On March 13, 2020, we traded in our classrooms for Google Meets, our social lives for quarantine, and our athletics for uncertainty. Many seniors wondered if their last snap, their last free-kick, or their last race of their high school career had already passed.
Now that the dust has settled, Inter-Ac sports are finally back.
Despite the uncertainty of this summer, the Haverford football team has been hard at work. Since June, the team has had frequent Zoom calls and outdoor workouts. These workouts did not go without any hiccups, as a brief suspension of team activities in August and many restrictions hurt the team’s ability to practice. The team stayed resilient and made the most out of the preseason activities, but an overwhelming doubt of a 2020 season lingered nonetheless.
This year’s offseason definitely has been interesting yet exciting. In addition to COVID-19 concerns, former Assistant Coach Brian Martin took over for Head Coach Michael Murphy. Murphy coached Haverford football for fifteen years and moved on at the end of last season to focus on his role as athletic director. Coach Martin has coached Haverford football since 2001 and has taught P.E. in the lower school for fifteen years. Justifiably so, Martin was “super excited” when he found out he was promoted.
He felt “honored to carry on the tradition of this great program, following the footsteps of Coach Murph, who’s done an unbelievable job.”
Another major addition to the coaching staff is coach Greg Isdaner, who brings years of NFL, college, and high school experience to the program. Graduating from Episcopal in 2005, Isdaner played college ball at West Virginia, where he was a two-year starter at left guard. He then went on to play for the Eagles, Cowboys, and the Hartford Colonials of the now-defunct United Football League. After his professional career, he joined the staff at Episcopal before moving on to coach at Germantown Academy, where he was the offensive coordinator for seven years. Coaching at a school that was once your rival as a coach and a player is definitely an interesting plot line.
“I’ve learned throughout the years that these schools are all very similar,” Coach Isdaner said. “To me, the kids at these schools are a joy to coach because they work hard, they’re into it, they’re pretty decent athletes, and they’re smart.”
Isdaner’s fiery coaching style, knowledge of the game, and overall understanding of player development will come in handy this year for a young Fords squad.
While little is changing for the defense this year, Coach Isdaner brings with him a completely new offense. Modeled directly after LSU’s title-winning offense led by stud quarterback Joe Burrow, this new system is unlike any other in the Inter-Ac. This particular offense requires the tight end to be the smartest player on the field.
Sixth Former Matt Carlino has been a three-year starter for the Fords and is committed to play Division-I football at the University of Delaware. Ranked the #4 tight end in PA, Carlino is more than apt to mirror the role of Thaddeus Moss at LSU. Carlino feels the role not only will allow him to shine but others as well.
“Obviously, a lot of it’s based around tight end,” said Carlino. “But really that opens it up for everyone else, all the way from our starters to the third and fourth group.”
Last year’s Sixth Form leadership was exceptional. The whole class led by example and had one common goal on their mind, an Inter-Ac championship. Unfortunately, the season ended with a second-place title on EA Day.
This disappointment, aided by the leadership of the Class of ’20, vigorously fueled the rising senior class to be the best leaders, players, and teammates they could possibly be.
“[Being a leader is] a lot of pressure, a lot of intensity. But it’s fun. It’s a challenge but I’m always up for a challenge.”Chris Sims ’21
Senior leaders such as Chris Sims, Geordy Holmes, and Colby Kim (this year’s recipient of the Kip Taviano #10ve award) have geared their mentality toward a ring, despite the unorthodox season ahead.
Kim feels his role as a senior leader during the pandemic is “really important for the younger guys and juniors who didn’t get a proper offseason,” and he hopes to share “the values of what it means to be a Haverford school athlete and student.”
Sims said, “[Being a leader is] a lot of pressure, a lot of intensity. But it’s fun. It’s a challenge but I’m always up for a challenge.”
For Holmes, leading during the pandemic is “just as important off the field as it is on the field.” He emphasized “staying together even when we had to stay apart” was an integral part of his style of leadership.
The Fords have a lot to prove this season in a fiercely competitive league. With many schools (with the exception of GA) losing key players in the Class of 2020, many young players league wide have something to prove.
Another important footnote from the offseason is Malvern Prep’s departure from the Inter-Ac for the year. Their decision to go rogue evens out the league even more making this crazy year, anyone’s year.
At the end of the day, for this team, it’s a blessing to be back out on the field. The Fords will play an abbreviated league schedule of four games for the 2020 season. The team suffered a 28-13 loss in its opener to Germantown Academy on Saturday, October 31.