HAVERFORD — On a night of big plays one of the shortest players on the field stood tall.
Senior Paul Jackson rushed for 97 yards, including a backbreaking 78-yard touchdown, turned a hitch into a 26-yard scoring play, played outside linebacker and drilled a 44-yard punt despite an all-out rush to spark Ridley to a 28-10 win over Haverford in Central League action at AG Cornog Stadium.
All in a night’s work for the 175-pound Jackson, among the few who didn’t suffer from cramps in the still somewhat muggy conditions.
“To be honest with you, I didn’t think it was going to be that good of a punt,” said Jackson, who also played Wildcat quarterback. “I thought they were going to block it. But it was probably my best punt throughout the years. I played Wildcat quarterback, too. And I’m happy we added Wildcat this year. It’s a good thing for our offense.”
It was a much-needed confidence booster for the Green Raiders (1-1) and sophomore quarterback Ryan Carroll, who were thumped rather soundly by Crestview (Fla.), 50-28, in their opener last week.
Kelly Connor caught a three-yard touchdown pass and Kimir Stephenson ran 37 yards for a score to take the pressure off Carroll, who threw for 130 yards and two touchdowns.
“I thought he made some good throws,” Ridley coach David Wood said. “At times he sets our offense, he gets our offense into a check game and he’s getting better week to week. Everything revolved around him, but we were able to spread the ball around and come up with some big plays like we did last year.”
The Fords (0-2) grabbed the early lead on a 25-yard field goal by Googie Seidman in the second quarter.
The Green Raiders responded with Jackson turning a five-yard hitch into a TD for a 7-3 lead. The Fords then began fumbling the ball away. Connor and Stephenson scored to stake the visitors to a 21-3 lead at the intermission. Fords quarterback Tommy Wright was intercepted by Sean Farley.
In the second half the Fords got to the one-foot line with close to eight minutes remaining but fumbled, one of four giveaways on the evening. That was the momentum changer for Fords coach Luke Dougherty.
“I think the turning point for us was when it was 21-10 and we were moving the ball great,” Dougherty said. “There was a judgment call down there, but it is what it is. We shot ourselves in the foot in the first half. We were down 21-3. But our kids fought back. I’m proud of our kids and their resilience. We’ve got to clean up some things, finish some drives early in the game. We should have had probably two touchdowns early in the game. We’ve got to learn how to finish, learn how to win a little bit.”
The Fords were driving late in the game with Wright finding Ethan Mahan, his favorite receiver, early and often. Wright threw for 200 yards while Mahan had 10 receptions for 116 yards. But on fourth-and-10 at the 22-yard of the Green Raiders, defensive lineman Jayson Howarth sacked Wright.
“This is good, this is big,” Howarth said. “We went down to Florida last week, didn’t get what we wanted so it’s good to come out here and get our momentum back, and show people last year wasn’t a fluke.”
With Action Jackson, Howarth and a room full of weapons, the Green Raiders are anything but a fluke.