, MFT Fitness in Havertown, and has voluntarily provided practical and inspirational benefits in the Haverford weight room.
“I didn’t let them walk in and start lifting weights,” the West Chester University grad said. “They had to learn the basics. They had to be disciplined with that. You have to have a system. And I think the idea of having a system has been huge for them and their confidence.”
Paul Denman, who ably centers the offensive line, will shift on defense from linebacker to the defensive line.
“He is one of the most tenacious players I have ever coached,” Gallagher said. “He’s like the heart and soul of our team, to be quite honest with you.”
Denman is content with the move.
“As long as I am on the field it doesn’t matter,” he said. “That’s the mentality of the team. Everybody wants to get on the field.”
OFFENSIVE PLAYER TO WATCH
JAKE RUANE >> The returning All-Central quarterback threw for 22 touchdowns last season and ran for 10 more. And he will be a third-year starter. In the Haverford system, that experience is rare for a quarterback.
“It’s huge for me,” Ruane said. “Sophomore year, I was still getting used to everything. Junior year, I built off that. And now I am just putting everything together and trying to win a lot of games this year.”
DEFENSIVE PLAYER TO WATCH
SHANE MOSLEY >> The Fords lost valuable defender Jordan Mosley, but his younger brother, a junior, will help at safety, corner and linebacker.
“I love defense,” he said. “The game rides on me. I have to make sure the other team doesn’t score, because points win.”
-By Jack McCaffery, email@example.com
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