THORNBURY — Shaaheen Dow has a lot more to play for than just football.
The senior running back says his coaches never stopped pushing him and always had his back after his mother died before the season started. Dow vowed that he would always play for her as well as his new family — the Battling Bulls.
Dow certainly made his gridiron family proud Friday night when he pounded out 229 yards on 24 carries for three touchdowns as he led Glen Mills into its first ever District I Class AAA title game with a 34-13 win over West Chester Henderson.
Dow also scooped up a fumble recovery and returned it 91 yards for a touchdown and intercepted two passes.
The Bulls (9-3) will meet Academy Park (9-2) on neutral ground for the championship. Glen Mills defeated the Knights 20-13 Oct. 25.
There's no doubt anyone in Dow's position would feel pressure before what could have been his final high school football game, especially with a trip to the championship on the line. Dow is easily the Bulls' top playmaker and there was no question a win would have to come on his back.
"It's a lot (of pressure), I just put it on my team,' he said. "They had my back, I had theirs and I wasn't letting anybody down.'
The Bulls forced six turnovers Friday night, three through the air and three on the ground. West Chester Henderson coach Steve Mitten said it shows the eight turnovers forced against Springfield a week ago weren't a fluke.
"Watching the film, those turnovers that Springfield had last week were not just mistakes Springfield made — they were plays that Glen Mills made,' he said. "They stripped the ball out, they were strong and they took it away from people. That's why they're over there celebrating and we're not.'
The scoring didn't open until the second quarter, and it looked like it would be the Warriors (7-5) who would do so first. Henderson was on the 15th play of a drive that started on its 20 when a fumble at the Glen Mills 9-yard line bounced right into the hands of Dow, who rushed untouched into the end zone.
Henderson responded a little more than two minutes later with a QB keeper from Matt Dinacci. After a Glen Mills penalty forced another attempt at the extra point, the Warriors attempted to pick up the two-point conversion but failed, leaving them down 7-6.
Dow scored twice before the half, but the Warriors weren't discouraged by the 20-6 deficit. Garrett Girafalco ran 35 yards on fourth-and-2 to cut the lead to seven points late in the third quarter, but Glen Mills would have none of that. The Bulls marched down the field starting from their 37 and capped the drive with their own touchdown on fourth down when quarterback Dontae Coates snuck it in from the 1-yard line behind his blockers.
Dow eventually iced the game after he picked off his second pass and later ran it in from 29 yards out on fourth-and-12.
Even with the regular-season victory over the Knights, there will be people that will look past the Bulls and assume Academy Park will win easily. Offensive lineman Tyshawn Anderson said that they know people think they're undisciplined and that the wheels could fall off.
The Bulls would be fine if everyone assumed that, since it's fed their fire all season.
"Everyone's thought of us as underdogs and we just proved them wrong,' Anderson said. "We're going to do that next week and we're just going to keep fighting.'