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By Matt Smith, PA Prep Live & Delco Times

MARPLE – Haverford High quarterback Jack Donaghy and Marple Newtown receiver Abel Hoff shared their excitement upon learning they would play on the same team at the 40th Delaware County Hero Bowl All-Star Game.

One record-setting quarterback throwing to the county’s single-season reception leader. The possibilities seemed endless.

Fans in attendance at Cardinal O’Hara were in for a treat.

“It’s really fun playing with a quarterback who is that good,” Hoff said. “He deserved every bit of the Delco (Daily Times) Player of the Year. I see tonight why he won, why he is so good.”

Donaghy and Hoff connected right away.

“When we found out we were on the same team, we texted each other back and forth, saying that we were really excited about it,” Donaghy said. “There was almost a built-in chemistry between us in practice, and that sort of carried over into the game.”

Donaghy’s 9 of 13 passing for 208 yards and three touchdowns led the Red team to a 28-23 victory over the Blue squad in Thursday’s Hero Bowl. Donaghy was named offensive MVP of his squad, while Haverford School All-Delco linebacker Mickey Kober earned MVP honors on defense. Taking home the MVP awards for the Blue team were Upper Darby wide receiver Brandon Morton and Penn Wood lineman Jordan Johnson.

Ultimately, the Hero Bowl is all about its tremendous cause every year. Proceeds from the event benefit the Hero Scholarship Fund of Delaware County, Inc., which provides scholarship support to the children of police officers, firefighters and emergency medical personnel who have sacrificed their lives in the line of duty.

“We wanted to come out here and respect the tradition, respect ourselves and respect the other team,” said Hoff, who caught a pair of Donaghy passes for touchdowns. He had four receptions for 113 yards and five carries for 28 yards. “Everyone really took the game seriously. We know that in the past, there was some fighting and stuff, so we wanted to play a clean game.”

When Hoff was younger, he would attend the Hero Bowl every year and dream about the chance of one day playing in the game.

“It’s something that I’ve always wanted to be a part of,” said Hoff, who is bound for Shippensburg in August. “It was a great experience.”

Donaghy was humbled by winning MVP for the Red, which also received solid performances from Garnet Valley quarterback Matt Hamby (7 of 14, 102 yards), Chester running back Ed Nelson Jr. (three catches, 86 yards) and Interboro tight end Chase Pattinson (two catches, 45 yards).

“Just playing with a bunch of great guys and having the chance to get out here one last time really meant the most,” said Donaghy, who guided Haverford to the Central League title in 2015. He will continue his career at Franklin & Marshall.

Pattinson hauled in a 12-yard pass from Donaghy in the first quarter to put the Red team on the board and even the score, 7-7. Blue kicked off the scoring when Penn Wood running back Tayvon Ruley darted 44 yards to the end zone midway through the opening stanza.

Ridley’s Jamie Fisher booted a 36-yard field goal with 3:37 left before halftime to give Blue the lead again, 10-7. Donaghy engineered Red’s second scoring drive. He found Hoff for 40 yards to set Red up in the red zone. Moments later, Donaghy fired a 2-yard strike to Hoff across the middle of the end zone. George Lambritsios drilled the point-after try to put Red ahead, 14-10.

The second-half star for Red was Nelson, who was a threat in the receiving game and broke off a couple of productive runs.

“I just told my coach at halftime, ‘I’m here,’” Nelson said. “Wish we had (Donaghy) at Chester. He’s good.”

Nelson recently decommitted from Bloomsburg to pounce on a great opportunity at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Ga. Nelson received the Bill Gates Memorial Scholarship, which will provide him with a free ride through college.

“All the way to my doctorate,” said Nelson, who aspires to be an educator. “It’s what was best for me.”

Harriton’s Pat Stewart thrived at quarterback for the Blue squad. Stewart had a pair of second-half touchdown throws to Penn Wood’s Christian Santos and Ridley’s Chris Dunn. The 17-yard connection with Dunn trimmed Red’s lead to 28-23 with a 1:49 to go. An onside kick attempt was recovered by Marple Newtown’s Marcus Weathers, enabling Red to run out the clock.

Upper Darby quarterback Christoff Minott started under center for Blue. He completed one pass to his Royals teammate Morton, who had a heck of night with 126 yards on four catches.

Kober was a terror on defense for Red, and the same can be said for Johnson. Winning the MVP on defense was a special moment for the 6-5, 250-pound Johnson, who earned rave reviews on the sideline. Among his admirers was Radnor All-Delco and Boston College standout Dave Bowen, who was hanging out with the Blue team. Bowen recently had a tryout with the Eagles and is hoping to latch on with a team before training camp.

“It’s just another step,” Johnson said. “I’ve been working all offseason in the weight room, training and all of that. It shows that my hard work is paying off.”

Johnson has an uncle who is a firefighter in Philadelphia.

Johnson will take his talent to Garden City Community College in Kansas, which produced such NFL stars as Jason Pierre-Paul and Corey Dillon.

For one last time, he was proud to represent Penn Wood, whose players put forth a fine effort in Thursday’s Hero Bowl.

“The school gets a bad rep, but I try to let everyone know that we have players. Dudes work hard,” Johnson said. “I woke up in the morning and realized we were going against all the teams we got blown out by, like Haverford and Haverford School. I just knew I had to go hard the whole game.”