HADDONFIELD – No one thought it would be easy.
Certainly not Haddonfield head coach Frank Delano, who had been on the very same field, against the very same opponent too many times before to think records mattered on Friday night.
“I wasn’t worried about a letdown,” said Delano, whose team knocked off then No.1 St. Joseph’s a week ago. “We’ve had a hard run since the start of the season and knew this would be the toughest game. We have a lot to fix but for now, we’re 6-0.”
Definitely not first-year West Deptford head coach, who learned from the master Clyde Folsom that each time these two programs meet, it’s a different game.
“On the whole, this group did everything we asked them to do and then some,” Morrell said. ““The fact that they believed at halftime when they could have easily tanked it speaks volumes about this crew.”
As for those on the field, they knew best of all what this game would be and what it meant.
“It’s definitely the biggest play of my life,” said Haddonfield junior defensive lineman Nicky DiNoia, who made a tackle on the final West Deptford offensive play of the night. “It felt amazing. It’s not about one person, we play as a team. It’s not about who scores or who makes the tackle, just as long as we get the win.”
Win Haddonfield did by the score of 27-21 over longtime nemesis West Deptford in a West Jersey Football League Colonial Division game. Haddonfield (6-0 overall, 3-0 division) can finally rest with its bye week on the schedule but on a night it the Dawgs were far from perfect, Delano could finally take a deep breath.
“They don’t know it yeah but I’m giving them time off, they deserve it,” the head coach said. “We’ve been using a next up mentality because were on fumes. This week is important.
“At the same time, we’re 6-0. That’s it. Last week was a big win over a power in St. Joe’s but I said it then, that was just five wins. We have a long way to go but it’s a lot easier to look at film at 6-0 than 3-3.”
Haddonfield forged its way to a 21-0 lead after a Drew Gavranich scored on a 34-tard strike from Jay Foley on the opening drive of the second half. West Deptford (3-2, 2-1) looked cooked and needed a shot in the arm to come alive. It came in the form of a roughing the punter call against the Dawgs and then, simply for the visual, it was like Wayne and Garth playing street hockey – “game on.”
“In this game, no lead is ever safe," DeLano said. "The blocked punt was the big turning point. We didn't exhale, but you could feel the momentum go their way.”
West Deptford stormed back and an interception by Tyshawn Bookman, on a third down play that in reality looked to put the game away for Haddonfield, led to a 4tt -and-3 that someone needed to step up.
“I was more expecting an isolation to (Eagles T.J. Hoyt),” DiNovia said. “He's a hard runner and really good, but Bookman is their go-to guy so it didn't surprise me.”
DiNovia crashed through the Eagles line to his right and put the first and biggest hit on Bookman to in essence end this edition of the Haddonfield/West Deptford rivalry. Of course both programs are well aware of one thing, both are in Group 2 and its likely they see each other again sooner than later.
"It's a game unlike any other," said Haddonfield running back Chris Brown, who scored a touchdown and made a touchdown saving tackle in the first half that certainly had a chance to change this momentum much earlier. "It's the best rivalry around."
And one in which nothing comes easy.
Bulldawgs 27, Eagles 21
West Deptford 0--0-14--7----21
H: Chris Brown 1 run (Henry Grozier kick)
H: John Maynes 10 pass from Jay Foley (Grozier kick)
H: Drew Gavranich 34 pass from Foley (Grozier kick)
WD: Tyshawn Bookman 5 run (Ratcliffe kick)
WD: T.J. Hoyt 14 run (Ratcliffe kick)
H: Foley 1 run (run failed)
WD: Vinny Scirrotto 15 run (Ratcliffe kick)