1. Haverford School (16-4-2)
Another year, another Inter-Ac title for the Fords. You can look at their record and all the accolades, and it’s certainly impressive. But the Fords just seem to play a different way. So much of their emphasis is on strong technical ability and team understanding. Where some teams are able to run by or over their opponents, the Fords had this way of breaking teams down bit by bit with strong passing, team soccer. It really is a pleasure to watch.
2. Ridley (13-5-2)
There aren’t enough words to describe what Wayne McKinney has done with this program. Its win over North Penn in the district playoffs was the school’s first postseason win since the 1970s. Think about that. They are also the only Delco Class AAA team in the last two years to win a playoff game, and other than Conestoga’s run to the state tournament, Ridley was the only one of the Central League teams to win in the tournament (that includes previously undefeated league champ Lower Merion). No season has meant more to a program than Ridley’s, and the historical gravity of their season is part of the reason they get the nod here.
3. Sun Valley (11-7-0)
Of the five teams representing District One in the PIAA Class AAA tournament, four came from the Ches-Mont League. Those four accounted for three of Sun Valley’s losses, and the Vanguards triumphed over Downingtown West in overtime in their regular-season finale in a do-or-die game for their playoff hopes. Put this Sun Valley team in the Central League, and you could easily have a 13- to 15-win team. They were a senior-laden bunch that had a very special season.
4. Radnor (10-5-3)
The Raiders were the typical Central League team in the way their season ended, fighting tough but losing a close game to Central Bucks West in Districts. They were a very balanced team that didn’t have one star but rather a lot of very solid players that came together successfully. They get the nod over Strath Haven due to a six-game winning streak to close the regular season, punctuated by Max Barish’s game-winner over the Panthers in overtime.
5. Strath Haven (10-7-2)
The Panthers had a chance to advance in the first round of districts, but they squandered a lead in losing to Rustin, 3-2. The fall in the standings by the Panthers is due to their finish to the season: Draws with Shipley and Harriton, then losses to Radnor, Holy Ghost Prep and Rustin.
6. Interboro (9-9-0)
So the Bucs couldn’t hang with Henderson in districts. They nonetheless played essentially a Central League slate, beating Upper Darby and Marple Newtown and losing one-goal games to Ridley and Garnet Valley. That’s enough to get here.
7. Upper Darby (7-9-1)
Here’s where things get dicey. With Springfield never getting started this season and Garnet Valley and Penncrest limping to the finish line, there’s not another .500 team in Delco (short of a Penn Wood team that played a really soft schedule and Christian Academy). So let’s go with Upper Darby. It closed on a four-game winning streak, including contributing to the late-season swoons of Penncrest and Garnet Valley. It’s not how you start (losses in nine of the first 13 games), but how you finish.
Honorable mention: Episcopal Academy (8-10-5; Josh Wilson’s goal-scoring late in the season was big, and the 4-0 win over Springside Chestnut Hill will have to suffice as the season highlight); Penncrest (8-10-1; the last there games of the season were losses to Strath Haven, Radnor and Conestoga, but the real back-breaker was the 3-2 loss to Upper Darby two games earlier that lead to them stumbling across the finish line); Garnet Valley (7-8-2; how the team that draws with Ridley and gives Lower Merion arguably its best game of the regular season then goes out and gets smacked 4-1 by an albeit solid Cardinal O’Hara and loses to Upper Darby is beyond me); Christian Academy (15-2-0; the win total is gaudy, but losing a home game in the semifinals of the Tri-State Christian Conference tournament with the inside line at the title takes some of the shine off the Crusaders season).