Heller's 415-yard performance one for the books in Ridley win – papreplive.com

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LOWER MERION — John Heller knew the number. As a senior quarterback at Ridley, as a long-awaited heir to the lineage of signal-callers, as a student of the program’s prodigious history, Heller knew it well.
He also knew, with the players around him and the right situation, it could be his.
Saturday was Heller’s day, the QB rampaging past Lower Merion for a 49-0 Central League win thanks to 415 passing yards, five passing touchdowns and a rushing score.
The 415 yards sets the Ridley record, surpassing the 402 thrown by Colin Wright against Spring-Ford in 2012. It’s the third-highest tally in Delaware County history, trailing only the 430 by Joe Emmi at the old Ridley Township High in 1965 and Greg Jefferson’s 433 yards in 1968 for Darby Township.
Wright’s modern record had been in Heller’s sights for a long time, the latest product of Delco’s cradle of quarterbacks. A big game against Radnor made him believe he could get there. With a fast start Saturday morning and the talented cast around him clicking, Heller took his opportunity.
“It feels amazing knowing all the championships and all the legendary coaches, (Joe) McNicholas and all them,” Heller said. “It feels good to have a record in my name.”
Heller was 14-for-16 through the air, exiting in the fourth quarter with the mark secured. The final total was whatever Ridley wanted it to be, given how Heller and company had their way.
The Green Raiders (7-1, 6-1 Central) losing the field-position battle early only added to Heller’s feats. He tossed for 94 yards on the first series, hitting Kimir Stephenson for 30 and then a 64-yarder to Paul Jackson for the opening score.
“We were working on it all week,” said Jackson, Heller’s favorite target with four catches for 95 yards. “We know that that specific play was going to be open. We ran it, we repped it, and there was no safety over top, so we just ran it.”
Lack of LM safety help was punished time and again. The next series ended with Heller dropping a perfect corner route to Kahmeen Powell for a 27-yard score just inside the pylon to make it 14-0. When the Aces (3-5, 2-5) buried Ridley at the 1 on the next series, that was just fine by Heller. He went up top to Powell on the first snap for a 99-yard sideline route, the sophomore catching it in stride and off to the races. Yardage count: 4-for-4 for 220.
“It was a good play call by coach,” Heller said. “We were on the 1-yard line and they didn’t expect us to go over the top. We’ve got playmakers, and we believe in our guys. That’s what we did, beat them over the top.”
Heller proved he can work underneath on the next drive. On fourth and goal, with a tackler draped on him, the 6-5 QB found Tahir Mills on a diving comeback route for an eight-yard score. A comparatively leisurely 10-play drive capped the half, Heller dropping back on second and goal at the 10 and seeing no one in front of him. So he tucked, ran, delivered a stick at the 2 and bulled over the plane.
Powell had an 87-yard kick return score erased by a penalty to start the second half, which merely gave Heller another shot. He promptly found Stevenson down the seam on a 55-yard pitch-and-catch, easy as you like.
At that point, Ridley had 458 yards of total offense on 22 snaps; 379 of them were Heller’s. In the last two games against Lower Merion’s two schools, Heller has led the Green Raiders to 119 points in around six quarters of action.
“Especially with our guys, our speed, there’s not much you can do against this offense,” Heller said. “We’re explosive. This is the best offense we’ve had in a while, and we’re going to keep working and keep getting better. We can be so much better than we are, and that’s the scary thing about us.”
Lower Merion, missing top running back Jay Zheng, couldn’t get much going. Jack Lledo (8-for-14, 68 yards) was sacked five times; one, a Najah Saleem strip sack, turned into his 44-yard fumble return for touchdown.
Lledo threw interceptions to Connor Kelley and Aubrey Daniels, the latter in the end zone to curtail a promising drive. Ben Booker battled for 51 yards on 16 carries, but the Aces had just 92 yards of total offense, 22 in the second half.
None of that was enough to stop Heller from etching his name into the pantheon of Ridley greats. Though he is under no illusion that the achievement is his alone.
“It couldn’t have happened without our o-line, our receivers, our coaching, just everyone,” Heller said. “It’s a team accomplishment, not just me. It couldn’t happen without everybody else.”

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