RIDLEY TWP. — In 1980, Joe Gallagher began his high-school coaching career.
"I was an assistant at St. James under Marty Moke,' said Gallagher, an all-state defensive lineman with the undefeated St. James High team of 1972.
In 1980, Haverford High won its Central League game on Ridley's Phil Marion Field. Friday night, the Fords earned a 28-19 decision over the host Green Raiders for their first win at Phil Marion Field since then.
Haverford fell behind after one quarter, 13-0, and trailed with five minutes left in the first half, 19-7. The Fords (6-3) got a touchdown late in the first half, took the lead in the third quarter, and scored again with 1:31 to play to keep their chances of qualifying for the district playoffs alive, while the defending Central champion Green Raiders (6-4) were eliminated from playoff consideration.
"Nobody quit,' said Gallagher, who was soaked as several happy Fords dumped what remained in a water cooler over him as he addressed the team after the game. "It was a complete team effort. I'm so proud of these guys.'
What made Gallagher so happy was the way a number of players stepped in and contributed in place of his half-dozen injured starters, including All-Delco Kevin Lyden, who is out for the season — as well as the ice hockey and lacrosse seasons — with a torn knee ligament that will require surgery.
Jai Thornton carried the load on offense, picking up 131 yards on 25 carries. Sophomore quarterback Jack Donaghy hit senior James McWilliams with a pair of scoring passes, and senior Chris Lyons, whose 23-yard scoring run came 1:05 before halftime, added a second touchdown when he claimed a loose ball in the end zone 1:31 before the final whistle.
Ridley rolled right down the field in the first three minutes of the game, running five consecutive times, with the fifth play a 21-yard scoring dash by Malcom Strand-Young (17 carries, 121 yards). Esteban Munoz's conversion kick hit an upright and bounced away.
A Fords punt that sailed inside the Ridley 20 on the last play of the opening quarter was returned 81 yards for a score by Matt Borchert on a sensational sprint that started in the middle of the field before he deftly cut to the sideline.
Haverford then put together a 66-yard drive that ended with a 14-yard strike from Donaghy to McWilliams.
"Our running game was starting to slow down in the red zone,' said McWilliams, who has heard from the United States Military Academy and the Merchant Marine Academy. "This is actually my first game at wide receiver. I've had two (knee) surgeries.
"(Gallagher) knew I could come up with the ball on that play. I had a height advantage on the guy guarding me, and I used it.'
The Fords didn't use the momentum they had built with their first score. Donaghy's next pass went right to Strand-Young, who sprinted 55 yards for another six points for Ridley.
Lyons returned the kickoff 41 yards to give Haverford life before halftime, and he put the finishing touches on a nine-play march with a 23-yard scoring run, cutting Ridley's advantage to 19-14.
Haverford used 13 plays to score on its first possession of the second half, with Donaghy and McWilliams teaming on a 13-yard completion after a favorable enforcement of a holding penalty and Lyons' 28-yard pass to Jack McClernon kept the drive going.
Ridley continued to pile up missed opportunities — a dropped pass in the end zone and a missed field goal — as well as penalties as the third quarter went on. After a Green Raiders punt with six minutes left, the Fords drove 64 yards to score, with Thornton ripping off a pair of 15-yard gains and one for nine yards.
"I'm exhausted but really happy about this win,' said Thornton, who took some direct snaps in the Wildcat formation. "Our defense did its job, and all week all we talked about was how much we wanted this win.'
On a third down play, Alex Drumm got the call from the Ridley 3 and lost the ball, but after it dropped in the end zone, Lyons landed it on for six points.
"When I saw the ball pop out, I just went for it and came up with it,' Lyons said.
Gallagher and his coaches used the words "next man up' when they discussed how they would approach having so many starters out of the lineup.
The next game they would like to play would be in the first round of the district tournament next weekend.