Friday Night Game to Honor Haven’s First Championship Team
Twenty years ago, Strath Haven High School won the first of two consecutive class AAA state football championships, riding the crest of an incredible wave of success that also included 94 straight District One victories, and Central League and District One championships every year from 1996 through 2003.
The wave crashed, inevitably, with some lean years since the last Central League title in 2010. But this season, which has begun with big victories over Interboro and Penncrest, it feels as though another wave is building.
Both past and future football glories are on the minds of the founders of the Haven Gridiron Club, which was recently formed by alumni and parents of current team members, not just to celebrate the glory days, but also to contribute to future successes. Ben Blackburn of Wallingford, a team member during his Haven days (class of 1987) and father of SHHS junior and Panther tight end Pete, said the club wants to tap into Haven’s winning tradition.
“A few of us alums who are still around the program as coaches or parents saw the dwindling numbers of players and the tough time Haven was having competing with other schools in the Central League, and wanted to do something about it,” Blackburn said. “We thought bringing the alumni back in the fold and reminding the community of the team’s historic excellence would bring some new energy to the program. Hence the idea to have a reunion of our first state championship team at a game.”
What better time than the 20th anniversary, and what better game than this Friday’s matchup against traditional rival Ridley High School? Blackburn expects that more than half the members of the 1999 team will return, meet up at a hospitality tent up in the east end zone of George L. King Field, and be recognized after the first quarter at md-field, where they’ll be re-presented with the state championship trophy.
A crowd fired up by the presence of the past Haven greats could help the 2019 Panthers squad rise to the challenge of vanquishing Ridley, Blackburn hopes. Increasing connection to the great Haven teams of the past raises the profile of the football program, and also helps the Haven Gridiron Club support the current team materially. The club has raised $14,000 already this year, mostly in donations from alumni, which has funded purchase of practice jerseys, shorts and other equipment. Next year the club plans to help the District buy all new uniforms for the team, Blackburn said. “We want to remind people how good we used to be, to bring that tradition back, so that kids get excited about the program again.”
Be part of the tradition. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. Friday on Strath Haven’s home turf at Providence Road and Copples Lane.