PHILADELPHIA — The Haverford School’s Wyatt Benson grabbed his helmet and started the long walk to the team bus.
The Fords’ team captain shook his head in disbelief and looked toward the sky. Flashing a grin, Benson found the right words to say following a tough-to-swallow, 27-21 overtime loss to Chestnut Hill Academy Saturday afternoon in a game that decided first-place bragging rights in the Inter-Ac League.
“I’m just proud of my teammates,” the fullback/linebacker said. “We fought for four straight quarters and in overtime. We never gave up.”
The Fords battled back from a 14-point, fourth-quarter deficit to force overtime. They got the ball first, at the 10-yard line, but hurt themselves with two costly penalties. On fourth down, freshman kicker Aron Morgan, who was the hero in a thrilling, last-second victory over Malvern Prep last week, came up short on a long field-goal attempt.
On the ensuing play, Division I recruit Ibraheim Campbell avoided a slew of Haverford School defenders and sprinted into the end zone for the game-ending touchdown.
A win would have put the Fords in the driver’s seat for the Inter-Ac championship. Now they’ll need a victory against Episcopal Academy, coupled with a Chestnut Hill loss to Malvern Prep, to earn a share of the crown.
“I waited four years for this exact moment, to win the Inter-Ac,” quarterback Matt Lengel said. “To be that close and let it kind of slip away, right now ... it’s a pretty bad feeling.”
Campbell was the difference. The 5-10, 185-pound running back netted four touchdowns — all in the second half — and finished with 232 yards on 39 carries. Through a scoreless first half, the Fords had figured out a way to contain Campbell, who had only 76 yards.
“We came in wanting to shut down their running game,” said Benson, who totaled 49 yards on seven carries. “If we did that, we would win the game. I think we did a good job the whole game, but (Campbell) had a couple of little bursts in the red zone where he just got by us.”
One of those bursts was the clinching touchdown. Campbell was roughly four yards behind the line of scrimmage and seemingly bottled up, but somehow found a way to slip by and run down the sideline.
“There’s no magic plan to contain (Campbell),” Fords coach Mike Murphy said. “You have to try to get 11 hats to the ball at all times and when you get opportunities you got to get him on the ground. We didn’t do that down here late in the game. That’s why he’s a great player.”
Campbell capped off an eight-play, 47-yard drive on the Blue Devils’ first possession of the first half with a 5-yard scoring run. Lengel (118 passing yards) made an ill-advised screen pass that was picked off, leading to a 16-yard touchdown scamper by Campbell to give Chestnut Hill a 14-0 advantage.
The Fords found themselves in a deep hole, but never surrendered.
“We’re a team that fights and always plays better in the second half,” Lengel said. “We’ll come back no matter how many points we’re down. We ... had our opportunities to put it away in overtime. We just didn’t capitalize.”
Benson picked up the first of his two touchdowns — a 10-yard reception on a shovel pass by Lengel — to put the Fords (7-3, 3-1) on the board with 10:37 left in the fourth quarter. Campbell quickly responded with a 13-yard touchdown.
Carl Walrath performed a juggling act before eventually hauling in a 46-yard Lengel scoring pass to make it a seven-point game again. The Blue Devils (9-0, 4-0) went three-and-out on their next possession, setting up a methodical game-tying drive that resulted in a 2-yard run to pay dirt by Benson.
“Sometimes games go your way and sometimes they don’t,” Murphy said. “We never quit. We hurt ourselves on penalties down there at the end. We didn’t get it done. I give (Chestnut Hill) credit because they made plays.”
Walrath racked up 86 yards on 15 carries and Lengel added 49 yards on the ground.
Chestnut Hill Academy 27, Haverford School 21