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Mills, Heller help Ridley to thrilling win over Springfield

Ridley's Tahir Mills breaks it open for his second touchdown in the third quarter as the Green Raiders defeated Springfield Friday night at Phil Marion Field. PETE BANNAN - MEDIANEWS GROUP

RIDLEY TWP. — Five years had passed since Ridley High started a football season with three consecutive wins.

By Ridley’s standards, that’s far too long.

The winningest program in Delaware County history has won at least seven games in every non-pandemic shortened season under coach Dave Wood (last year the team was 3-3 overall). The high-water mark of 11 victories happened in 2016, when Ridley captured its 23rd Central League championship after beginning the year with a 3-0 record.

After Friday’s slugfest with rival Springfield, it’s obvious Ridley means business and expects to win a lot of games this fall. So far, the Green Raiders are picture perfect.

Tahir Mills scored via a 88-yard punt return as well as a 77-yard rush and quarterback John Heller threw for 135 yards and two touchdown passes as Ridley survived Springfield, 33-28, in a back-and-forth battle between heated rivals Friday at Phil Marion Field.

“This feels like a Super Bowl win,” senior guard Khalil Blagmon said. “We’re the first team at Ridley in five years to go 3-0 and the last time we did this, we won the Central League. It feels great.”

Ridley’s (2) Kimir Stephenson (15) Stephen O’Donovan, (12) Sean Harrington and (9) Aubrey Daniels mob (4) Tahir Mills after his second touchdown as the Green Raiders defeated Springfield Friday even at Phil Marion Field. (PETE BANNAN-DAILY TIMES)

While the Green Raiders will focus on conquering Haverford next week, there’s no mistake they are a team primed to make a run at a Central League crown. In a season where Garnet Valley is the presumed favorite, Ridley is happy it can throw its hat back into the ring.

For the first time in several years, the Green Raiders possess a complete offense. They have a quarterback in Heller who can air the ball out to a slew of weapons. Senior wide receiver Sean Harrington hauled in four balls for 41 yards. Heller’s 24-yard TD pass to Harrington with 10:50 left in the fourth quarter put the Green Raiders back in front by two scores. It proved to be the difference.

In the first quarter, Heller hooked up with sophomore Kaheem Powell for the first touchdown of the game.

“We have a lot of different guys who can make plays,” Heller said.

For far too long Ridley has failed to produce a consistent passing attack. But now the Green Raiders, the Quarterback High of Delco, seem to have the right personnel to open the playbook.

“We just bought in from the offseason and we put our mind toward the same goal,” Heller said. “Now that it’s our senior season, we didn’t want to come out here and be average again. We all have that one goal and we’re all working for it.”

Ridley quarterback John Heller throws a first quarter pass as the Green Raiders defeated Springfield Friday even at Phil Marion Field. (PETE BANNAN-DAILY TIMES)

Aiding the Green Raiders was an excellent outing by the special teams unit. Mills scored on a 88-yard punt return in the second quarter to put his team in front, 14-7. Ridley then opened the second half with a bang, as Powell ran 79 yards to the house.

“For years we’ve been doubted. All year last year, they doubted us,” Mills said. “We just had to come out with a chip on our shoulder and show them what we can do.”

Mills carved up the Cougars’ defense for 113 yards on 16 carries. He broke off a 77-yard scoring run in the third quarter, a mere 48 seconds after Powell’s kick return to paydirt. One minute into the second half, Ridley was up, 27-7.

But Springfield (1-2) never quit.

Connor Roche rumbled into the end zone from two yards out to cut the Ridley lead to 13 points midway through the third. Later, quarterback Jake Rama connected with Aidan Kreydt on a six-yard pass in the end zone with four minutes left in the period. That 20-point cushion for the Green Raiders was slipping away.

“We just knew we had to go out and play all four quarters and get this win,” Blagmon said.

Senior lineman Brian O’Dea and junior lineman Hayden Brown were among the standouts on Ridley’s defense.

After Harrington’s touchdown catch, Springfield answered to pull within five points, 33-28. Rama found Robby Longo on a 32-yard pass and Mike O’Donnell on a five-yard connection in the end zone with 7:13 to play. Rama completed 25 of 37 passes for 302 yards. Longo hauled in seven passes for 115 yards and Kreydt had six catches for 79.

Ridley’s ensuing drive stalled out near midfield, which meant Rama and the Springfield offense had one last chance to pull out the win. But the Green Raiders forced four straight incompletions by Rama and a turnover on downs. Mills put the finishing touches on the Ridley win with a first-down run in the final minute.

“We’re never cocky and we know we have to continue to work hard,” Blagmon said. “We’ll be at it at 8 a.m. Saturday morning, watching film and finding out what we have to work on to get ready for next week.”

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