NETHER PROVIDENCE — Senior quarterback Jack Ryder joked about the touchdown that got away Friday night in Strath Haven’s 27-7 victory over Springfield.
Ryder was supposed to keep the ball for a yard, maybe two, to pick up a first down on fourth-and-short late in the fourth quarter. Haven was on its way to the win and looked to get a fresh set of downs and run out the clock.
But something unexpected happened: Ryder found daylight. He kept running until he stumbled near the 10-yard line and was brought down shy of the goal line. Ryder’s run went for 45 yards.
“Originally, we take the A-gap right up the center on the sneak, but they were mixing up their blitzes and I ended up taking the B-gap on (a previous play). So, the next time they blitzed B-gap and I was, like, ‘Oh my god, I’m wide open,’ and I was falling down at first, but then I saw some grass and started running.
“Unfortunately, the Daniel Jones trip at the end caught me.”
Eagles fans will remember back on Oct. 22 when Jones, the quarterback for the New York Giants, failed to score a touchdown when he tripped over nothing and fell to the ground around the 20-yard line. Ryder’s run wasn’t nearly as comical and he was probably being a bit hard on himself.
“I could have made it,” he said, laughing. “I took a peek back and that was probably not a good idea.”
As for other Strath Haven runs, there weren’t many mistakes.
Ryder and the Panthers (3-1) produced 300 yards rushing on 50 carries in a dominating victory over Springfield (2-2). It marked Haven’s second straight win. Next week the Panthers host Penncrest in the Media Bowl. If not for the an excruciating defeat at Marple Newtown a couple weeks ago, Haven would be sitting atop the Central League’s Class 5A division going into the final weekend of the regular season. But the reality is the Panthers can do no better than second place after Marple clinched the No. 1 spot in 5A Friday night.
“I think we really took it upon ourselves just to practice a little bit harder, really focus on watching film and just making ourselves better,” Ryder said. “As a team, we had to make adjustments. Obviously, that was a heartbreaking loss at Marple and I’d do anything to go back and replay that one, but we’ve done a good job the last two weeks.”
It started Friday with the ground assault. Ryder’s big run notwithstanding, the Panthers used a fair balance of power runs and misdirections to keep Springfield’s defensive front guessing the entire night. Senior Jaris Adams had gained 100 yards by the end of the second quarter on the way to a 127-yard performance. Matt Shuler finished with 89 yards on 14 carries and Chase Barlow added 33 yards on eight totes.
“I was saying in the beginning of the game, just looking over at their sideline, I could tell they weren’t ready to play,” Adams said. “We came out, ran the ball well and punched them in their mouth. We just kept doing what we wanted to do and stayed with it.”
Springfield looked sharp on its opening drive, but stalled out at the Strath Haven 21-yard line when Jake Rama failed to complete a pass on fourth down. Haven’s defense gameplanned for senior running back Jayden Baiden, who entered the night with 392 yards. In the second quarter, Springfield faced a fourth-and-two and handed the ball to Baiden, who was tackled a yard behind the line of scrimmage by senior linebacker Aidan Prochniak. The Panthers were up 14-0 at the time, but that one play seemed to be the dagger.
“I knew it was going to be a run up the middle,” Prochniak said. “I knew I could get there and get the tackle.”
Baiden was held to 45 yards on 17 carries. He bulldozed his way past the goal line from a yard out for Springfield’s only touchdown in the third quarter.
Strath Haven struck first when Ryder hooked up with Shuler on a 37-yard touchdown pass with 4:48 to go in the first quarter. Adams scampered six yards to the end zone on the first play of the second quarter, then Shiler scored on a run from nine yards out with 39 seconds left in the period to give the Panthers a 20-0 advantage at halftime.
Ryder ran a bootleg on a goal-to-go and found Adams in the end zone for a six-yard passing score early in the fourth quarter to extend the Panthers’ lead to 27-7.
Ryder completed 3 of 4 passes for 76 yards.
Springfield quarterback Jake Rama went 16-for-33 through the air for 109 yards. He was intercepted in the fourth quarter by sophomore defensive back Chase Nangle.