UPPER DARBY — Upper Darby quarterback Chris Rossiter is a jack-of-all-trades type of player for the Royals.
Not only does he pilot the offense, he's the punter and kicker while also moonlighting as a safety on defense.
Against Ridley Friday night, Rossiter rushed for a game-high 98 yards, threw for 40 yards, registered two sacks on defense and recovered a crucial onsides kick to help Upper Darby hold on to defeat Ridley, 21-14, in a Central League contest.
It was the first time Upper Darby defeated Ridley in 11 years.
"He's the main guy,' Upper Darby coach Rich Gentile said. "With our team in general, offensively, defensively, he punts, he kicks, he does everything. He ran the ball extremely hard considering that they basically were trying to stop him. In the second half, I think they had three guys on him. He's what makes our offense go.'
After a scoreless first quarter, Upper Darby drew first blood after running back Kevin White capped 10-play, 67-yard drive with a 15-yard touchdown run to give the Royals a 7-0 lead.
Following a big kickoff return and a personal-foul penalty, Ridley took just 23 seconds to tie the game. Quarterback Collin Wright connected with receiver Shawn Hachett on a 27-yard strike that set up running back Malcolm Strand-Young' 10-yard touchdown scamper.
Just before halftime, Upper Darby went on a 14-play drive to regain the lead. Led by Rossiter and running back Cyrus Barlee, the Royals marched 70 yards
It was drive Upper Darby probably wouldn't have had the moxie to complete in previous years.
"This is a new time at Upper Darby,' coach Rich Gentile said. "The last four years have not been the best football played here, obviously by our record. This is a great group of kids. They were focused on this season and just making sure that what happened in the past didn't happen (again). They felt they could win this game. They have tremendous resilience.'
After throwing an interception on the first offensive play in the second half, the Royals displayed that resilience. Following another short Ridley punt, Barlee scored on a 10-yard for a touchdown. His two-point conversion run pushed Upper Darby's advantage to 21-7.
Meanwhile, Ridley's offense couldn't get untracked.
"They are a good football team, we knew that coming in,' Ridley coach Dennis Decker said. "I think they played well defensively and took away some of the things we wanted to do offensively. We didn't execute the way I thought we should have executed but, again, that's what happens when you play against good football teams.'
After a Barlee fumble midway through the fourth quarter, Gentile and the Royals were uncomfortable. In its two losses of the season, Upper Darby turned the ball over 11 times and went on to lose by a combined 12 points.
"If we don't turn the ball over, we can play with anybody,' Gentile said. "When we turn the ball over, we are going to have issues. We only turned the ball over (twice) and that didn't really hurt us.'
Late in the fourth quarter, Ridley began to air it out in hopes of getting a quick strike. After Wright hit Strand-Young for a 56-yard touchdown with 2 minutes, 48 seconds left in regulation, Gentile knew exactly how perilous his 21-14 lead was.
"My biggest fear about Ridley in all the years I've been here is their special teams,' Gentile said. "Their special teams scare me. Every other game I watch of them, somebody runs for a touchdown on a punt or a kickoff. Our special teams on kickoffs and punts did a great job where they didn't really have any major plays, which (is what) worried me about them getting back into the game.'
But Rossiter secured Ridley's last-gasp onsides kick and ran out the clock to preserve the biggest win in Gentile's coaching tenure at Upper Darby.
"Any coach will tell you that if you have a team that likes each other and hangs out together, then that team is going to stick together on game day,' Gentile said. "That's what I think happened today. They stuck together and I thought they played a heckuva game.'