HAVERFORD — The long ride back to Lancaster Avenue from St. Joseph High School in New Jersey allowed Carl Walrath and his Haverford School teammates plenty of time to reflect.
The Fords wrapped up their third out-of-state road game in unimpressive fashion last week. The Wildcats of St. Joe dominated in all facets en route to a shutout victory.
“St. Joe was a great football team,” Walrath said. “We got beat pretty bad by them, but it was kind of like a wakeup call for us. I don’t think we were ready to play them and they kind of smacked us in the mouth. Now, we’re just picking up from there and trying to get better.”
Walrath and the Fords returned to campus, put that disappointing setback behind them and began preparing for their Inter-Ac League debut against Germantown Academy.
They prepared well enough to earn a 47-12 victory Saturday at soggy Sabol Field.
Walrath was the focal point of coach Mike Murphy’s run-heavy attack. The junior, who committed to University on Virginia on a lacrosse scholarshop, erupted for 181 yards on 17 carries with a pair of rushing touchdowns
“We had a tough six games,” Walrath said. “It was good to get back in an Inter-Ac game.”
On the first play from scrimmage, Walrath fumbled the exchange from quarterback Matt Lengel, which resulted in a turnover. The Patriots had terrific field position, but the Fords buckled down on defense and forced a turnover on downs deep in Haverford School territory.
Walrath might as well have just hit the rewind button because, on the Fords’ second play from scrimmage, Walrath clutched Lengel’s handoff and darted 95 yards to the end zone.
“I might have been thinking about it too much,” he said. “I didn’t get the handoff ... and the ball was on the ground. I just try to get it out of my head. It’s hard not to, but (on the touchdown) there was great blocking on the play. It helps you regain confidence.”
On the ensuing kickoff, Ryan Dolan sprinted 88 yards to put the Patriots on the board. From that point, the Fords (5-2, 1-0) took control of the game and, of course, Walrath was in the middle of the action.
The safety picked off a Keith Braccia’s pass and ran 72 yards to the end zone to give the Fords a 40-12 lead late in the third quarter.
“I really like playing both sides of the ball,” Walrath said. “I love being in the game and I don’t like being on the sidelines and not being able to do anything ... I think our team really prides (itself) on our defense.”
Joe McCallion also had an interception for the Fords, who held the Patriots to 149 total yards. Temple recruit Wyatt Benson led the defense at linebacker and chipped in on the offensive side of the ball. The powerful fullback bulldozed his way to the paydirt on two occasions.
“Today was the first time I have really seen (Benson) play like the kind of player he can be,” Murphy said. “He’s been awfully close this year, but today was the day he played like the kid we expected. I think he tries to be too technical on the defensive side of the ball, but today he made a real difference out there.”
Benson wanted to show the league what the Fords are capable of.
“We knew all the other Inter-Ac schools were going to be here, so we wanted to send a message,” he said.
“All of our seniors are getting healthy and I know we have a good group and we’re ready to compete.”
After last week’s 35-0 loss, the Fords came out Saturday with a sense of urgency.
“That game was an experience where you got to find out who’s going to step up and do what you got to do to win when odds are against us,” he said. “I’m proud of the guys and how they bounced back today.”
Lengel finished 3-for-7 with 98 yards. The big play was a 75-yard scoring strike to wide receiver Michael Washington to put the Fords up, 28-6, in the second quarter. Nick Craig made the most of his three carries, finishing with 97 yards and a touchdown. The Fords registered 366 total rushing yards.
A 5-2 record is an impressive feat for a Fords team that hasn’t been at full strength for most of the year.
Starters Brendan McGrath, Trocon Davis and Joe Nassib are expected to return soon. It’s good to be back home facing familiar foes.
“We lacked an Inter-Ac type of feeling ... in our nonleague (schedule) this year,” Murphy said. “I saw a different focus on the entire team today. We hadn’t had a week where we were chomping at the bit. We talked about flipping the switch this weekend and start getting after some things.”