NEWTOWN SQUARE — He strutted about midfield like a champion, though Wyatt Benson isn’t one yet.
The Haverford School’s two-way senior merely was caught up in the moment Saturday. There was plenty to celebrate following the Fords’ 26-19 win over Episcopal Academy.
* Beating his team’s biggest rival in their 100th meeting, in a game that required all 48 minutes.
* Doing so in front of an estimated 4,000 fans in a locally televised game.
* Maintaining control of the coveted sweater, a half-and-half garment sewn together to feature both schools’ colors.
* An end to his sterling high school career. Well…
“Not yet,” said Benson, who carried eight times for 81 yards and a touchdown against EA. “(Today), all of us are going to be the biggest Malvern Prep fans you’re going to find anywhere.”
The Fords’ season is far from over. Chestnut Hill visits Malvern Prep at 2 p.m. today with Inter-Academic League title implications. A Malvern Prep victory would force a three-way tie for first place, between the Friars, the Blue Devils and the Fords.
It would mark the Fords’ first championship since 1971, which is enough of a reason to lure coach Mike Murphy’s team to the Chester County campus for the biggest game of their season.
“I’ll be there,” Benson said. “I’ll probably get a ride up with (fellow senior captain) Joe Nassib. I don’t want to miss that one.”
Added senior offensive lineman Max Silver: “I’m definitely going to be there. And I’m pulling for Malvern, for sure.”
The Fords (8-3, 4-1) used their ground game — buoyed by Benson and junior Carl Walrath — to slowly chip away at the Churchmen (2-8, 0-5) until the hosts finally gave in.
Slowly was the key word.
Haverford School had possessed the ball for only four minutes and 42 seconds in the first half, calling just 12 plays from scrimmage while surprisingly manufacturing a 20-13 lead at the break.
The Fords did so on the strength of their running backs. After Episcopal Academy’s Brian Taylor scored from 18 yards out to give the Churchmen an early lead, the Fords responded immediately.
Quarterback Matt Lengel scored on a seven-yard keeper, Walrath reeled off a 78-yard sprint down the left sideline and Benson had a seven-yard touchdown.
Walrath’s score was perhaps the biggest. At the time, the Fords trailed, 7-6, and were bracing themselves for a long, sustained drive. They had recovered a fumble by EA’s Brian Ruditys deep in their own territory.
And then, Walrath struck.
“I had (senior) Steve Aitken and Max Silver blocking on that left side to close it off for me and I got in behind them and just kept running,” said Walrath, who racked up 196 yards rushing on 19 rushes.
“They made great blocks downfield for me all day. I just had to find the seam and I was off.”
Walrath added another touchdown, this one from 19 yards out, eight minutes into the third quarter to give Haverford School a 26-13 edge. Unrelenting, Episcopal Academy fed the ball to senior tailback Brian Taylor (22 carries, 148 yards), whose third-quarter touchdown made things interesting.
So did a final-minutes drive that ended with the clock reading triple zeroes and EA quarterback Taylor Wright’s desperation heave falling incomplete.
“We go into every week thinking we’re going to win,” Taylor said. “…It’s just frustrating to go out like this.”
For the Churchmen, beating the Fords would have made for a superb ending to their mostly-down season.
For the Fords, they will await today’s Malvern Prep-Chestnut Hill decision to determine if their season will have a superb ending.
“I can’t wait,” Silver said. “It’s killing me that we have to wait this long. But maybe it’ll be worth it.”