By CHRISTOPHER A. VITO
HAVERFORD — By the time Eddie Durkin had stalked off the field and toward his sideline, the fluid had stopped dripping from his facemask. He took a few pats on the helmet, grabbed a water bottle and sat on the bench with a towel wrapped around his arms and face.
Durkin, Haverford’s quarterback, only moments earlier had completed an eight-point swing that led to the Fords’ 34-28 dismissal of Conestoga and locked up Haverford’s first playoff berth since 2007. But it wasn’t without a little pain.
Their senior signal-caller, Durkin hit Ricky Dempsey for a 63-yard touchdown reception on the final play of the third quarter. Then Durkin — before tucking for a 2-point conversion — lost his lunch.
Durkin didn’t want to call a timeout, even though his team had three of them.
“No need to,” Durkin said. “Just all that running, I guess.”
“He’s a tough quarterback,” Dempsey added. “Tough.”
The second of Durkin’s three touchdowns, and the subsequent 2-point conversion, gave Haverford (8-1, 6-1) a lead it wouldn’t relinquish. And after the Fords’ defense did its thing by holding Conestoga (5-4, 4-4) on a 3-and-out, Durkin’s 39-yard scamper on a third-and-11 led to his 1-yard lunge later in the series.
It gave the Fords their first District One Class AAAA playoff berth in five seasons and, a few minutes later, set off a huge, midfield party at A.G. Cornog Field.
Haverford coach Joe Gallagher, drenched in the contents of a water cooler, had nothing but praise for Durkin. He had all of his timeouts remaining on that 2-point conversion attempt, but never considered using one to spell Durkin.
“You let him throw up and score. That’s part of football. I have no problem with that,” Gallagher said. “I told him, ‘Good job,’ after he did that. If you’re throwing up during a 2-point play, it happens. That’s football. But Eddie’s tough.”
Durkin helped the Fords overcome two deficits in the first half, with Marcus Burton’s 1-yard lunge and the first of Andrew DeStefano’s three scoring receptions from quarterback Joe Viviano giving Conestoga a 14-7 lead midway through the second quarter.
But Haverford got to Viviano prior to the half. Matt Skurka sacked Viviano and forced a fumble that Shawn Luterman recovered in the end zone to even the score at 14-14 at intermission.
“Huge play,” Gallagher said.
Then the second half belonged to Durkin and the Fords. Jai Thornton capped a six-play drive, buoyed by a 60-yard connection between Durkin and Dempsey, with a 1-yard dive. And after the Pioneers took the lead on yet another touchdown from DeStefano (nine catches, 175 yards, three touchdowns), Durkin connected with Dempsey for the touchdown that got even the quarterback a little queasy.
Gallagher said Durkin (175 yards passing, 97 yards rushing) probably felt the need to do a little more after senior running back Kevin Leyden left the game in the first quarter. Leyden, the Fords’ leading rusher, sustained a banged-up right shoulder and didn’t return.
“With Kevin out, it kind of fell on (Durkin) a little bit,” Gallagher said. “They’re not good players. They’re great players. So Eddie, internally, was saying to himself, ‘This is on me.’ And he responded.”
To the point of nausea, no less.
“Our kids played until the very end, but this was just Haverford, Joe Gallagher, Eddie Durkin and those kids having their night,” Conestoga coach John Vogan said. “We did all we could do to try to win, but this was their night and they should enjoy that.”
Haverford 34, Conestoga 28
Conestoga 7 7 7 7 — 28
Haverford 0 14 14 6 — 34
C: Burton 1 run (Toroni kick)
H: Durkin 5 run (Russell kick)
C: DeStefano 34 pass from Viviano (Toroni kick)
H: Luterman fumble recovery in end zone (Russell kick)
H: Thornton 1 run (kick failed)
C: DeStefano 65 pass from Viviano (Toroni kick)
H: Dempsey 63 pass from Durkin (Durkin run)
H: Durkin 1 run (kick failed)
C: DeStefano 5 pass from Viviano (Toroni kick)
First downs 17 16
Rushing yards 118 178
Passing yards 199 175
Total yards 317 353
Passing 13-21-0 7-12-1
Punts-Average 2-27.5 3-27.6
Fumbles-Lost 2-2 2-0
Penalties-Yards 2-10 6-50
Rushing: Conestoga — Burton 22-68, TD; Viviano 13-40; DeStefano 1-10. Haverford — Durkin 13-97, TD; Drum 11-57; Thornton 7-20, TD; Leyden 3-6; Team 2-(-2).
Passing: Conestoga — Viviano 13-21-0, 199 yards, 3 TDs. Haverford — Durkin 7-12-1, 175 yards.
Receiving: Conestoga — DeStefano 9-175, 3 TDs; Loevy 1-14; Dorsey 1-10; Pritchett 1-10; Prestipino 1-8. Haverford — Dempsey 2-123, TD; Hepp 2-24; Sydnor 1-20; Drum 1-7; Thornton 1-1.