This was something novel for Ridley High. The Green Raiders had not faced adversity this season until that Oct.30 night, when they had to drive up the field looking for a touchdown in the waning minutes to beat one of the best teams in the area, Garnet Valley.
This was also new to Colin Masterson, Ridley's quarterback who wasn't that used to adversity, either. Something would be discovered - even though Masterson and Ridley didn't succeed, coming up 11 yards short in the final 2 seconds of the game to lose, 20-14.
Masterson responded. He placed the Green Raiders in a position to win, and showed what he could do when pressed. The 6-1, 160-pound senior has been a strong leader and a leading reason why the Green Raiders are in the PIAA Class AAAA state semifinals for the second time in 3 years. He's also a reason why the Green Raiders are District 1 Class AAAA champions for the second time in 3 years.
Another major test comes tomorrow when Ridley faces District 12 and Catholic League Class AAAA champion La Salle at 1 p.m. at Northeast High School in the Eastern Finals and the right to advance to the PIAA state championship.
Leading Ridley's offense will be Masterson, who has thrown for 2,283 yards and 24 touchdowns, with eight more rushing. He has shown an ability to win games with his legs and has created a ton of problems for any opposing defense.
The Green Raiders are 13-1, but Masterson credits the one loss with turning around the season and changing not only the way he thinks, but the Green Raiders' attitude.
"After the Garnet Valley game, this became Colin's team; they looked more to him as a leader after that game," Ridley coach Dennis Decker said. "Colin is a very humble, honest kid who knows his abilities, and the kids believe in him. This really rallied around him after the Garnet Valley game. They rallied around each other."
It's a step that had to be taken.
"We were screwing around too much, in the weight room, during practice, people were goofing around too much," Masterson said. "After losing to Garnet Valley, the locker room changed. We all took the weekend to think over what we did wrong after the Garnet Valley game. No one took things nonchalantly after that, like we may have before that game. That's why I think losing to Garnet Valley was the best thing that happened to us and why we've gotten this far."
It also helps having someone like Masterson running Ridley's pass-oriented offense. He has proven he can improvise, create, scramble from desperate situations and see open receivers down the field. Against Garnet Valley, Ridley ran a no-huddle offense, and more than a few times Masterson spun out of trouble to hit a receiver down field.
Against Downingtown East, in the District 1 semifinals, Masterson guided the Green Raiders to 332 yards of total offense in a 28-7 victory.
He's tough to defend.
"Colin has shown he can do a lot of different things," Decker said. "He creates problems with his legs. I didn't realize what he could do on his feet. He's able to make people miss. He's seeing things and making something out of broken plays. He makes the line look very good. The other times the line does a phenomenal job, Colin shows the things he's able to do when he has time."
La Salle could be facing a more dangerous Masterson, if that's possible, tomorrow afternoon. He played a competent game last Friday in Ridley's monumental, 19-10 upset of North Penn in the District 1 championship game. But he admittedly played a nervous game - his palms were sweaty and he never really got the kind of grip on the ball he likes. Masterson wants to show what he can do when he's on his game.
"I was a mess against North Penn, I never really settled in," said Masterson, whose 26-yard touchdown pass to Norm Dunkin was Ridley's first score. "I let my nerves get the best of me. I'm usually nervous, and after the first drive, I'm usually fine. But this was different against North Penn. I had to keep me cool in front of my teammates. Every time I'd go back to the huddle, I'd tell them it was my fault when I missed a pass. I tried to keep the guys up all of the time. Once I threw the touchdown pass to Norm it settled me in a little."
Now Masterson is on the brink of making history - to join, of all people, his coach, Decker, as the only quarterbacks to ever lead Ridley to a PIAA state championship game.i