GLASSBORO – Over the last decade, the Haddonfield High School and West Deptford football teams have delivered riveting drama, including earlier this season when the Eagles won in overtime with a walk-off field goal.
On Sunday afternoon, another classic was added to this intense and entertaining rivalry when the Bulldawgs knocked off defending champion West Deptford with a late touchdown pass.
“It feels great,” Drew Gavranich said after connecting with quarterback Jay Foley on a 51-yard scoring play with 2:36 remaining for the deciding points as the sixth-seeded Bulldawgs stunned the top-seeded Eagles, 21-17, in the South Jersey Group 2 title game at Rowan University.
“It was the biggest game I was a part of and it was against our biggest rivalry,” Gavranich added.
This was the fourth South Jersey Group 2 championship game matchup in the last seven years for these familiar West Jersey Football League Colonial Division rivals. The Bulldawgs also walked off the field winners in 2010 and 2014 while the Eagles took the trophy in 2011.
The Bulldawgs claimed their fourth S.J. Group 2 championship - including 2010, 2013 and 2014 - and it was their sixth title game trip in the last nine years.
Haddonfield trailed 17-7 in the final seconds of the third quarter when Jay Foley, the son of former Cherry Hill East great and NFL quarterback Glenn, took over the game with a rushing TD and the decisive scoring pass to his good friend Gavranich.
“I got the ball to one of our best athletes and he got the job done,” said Foley, who also threw a touchdown pass to his brother, Johnny.
Gavranich explained the play was just inserted by Haddonfield coach Frank DeLano for this game. The short sideline route was called twice earlier, but Gavranich didn’t get the ball. When he did get the ball, he knew what to do with it as he tore down the left sideline after catching the simple toss just over midfield.
“I thought he would get caught,” said Foley, who was impressed by Gavranich’s breakaway speed.
West Deptford coach Clyde Folsom owns seven South Jersey Group 2 crowns and a remarkable 13 title game visits in the last 16 years.
“We battled,” Folsom said. “We had opportunities to go up multiple scores and it caught up to us.”
West Deptford (10-2) defeated Haddonfield (9-3) back on Oct. 20 in overtime, 17-14, on a Mike Bilodeau field goal.
West Deptford, which beat Cedar Creek for the championship last year, made its third straight appearance in the finals. The Eagles certainly can look back on the season and be proud. They dealt Paulsboro its first defeat of the season, a 35-26 loss last weekend. The Red Raiders won the S. J. Group 1 title Saturday.
“I’m proud of this team,” West Deptford senior quarterback Pete Orio said. “We were young and inexperienced but we competed. We had a great senior class.”
West Deptford scored on its first possession of the game when Tyshawn Bookman caught a short pass from Orio, spun and darted into the end zone for a 19-yard scoring play. Bilodeau kicked the extra point for a sudden 7-0 lead.
Haddonfield answered on its first play from scrimmage when Johnny Foley got behind the Eagles’ secondary for a 54-yard scoring pass from Jay Foley. Henry Rozier kicked the point after to tie the game.
West Deptford struck with 14 seconds left in the half when Darren McKeown streaked through the middle of the Bulldawgs’ defense for a 46-yard scoring strike from Orio. Bilodeau added the kick for a 14-7 lead at the half.
The Eagles padded their lead to 17-7 late in the third quarter with Bilodeau’s 19-yard field goal.
But Haddonfield answered again right away when Jay Foley scored on a 15-yard run up the middle to cap a swift six-play drive. Rozier kicked the extra point to tighten the deficit to 17-14 with 14 seconds left in the third quarter.
“I knew we had so much support behind us that if I did my job, we would get it done,” Jay Foley said.
Once again, Haddonfield got it done. And once again, the Bulldawgs and Eagles delivered a classic.
Haddonfield 7 0 7 7 - 21
West Deptford 7 7 3 0 - 17
WD- Tyshawn Bookman 19 pass from Pete Orio (Mike Bilodeau kick)
H – Johnny Foley 54 pass from Jay Foley (Henry Rozier kick)
WD- Darren McKeown 46 pass from Orio (Bilodeau kick)
WD- Bilodeau 19 field goal
H – Jay Foley 15 run (Rozier kick)
H – Drew Gavranich 51 pass from Jay Foley (Rozier kick)