TOWAMENCIN — Courses would finish by early afternoon, the tools could be distributed quickly after, the staff bus would hum to life and the Ridley Excessive soccer staff would start a 34-mile journey Friday to the place it is aware of it at all times belongs.
By night, the Inexperienced Raiders could be in a PIAA District 1 Class 6A round-of-eight playoff sport in opposition to one other basic program, North Penn.
In the event that they had been underdogs, that might not be unreasonable.
In the event that they thought they had been underdogs, that might be insupportable to the present curator of the Inexperienced Mystique.
So simply after sundown on the eve of the sport, below the Thursday Night time Lights on a quiet Phil Marion Discipline, coach Dave Wooden set the foundations. No laughing on the bus. No smiling on the bus. No carrying on like they had been all on a college journey to a museum. Earphones had been acceptable, however focus was obligatory.
That’s Ridley soccer he’s charged with representing.
This, then, could be a enterprise journey.
“We’re going up there,” he informed his gamers, “to win.”
Ridley was the No. 7 seed within the event, North Penn the No. 2, however when Nick Volpone hit a PAT in additional time, the Inexperienced Raiders had a 56-55 victory that was as entertaining as any of their trendy soccer historical past. Tahir Mills, his place in Ridley lore safe, scored 5 touchdowns, together with a nine-yard burst to make it 55-55 in additional time, to assist shove the Raiders into the Remaining 4.
“I’ve been concerned in a whole lot of soccer video games,” Wooden mentioned. “Lots. However nothing like this one.”
Ridley was successful in soccer lengthy earlier than the arrival of Wooden, the previous participant at Penn Wooden and head coach at Widener. That custom was one cause – together with a extra structured life along with his household than sometimes is perhaps loved by a recruiter – he jumped off the school soccer prepare.
“Numerous my associates in faculty soccer are doing rather well,” Wooden mentioned. “However in that enterprise, guys transfer on. The one blessing I had in my 23 years in faculty teaching was that I by no means needed to go away the Delco space. I used to be at Lehigh as a younger coach, and commuted up there or lived there for some time. Then I used to be at Widener for years, then Penn.”
Wooden loved engaged on Al Bagnoli’s workers, however when the previous Quakers coach took the job at Columbia, Wooden hesitated.
“Penn was nice, however I by no means needed to be a type of faculty guys who needed to make that transition each couple of years,” he mentioned. “This job was open, and I known as the administration. And this has been an important place.”
Ridley followers legendary for questioning each transfer of even essentially the most profitable of coaches, they initially discovered Wooden’s multiple-option operating assault to one thing lower than their liking. However ultimately, coinciding with the appointment of Mike Ewing as offensive coordinator, the Raiders made a full dedication to the passing sport.
By this season, the Ridley offense has turned spectacular. Of their 12 video games, the Raiders have scored 34 factors, 17, 33, 45, 45, 37, 70, 49, 63, 29, 42 and 56. In a postseason overcome Conestoga, Mills rushed for 5 touchdowns and 357 yards. In a latest shutout of Decrease Merion, quarterback John Heller threw for 415 yards, the third most in Delaware County historical past.
“He (Wooden) used to educate in faculty, and he introduced that right down to highschool,” Mills mentioned. “The best way he coached in faculty is working right here. We’re at all times ready.”
Wooden treats the Raiders as he would possibly a university staff, dedicating hours within the movie room, publishing detailed scouting reviews.
“He at all times brings the depth,” Heller mentioned. “He’s at all times on us about being on time, about bringing the depth, about dominating your job and dominating your task. That’s what I like about him.”
The Raiders had been in character Friday, scoring with relative ease, bothering solely as soon as to punt.
“That operating again was actually good,” North Penn’s reasonably profitable coach Dick Beck mentioned. “They’ve a pleasant scheme. Their offensive line was excellent too. And that quarterback was actually poised on the market.”
Given the instruction for the journey, there could be confidence, calm and execution, sufficient to drive the a number of hundred Ridley followers who made the journey right into a frenzy. Their enterprise taken care of, their spot within the subsequent spherical safe, Wooden would even allow his gamers somewhat levity on the return journey.
“There can be some smiles on the way in which residence,” Wooden mentioned, breaking into one among his personal. “However as soon as we get again to that locker room, will probably be all enterprise and preparing for subsequent week.”
It’s mid-November and the Inexperienced Raiders are 11-1. Since they anticipate to be 12-1, they’ll maintain following these guidelines.
Contact Jack McCaffery at jmccaffery@Twenty first-centurymedia.com