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Strath Haven holds off Springfield, 14-12, to reach the District 1 5A finals

Written by: on Saturday, November 18th, 2023. Follow Joseph Santoliquito on Twitter.


Strath Haven’s AJ Glavicic

WALLINGFORD — Way back in early September, AJ Glavicic turned off the world. The Strath Haven 6-foot-1, 165-pound senior defensive back thought he was finished. He had broken his right collarbone against Springfield on September 1, making a dramatic catch that enabled the Panthers to mount a late comeback on their way to winning.

Initially, doctors and coaches told him his season was over. He thought his season was over. He never broke a bone before and never experienced pain like that. His nadir came when he shut down, emotionally isolating himself in his bedroom.

As he healed over the last two months, doctors came around to tell Glavicic that he might be able to salvage his season, though at some risk.

Glavicic is happy he took the gamble.

On Friday night, his two interceptions helped preserve No. 2-seed Strath Haven’s 14-12 victory over Central League rival Springfield in the PIAA District 1 Class 5A semifinals at Strath Haven.

The Panthers (12-1) will now play the winner of Saturday’s other semifinal matchup between No. 1 seed Chester and No. 5 seed West Chester Rustin in the District 1 Class 5A championship. A Rustin victory over Chester would give the higher-seeded Panthers a home-field advantage. If Chester were to win, the Clippers would host Strath Haven next Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Chester Athletic Complex.

The Panthers might not be going anywhere without Glavicic’s picks. And Glavicic would not have been there to make those plays without first picking himself up.

The injury smashed not only his collarbone but his optimism.

“It was scary, I was devastated, one of the worst things in my life,” recalled Glavicic, a track star in the 400-meter dash who is getting college attention from Penn State, Villanova, Army, and Colorado. “I was told it was risky to come back. I was willing to do that and continue living this special dream with these guys.

“I think rock bottom was when I shut myself off. I didn’t want to go to practice to see my team play without me. When we beat Ridley, I walked off the field crying with my dad, since I thought my season was over. This feels great. I never had a game like this before.”

After Springfield’s Mike Turner churned out a 34-yard touchdown run with 2:16, followed by a failed onside kick on the ensuing kickoff, Springfield, the No. 3 seed, began moving the ball with less than two minutes to play. The Cougars reached the Strath Haven 23 in the waning seconds when Springfield coach Chris Britton was forced to try a 40-yard field goal. Sean Williams’ kick fell short, the Panthers took over and squeezed out the remaining time for the victory.

This is it for Glavicic, no more organized football after this season. His full focus will be plunged into track because that is the sport of his choice for college.

“It’s why I’m putting it all out there,” he said. “It was very good to get this, but I’m not satisfied yet. I want that district championship.”

Strath Haven junior Shane Green rushed for a game-high 145 yards on 18 carries. His strong running game kept the Springfield offense, and its explosive tailback Turner, who finished with 126 yards rushing on 25 carries, off the field.

“It was a good game, and they did a great job and it’s why Strath Haven is going forward,” Britton said. “My kids played hard and congratulations to Strath Haven, they’re going to the next round.”

Strath Haven took a 14-6 lead into halftime, after a rough start. Springfield ran off an exhaustive 74-yard, 19-play, 10-minute, 50-second drive with the opening kickoff. The Cougars converted three fourth downs, including Ethan Marshall’s one-yard score with 1:14 left in the opening quarter.

Britton was incredibly bold on the drive. The Cougars went for it on fourth-and-one at their 35 and converted. They faced a fourth-and-three and converted when Ryan Whitaker hit Tanner Coll for a three-yard gain at the Strath Haven 38. A huge play during the series was when Whitaker spotted Coll again on a third-and-eight for a 16-yard gain at the Panthers’ seven. Four plays later, Marshall gave Springfield a temporary lead.

After running literally two plays for less than a minute of possession in the opening quarter, Strath Haven scored on consecutive drives. Both scores were possible by long runs.

Green’s 69-yard run running left put the Panthers at the Springfield two with less than seven minutes left in the half set up Marco Kaufman’s one-yard score. On the next drive, James Fisher found a hole and zipper right through for a 62-yard score with 3:09 left in the half and a 14-6 Panthers lead.

By halftime, Green had 106 yards rushing on eight yards, the bulk of which came on the 69-yard run. The Panthers had 184 yards of total offense at halftime—all on the ground.

Springfield, meanwhile, had 104 yards of total offense—though only had 30 yards and two first downs the rest of the half after the opening drive.  The Cougars were also fortunate to get out of the half without any more damage done, coming up with a big defensive stand after a turnover in the last minute when they held the Panthers on a fourth-and-two at the Springfield 14.

Scoring Summary

Springfield (11-2) 6 0 0 6-12

Strath Haven (12-1) 0 14 0 0-14

1st Quarter

Sp – Ethan Marshall 1 run (kick failed), 1:14

2nd Quarter

SH – Marco Kaufman 1 run (Ben Milligan kick), 6:51

SH –James Fisher 62 run (Mulligan kick), 3:09

4th Quarter

Sp – Mike Turner 34 run (run failed), 2:16

Joseph Santoliquito is a hall-of-fame, award-winning sportswriter who has been covering high school football since 1992 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be followed on Twitter @JSantoliquito. Follow on Twitter @EPAFootball.

Follow on Twitter @EPAFootball

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