TREDYFFRIN — Through a satisfying regular season that invited visions of postseason success, almost everything Strath Haven tried on offense worked as designed. To Sam Milligan, though, there was still one thing missing.
Just once, the Panthers’ quarterback occasionally would think to himself, he wouldn’t mind running a ball into the end zone.
“I was definitely missing that,” Milligan said Friday, with a smile. “So it was exciting.”
Milligan, the junior orchestrator of Kevin Clancy’s balanced attack, finally broke through in a 33-7 triumph over host Radnor at Conestoga, then commenced to making it a habit. In the second quarter, Milligan unloaded a 57-yard keeper for his first score of the season before adding a three-yard TD run in the third. A two-point conversion run after Matt Shuler’s third-quarter score made him the high scorer with 14.
Much as he enjoyed his scoring spree, Milligan was quick to mention the help he had from the massive offensive line of Ben Farabaugh, Nick Filos, Jack Beck, Ethan Barrar, Jake Millett, Mason Green and Nate Perlman.
“That’s the dogs,” Milligan said. “They go at it. They are there every day. Not only are they the most physical, but they are the best form blockers, too.”
In the best of conditions, the style contrast of the run-committed Panthers and the pass-first Raptors would have made for an interesting contrast. But once it was decided to play the game in a night-long driving rain, Radnor was facing a slippery climb.
Yet coach Tom Ryan nicely adjusted, allowing Damian Falcone to run 21 times for 127 yards, including a 57-yard scoring burst and had the 1-8 Raptors (1-7 Central League) more competitive than the score hinted. Radnor was within 19-7 at halftime, and early in the fourth reached the Strath Haven 1-yard line with a 30-yard pass from Jude Wallin to Tommy Deshan.
But Strath Haven, which received two sacks from Perlman and an interception from Austin Conner, showed why it is deeper than its dynamic running game, keeping Radnor out of the end zone in the second half.
“We knew we were going to have to play our best,” said Ryan, whose team had to call Conestoga home while this season as improvements at Radnor were being completed. “It was definitely an experience playing in a monsoon. I am proud of our guys. It’s not too often you get to play in a storm like that, and they made the most of it.
“Strath Haven is a very good football team. I think they have a chance to go pretty far in the playoffs.”
The powerful line, and Clancy’s famed wing-T offense, makes that a possibility. Four Panthers rushed for at least 70 yards, with Chase Barlow churning for 212 on 20 carries, including scoring efforts of 16 and 31 yards. Bob Fooskas rushed for 71 yards, while Shuler ran for 70 yards and the one-yard touchdown.
“I think we’ve been progressively getting better all year, a little bit each week,” Clancy said. “And we need to keep getting better at this time of year.”
The Panthers (9-1, 8-1 Central) will enter the District 1 Class 5A playoffs as a high seed. Twice a state-championship coach and the career leader in coaching victories in Southeastern Pennsylvania, Clancy knows a good team when he feels one.
“We went through a little spell of injuries,” he said. “I think we are getting some of our guys back and healthy now. We don’t know who we are playing, but we are excited to be in the playoffs.”
Strath Haven hit just one regular-season bump, falling to Class 6A power Garnet Valley, but it quickly steadied and will head into the tournament off a 450-yard rushing game … even if it did not complete a pass.
“I don’t think,” Clancy said, “Aaron Rodgers could have passed in that weather.”
So the Panthers did what they could, finishing strong, even if a little wet.
“Obviously, we wanted to be undefeated,” Milligan said. “But after Garnet, we have been on a roll. We feel good about going into the playoffs. All our guys are back off injury.
“We should be ready to go.”