GLENOLDEN – Tahir “Tubby” Mills may be in need of a new nickname after Ridley’s 34-22 win over Interboro at Thanksgiving.
The senior running back can be called simply, the taller.
Mills ran 112 yards Thursday and finished the season at 2,521 yards, the largest in Delco history, surpassing Isaiah Bruce’s output of Upper Darby by 2,450 yards in 2015.
Humble Mills could also start to call itself Hollywood. Half an hour after the Green Raiders won, he was still on the pitch, signing autographs for the crowd of young fans he had won in his historic 2021 season for a resurgent Ridley schedule. Mills put his John Hancock on jerseys and soccer balls for young boys who treated him like a local hero.
Had he practiced his signature?
“I learned about it a few weeks ago,” he said. “I put ‘T-Mills # 4.’ “
Ridley (12-2) failed to win a Central League championship and failed to contend for a District 1, Class 6A title, but the team left a big impression on their football community. In about 10 years, those same kids who ask for autographs could be the next big generation of Green Raiders.
“It’s definitely a great feeling,” said senior quarterback John Heller, who completed 21 of 29 passes for 268 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He joined an exclusive Delco quarterback class with over 2,000 yards in one season, ending the year with 2,197 yards and 26 touchdowns.
“Just having the little kids around, they come to you and all that is something cool,” Heller continued. “And I think that just gives them the Ridley spirit.” Hope this makes them want to play more football and know what it takes to be a Ridley football player.
Mills tied the county running record with 41 yards in Ridley’s first series. The 11-game workout chewed up nearly six minutes on the clock and ended with Mills scolding three yards across the goal line. A six-yard gain on Ridley’s next practice gave him the record.
“All I worried about was getting the win,” said Mills.
Interboro showed a lot of fire in the first half. Junior backer Abu Kamara amassed 116 yards on 18 carries, including a 41-yard rush home in the first quarter. Kamara added the two-point conversion run to give the Bucs (3-9) an 8-7 lead.
“This is Bucs football. Play hard, play hard,” said Kamara. “We always run out of numbers, but it never matters to us. We will always play with a lot of heart and no matter what. or the result is exactly what it is, but we fought today.
Kamara and Mills posed for photos together after the game. The two are old friends who played youth ball together.
The Interboro defense tackled Mills three yards behind the line of scrimmage at fourth base to close the first half. The Bucs held an 8-7 lead at the break.
“We just had to keep our cool and our coaches were really honest with us because it shouldn’t have been that close to a game,” Heller said. “We have been shooting at full speed all season. … They definitely did some good things (in defense). They studied a few movies and tried to make a similar version of it, but then we adjusted in the second half and started throwing a little more rock. Once we tried to spread them, we did whatever we wanted against them.
Interboro gave the ball away on their first possession in the second half. Ridley’s offense worked as Heller connected with second wide receiver Khameen Powell for the first of his two touchdowns in the second half. Later in the period, Mills ran five yards to the end zone to give the Green Raiders the 21-8 advantage. Mills would add a third TD to finish with 36 total touchdowns this year, one short of Delco’s record.
Once Ridley took control in the second half, spirits flared on both sides, resulting in several personal faults from 15 yards. An Interboro lineman was sent off for a dirty shot after a play was called off. After Interboro’s Robert Forbes ran for a touchdown with 17 seconds left, Ridley decided to play another game on offense instead of taking a knee. Heller threw a long pass that was intercepted by Interboro senior Kaden Walsh. The Bucs weren’t happy, but Ridley coach Dave Wood offered a perfectly reasonable explanation.
“In this game you play it until the end,” said Wood. We didn’t, but we were going to try. We go there for four quarters and we play football, you know what I mean? It’s the last game for everyone. Go out and keep playing until it’s over.
Another Ridley player took a personal milestone Thursday: Senior kicker Nick Volpone netted four more points to give him 100 points on the season.
Heller distributed the ball to five receivers. Powell had five catches for 112 yards and junior Paul Jackson had four receptions for 47 yards. Heller’s 2,197 yards are the highest for a Ridley quarterback since Colin Masterson in 2009.
“I think we’ve set the tone for next season and especially for the youngsters who are going to fill our positions,” Heller said. “I think they kind of know what it takes now to play at the top level, to compete for the District title and the Central League title. And also the significance of the Turkey Bowl. Young people have definitely seen the history of this game and how important it is to the community.