Fords football is hungry for victory. Captained by a cohort of upperclassmen eager to further the legacy of last year’s undefeated team, they aim to bring the heat to home turf for this Saturday’s EA Day showdown.
Their current record stands at a strong 5-4 record, with only the Episcopal Academy left on their schedule. However, the team struggled to find success early, with two key losses to Garnet Valley and Malvern Prep.
“We came [into the season] and we kind of couldn’t find success because we just weren’t cohesive,” Sixth Former Sean Brodnik said. “We just weren’t working together.”
Part of the team’s struggle stemmed from entering the season with such high expectations and a relatively smaller number of Sixth Formers on the team.
“We didn’t have as many older guys [on the team this year],” Brodnik said. “So it was a lot of new guys stepping into roles that they weren’t used to playing.”
Imhotep Institute and La Salle College High School were challenges for the young team, but, as the season progressed, the Fords learned to trust each other and develop many of the same strategies that they did last year.
“We had a very tough out-of-conference schedule, so we went through some bumps and bruises there, but now we come into full form in the Inter-Ac play,” Sixth Form team manager Gavin Stamps said. “Towards the end here against EA, we’re really coming in playing like ourselves and getting back to what we did last year, which is running the football and just emphasizing toughness and grit and effort.”
Some team strengths come from a skilled offensive and defensive line. As a mentor and observer, Coach Gregory Isdaner has seen them first-hand.
“The strength of the team, both literally and figuratively, is up front. We have some large and physical [players] who enjoy taking out their anger on opponents,” Coach Isdaner said. “Having said that, what often gives the whole team an edge is our preparation and the mental capacities of our young men. Their ability to observe, learn, process information, and adapt is a big highlight to observe and makes coaching them more enjoyable. Additionally, it is a pleasure to work with young men who take great pride and care so deeply for their performance and thus want to improve on a daily basis.”
As a program and a community, Haverford football has maintained a large role in its players’ lives. And as the season comes to an end, Sixth Formers realize that they will soon be playing their last game in Haverford football jerseys.
“Through Haverford football, I’ve learned a lot about myself,” Brodnik said. “I’ve learned that I just have to control what I can control, and I can’t try to control what other people do or how other people see me.”
Translating those lessons to the field, Sixth Former Mick Barnes-Pace has been trying to set a high standard for the team, practicing consistent leadership.
“I think we’ve been level-headed for the most part,” Barnes-Pace said. “We just have been playing our game in the Inter Ac, really trying to win each game and go 1-0 each week. That’s been our focus.”
Leaders like Barnes-Pace take this focus to heart.
“Just keeping everybody focused on one thing—I think that’s the most important part,” he said. “You can’t control two weeks ahead, three weeks ahead. I like to go day-by-day, never too high, never too low, and I think that’s important. Good leadership is knowing what to do in certain moments, so I think that plays an important role.”
Coach Isdaner knows that the Sixth Formers have additional stakes in this game.
“We would love to finish the season on the strongest possible note: nothing would be more fun or fulfilling for the guys than ending the season with an excellent performance and a win,” Coach Isdander said. “It would also be a treat to send the senior class out with a perfect 4-0 record against EA. That does not occur too frequently. Also, the team is technically still alive to ‘win’ the league via a tie.”
“Do you want to be the team that just drops the legacy that’s been building at Haverford? Or do you want to be the team that maintains it?”Sean Brodnik ’24
For Sixth Formers, the game signifies an energy-filled apex to an exciting season.
“I had the pleasure of playing at home three-times: once freshman year, sophomore year, and then senior year right now. It’s very important for me to go out and play well on the home turf because I know everybody is watching and everybody will be here,” Sixth Former Mick Barnes-Pace said. “It feels pretty good. I can’t wait to experience it.”
Specifically, this game and the season mean more than just bragging rights and the sweater.
“Down the stretch the message to the seniors has been ‘What do you want your legacy be at the school?’” Brodnik said. “Do you want to be the team that just drops the legacy that’s been building at Haverford? Or do you want to be the team that maintains it?”
That being said, the coaches are well aware of the obstacle Episcopal Academy will present to the Fords.“Episcopal is a well-coached team, and this game is a battle each and every year. It almost feels a little surreal, as it is a complete outlier from every other sporting contest that either school participates in each year,” Isander said. “I hope that the boys remember to enjoy the experience and do not allow the moment to affect their preparation or play.”