NETHER PROVIDENCE — Jake Kitchin has been preparing all week for his chance.
The Strath Haven junior quarterback knew starter Sam Milligan played through a hand injury for most of last week’s win over Interboro. He saw the initial two-year report to practice this week with a heavily bandaged right wrist and hand.
Kitchin knew Thursday night’s non-league game against Kensington would be in his hands. And almost as soon as Chase Nangle passed a speedy cornerback with no deep safety help late in the second quarter, Kitchin began to feel up to the task.
Kitchin connected with Nangle on a game-changing 72-yard touchdown, leading Haven to a late 16-point halftime lead and an eventual 50–6 victory over Kensington.
“I’m next up,” Kitchin said. “I was nervous at the beginning, but my teammates helped me through it. They told me, ‘don’t worry, we have this for you’. They helped me a lot for this. I appreciate what I did today.”
Kitchin took some time to get used to the job, though a seven-yard touchdown run by Anthony Crawford on the first drive meant Haven was never far behind. Midway through the second quarter, Haven (2-0) led with that single score. And it was further cut when Kensington’s Alani Coto buried a punt at the 1-yard line.
On Haven’s first play, Kitchin fumbled and the ball bounced just above head height for defensive tackle Shawn Turino to get his hands on it a yard into the end zone.
The kick missed, leaving Haven up 7-6. But the damage could have been done, were it not for a quick conference between Milligan and Kitchin, the veteran telling him to keep his head up.
Three plays later, on third-and-11, Kitchin found Nangle over the top of the defense to run down Haven’s sideline.
Not far behind him was an elated Kitchin, in a fist-pumping frenzy.
“They had their corners bombed, so it was wide open the first second he ran,” Kitchin said. “I saw it, I threw it away. It was a weird pass, but he received it and scored a touchdown. That’s what really made our offense explode for the rest of the game.”
That would be Kitchin’s only completion in three attempts, an improvement over nil in Week 1. Kitchin hit Marco Kaufman for the two-point conversion to make it 15-6.
From there, Haven’s superior running game took over. The backfield committee scored 43 times for 330 yards, led by Crawford’s 17 for 143. He scored three times, including a 21-yard excursion with 42 seconds left in the first half and a six-yarder at 8:51 of the third. .
“I think everyone realized they had to step up,” Crawford said. “Sam is our leader. He is one of our captains. Having Jake there, a young guy who had never played before, everyone had to up their game. Everyone had to step up. I think it was a little shaky initially, then we rose to the occasion.”
Bob Fooskas added seven carries for 90 yards, hitting his way for a 30-yard touchdown in the third. Shane Green and third quarterback Matt Jones added rushing scores.
That was enough for the defense. Kensington showed flashes, with Jason Slevenski putting together a good drive in the first half by connecting on his first four passes. But he was intercepted twice, a pick by Alex Glavacic setting up Crawford’s second TD and Green returning an interception 46 yards ahead of Jones’ 17-yard run.
Crawford and Jack Dougherty recovered fumbles. Slevenski was sacked five times: twice by Ben Farabaugh, twice by Austin Conner and a strip sack by Vince Hales.
“The speed of the ends and the experience and the size and strength of the two inside guys, I don’t know of any offensive line that can handle that,” Crawford said. “They were fantastic all night.”
Kitchin showed that he could handle pressure well. With a TD and a win under his belt, he’s ready for more.
“It does a lot for me,” he said. “I come into the game nervous, and that’s like, oh, my teammates, they’re really here for me. I have to do this for the next two weeks until Sam comes back.”