WEST GOSHEN >> At halftime of Friday night’s key Ches-Mont National Division matchup between Bishop Shanahan and West Chester East, the two teams were knotted at 14-14, although Shanahan clearly had the edge in play on both sides of the ball. But a kickoff return by the Vikings’ Jared Cooper and a bad snap that resulted in East recovering a fumble in the end zone had the game tied.
But in the decisive second half, Shanahan got a big boost from its offensive line, which dominated the Vikings up front to the tune of 260 rushing yards and the Eagles’ defense gave the squad a big boost when Josh Burke intercepted a J.T. Thompson pass at the Shanahan 5 yard line, to help the Eagles stay perfect with a 31-21 triumph.
“I told Brendan Dearing that we had to do something there with them driving the football,” Burke said. “I think the quarterback telegraphed the pass and I just jumped it, caught the ball and took off running. We were mad at ourselves at halftime because of the mistakes but the seniors took over and coach (Paul) Meyers gave us a quote from Mike Tyson.
“He said Tyson said that everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth. That really got us going and we took over the second half.”
West Chester East (0-1 Ches-Mont National, 2-2 overall) had trouble running the ball all night as the Vikings could only muster 26 rushing yards. Thompson threw for 262 yards on 30 attempts, but the Eagles picked off three of his passes. Although Shanahan (1-0, 4-0) controlled the game from the outset, Cooper’s 85-yard touchdown on a kickoff return and Tom Silva’s fumble recovery of a Nick Skulski fumble off a bad snap kept the Vikings even at halftime.
“We have created turnovers all season but tonight in the second half we made them,” said West Chester East head coach Dave Gueriera. “Our quarterback played well and he is coming on but we really wanted the win here tonight on homecoming. We just made too many mistakes tonight.”
Shanahan took a 17-14 lead early in the third period when John George ended a long Eagles drive with a 31-yard field goal. Then, the Vikings got going with Thompson hitting Alex Hirsch and Mike Salloum with passes. Then on third down, Burke jumped a route and ran it back to the Vikings’ 34-yard line. Runs by Andrew Smyth and Joe Gueriera took the ball down to the Vikings’ six yard line and Skulski hit Smyth with a six yard swing pass for a 24-14 Eagles lead. Skulski threw for 134 yards and ran for 110 more in another very impressive performance.
East then took the ensuing kickoff and went nowhere. After a punt, the Eagles drove down the field for the clinching score. Behind their physical offensive line, led by Jake Colby and Noah Smith, the Eagles pounded the ball right at the Vikings. Skulski finished the nine-play drive by rolling in from four yards out to make it a 31-14 game early in the fourth quarter.
“Our offensive line has been real good all season and it makes running behind them easy,” Gueriera said. “And Jake and Noah are just so big and strong and physical. We were mad at halftime that we were not up in the game and the seniors made it a point to take over the game in the second half.”
East did not quit, however. It only took the Vikings 1:12 to come back down the field and make it a 31-21 game with a little over 10 minutes to play in the fourth. Thompson suddenly got hot and hit Hirsch and Salloum with passes. Hirsch hauled in nine passes on the night. The touchdown came when a wide open Salloum hauled in a Thompson strike for a 42-yard score.
After Shanahan took five minutes off the clock and finally punted the ball away to the Vikings, the Eagles defense stopped Hirsch a yard short of the first down chains with 3:22 to play and Shanahan had its fourth straight win and kept its perfect season intact with a home game with West Chester Henderson looming next Friday.
“All week in practice we challenged our offensive line,” said Bishop Shanahan head coach Paul Meyers. “And tonight we were relaxed at halftime because we knew we were playing well and we would be alright if we cleaned up the mistakes. We did that in the second half and moved the ball on the ground. And West Chester East is a very good team. Dave has done a great job here.”