No one needed to tell AJ Kaikai-Jones what was at stake.
The senior wide receiver/linebacker, who stars for the Haverford School, had never beaten rival Malvern Prep during his 2-year stint on the varsity team. In fact, the Fords hadn't scored a touchdown against the Friars in the last 5 years, while being outscored an astounding 215-0.
"That's all we talked about all week," Kaikai-Jones said of that 215-0 margin.
This was it. Kaikai-Jones' last chance to be a hero and lead his team to an upset.
He did just that.
Revered by his teammates and coaches for making huge plays time and time again, the highly sought-after football recruit had four catches for 144 yards and a crucial interception to set up the Haverford School's first touchdown and an improbable 17-14 victory yesterday at Malvern Prep.
"I don't know how to feel. I don't know what to feel," an ebullient Kaikai-Jones said after he watched freshman kicker Aron Morgan drill a 40-yard field goal to break a 14-14 tie as time expired, sending the entire Haverford School sideline and fan base onto the field in elation. "I was just praying, let's just get one win. And we got it."
How big was this? Haverford School had not beaten Malvern since a 20-19 win in 1992. In 16 meetings from 1993 to 2008, Malvern averaged 41.3 points, Haverford School 5.9.
They improved to 6-2 overall, thanks in large part to Kaikai-Jones, who is being courted by Villanova, William & Mary, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.
And it's no wonder those programs are after him, especially considering if you give him an inch, he'll take a mile.
Up 7-0 with 10:28 left in the fourth quarter and his team driving, Malvern Prep coach Kevin Pellegrini went with a little razzle-dazzle - and Kaikai-Jones made him pay.
Pellegrini elected to call for a halfback pass on second-and-7 from the Haverford 41. However, Kaikai-Jones was right there to pick off junior Chris O'Brien's errant throw at his 20. He eluded lunging would-be tacklers and brought it all the way to the Malvern Prep 30.
"That's my man right there on the team," said senior fullback/linebacker Wyatt Benson, who scored a 20-yard touchdown on the ensuing drive which followed Kaikai-Jones' pick and will be playing football at Temple next season. "He's meant a whole lot to this team just making big plays."
But that was only one of his big plays.
Kaikai-Jones came up with two crucial catches on the game-winning drive - a diving 10-yard snag on a third-and-10 with about 4 minutes remaining and a 7-yard grab on a fourth-and-4 with under a minute to go to keep it alive. He also showed his speed during a 72-yard catch-and-run in the first quarter.
"All the credit goes to my head coach [Michael Murphy]," Kaikai-Jones said. "He believes in me. He puts me in positions to succeed. I just try to go out there and execute."
Senior running back Bob Hill had 80 yards on 13 carries to lead Malvern Prep (4-4), which trailed 14-7, but knotted the game with 4:20 on the clock when senior quarterback Chase Gunther hooked up with senior running back Wally Spencer on a 42-yard bomb.
It wasn't enough.
"That was one of the greatest games I've ever coached or played in," Murphy said.