NETHER PROVIDENCE — Despite the challenges, despite an extended offseason, despite all the worries and concerns that it might not happen at all, Jack Ryder had a feeling that he would have a senior season as the quarterback at Strath Haven.
That’s because he’s had that feeling his entire life.
“That was my plan,” Ryder said before a recent practice. “It was to play quarterback here.”
Ryder is the son of Derek Ryder, who played quarterback at Strath Haven. Derek is the son of Fred Ryder, who played quarterback for Nether Providence, which eventually grew to become Strath Haven. And in this particular season, and not just for the off-field bumps, Panthers coach Kevin Clancy is comforted by that legacy.
Challenged to rebuild both his offensive and defensive lines, Clancy has maintained a peaceful confidence that as long as there is a Ryder behind center, the stability that has defined Strath Haven football for decades will be safe.
“He’s experienced and his leadership has been outstanding,” Clancy said. “He’s done a great job with that. He has a strong arm. He has very good vision. He understands high school football and the passing game. He really knows where I want the ball to be thrown.
“He has a real good idea of football game situations. That comes from playing last year, but to be honest with you, I think it’s intuitive.”
Ryder started as a junior, throwing for 449 yards and five touchdowns and being intercepted just once in Clancy’s run-oriented offense. He will be protected by a new line, including 6-3 junior tackle Jake Millet, a training-camp standout; 5-11 junior guard Ethan Barrar; and 6-2 junior center Jack Beck.
But Ryder will be surrounded by enough accomplished offensive weapons to make it work. Senior running backs Evan Blake and Jaris Adams, and junior ball-carrier Matt Shuler had a combined 120 carries and eight touchdowns last season.
If there is concern around King Field, it is that Strath Haven will need to replace the middle of its defense. But Clancy is counting heavily on 6-0, 185-pound senior defensive end Christian Mazur.
Tight end and linebacker Aiden Prochniak will be a two-way contributor, as will running back and defensive back Chase Barlow.
That should be enough for Ryder to maintain a strong family and football tradition.
“He’s a true leader,” said Mazur, soon to be headed to West Point as a lacrosse recruit. “He knows how to get the guys going. He knows the plays. He knows where people should be. And he really leads them through practice and game day.”
On that, there has been little doubt for close to 60 years.
“I never saw any film of my grandpa playing,” Ryder said. “My dad has a couple. We were watching one of him playing against Ridley the other night.”
Fred Ryder was a great player at N-P, which one year went 5-0-4, prodding boosters to present coach Bob Fithian with a gift box containing — what else? — four ties. Derek Ryder played for Strath Haven just before the legendary Clancy era, later playing baseball in the Angels organization.
“They say they see some of themselves in the way I play,” Jack Ryder said. “They’ve been at all of my games. Hopefully, my grandpa can come this year with all the restrictions and all, because he has been a huge influence in my life up to this point.”
Ryder has had interest from Dickinson, Ursinus and Washington & Jefferson, but is leaning toward playing football somewhere for a year as a post-grad.
At quarterback, naturally.