Who: Haverford School vs. Episcopal Academy
When: 2:00 Saturday, November 9, 2019
Where: Episcopal Academy
Records: Haverford School (6-3, 3-1); Episcopal (8-1, 3-1)
Most Recent Performance: Haverford School upended Malvern Prep, 30-20; Episcopal lost a 56-55 overtime slugfest with Germantown Academy.
Importance: Since these are the only two league teams with a winning record, this becomes a championship game. Doesn’t get any more important than that.
All-Time Record: Haverford School leads, 70-49-2.
Haverford School Notes: Fords are trying for their first outright title since going back-to-back in 2014-15 . . . Have won 28 league titles, 19 of them outright . . . Heading to Malvern for a Saturday night game, the Fords faced a hostile environment. They knew that a loss would pretty much sabotage their season. They seized a 20-0 lead, saw is diminish to 20-14, but over the past eight minutes, they outscored the Friars by 10-6 and jogged to the locker room with the definition of a quality win . . . After an early-season loss to Springside marred by numerous turnovers, the Fords have captured three decisive victories by a composite 107-38 . . . If senior MLB Pat Toal is unable to play after suffering a shoulder injury against Malvern, it would hurt their defense trying to stop EA’s torrid running game.
Episcopal Notes: Every game has literally gone down to the wire. After three straight wins that were not decided until the final minute, the Churchmen’s loss to GA was determined by a risky two-point conversion in overtime . . . Senior QB Maurcus McDaniel, now with a combined 33 touchdowns as a passer and rusher, has been unstoppable . . . Last outright title was in 2012. EA has won 25 championships, 16 of them outright . . . Churchmen haven’t scored fewer than 21 points, and in four of their games, they eclipsed 30 points . . . After allowing 71 points over first six games (11.8-point average), Churchmen have surrendered 116 in last three (38.7 average).
FORD CHAT: “This game is huge for us, but especially our program,” said fullback/tight end/defensive lineman Ben Murphy. “Coming into this season, we all had one goal in mind – winning an Inter Ac championship. It’s been a rough past couple of seasons, but we felt that this was our year to get this program back on track. Winning this game in front of our whole community would mean so much to us seniors, but really to the whole program. We want to be known as the team that brings Haverford School football back, and playing this Saturday gives us that opportunity. It’s going to be an incredible atmosphere and we’re really excited.”
“This game is an awesome opportunity for us,” said senior quarterback Dante Perri. “Since we were freshman, we have all dreamed about playing for an Inter-Ac championship, and now it is looking us in the face . . . The atmosphere is going to be amazing, and this is a great team we are playing, but we need to block all of the outside noise out and play our game. Hopefully we can make the Haverford community proud and put this program back on the right track.”
CHURCHMEN CHAT:“Winning the Inter-Ac means everything,” said junior slot-back and safety Malcolm Folk. “This is why we all worked so hard in the off-season and fought to the end in every game this season, so that we could have this chance. We hated that we came up a little short against GA this weekend, but to have a chance to compete with my brothers for the title against our oldest rival on the biggest weekend of our season will be unforgettable.”
“This game is the definition of heart and desire,” said senior quarterback and cornerback Maurcus McDaniel. “Everything we worked for, starting freshman year for the seniors, has come down to this one game . . . November 9, 2019, is going to be one of the biggest moments of our lives, and it all lies in our hands. We didn’t put all this work in to become complacent. This game is going to show who’s hungrier, who wants it more, and who has that grit. It never was about just a game for us; it was togetherness, unity, and respect. We had to work for what we have, and this game is the last step in reaching the destination.”
Prediction: Wow. If any game figures to be decided in the closing minutes – if not overtime – this is it. Talk about two potent teams aiming for a title. Haverford School is performing on all cylinders; Episcopal’s offensive production has been off the charts, but stopping opponents has proven to be a chore. There’s an intangible sense that the Haverford upperclassmen won’t let this opportunity escape them. They know they won’t stop the Churchmen, but they also they know they’re capable of containing them. There has to be a winner, and in this case, it will be . . . Haverford School, 27-24, in what will go down as an Inter-Ac classic.
(John Knebels can be reached at Jknebels@gmail.com or on Twitter @johnknebels.)