OXFORD >> Forgive Sun Valley if it were feeling a little déjà vu along with a sense of dread as the final play of the game unfolded. A year ago, Sun Valley took a lead with a touchdown in the final two minutes, only to see Oxford kick a field goal to win it in the end.
Friday at Oxford, Sun Valley took its first lead of the game, 19-17 with just 42.8 seconds left to play when Charlie Wendling found the end zone on an eight yard run.
But Oxford calmly completed a few passes to move downfield, and put up a pass intended for Patrick Kinsella down the right sideline near the ten.
A catch would have easily been in the range of Hornet kicker Ryan Hannum, who had already connected on a 24 yarder in the game.
Not this time. Kinsella went up for the ball along with the Vanguards’ Ishy Ahmad. But it was Ahmad that came down with it to ice a fourth straight win for his Sun Valley squad.
“I saw the ball go up and I just thought ‘this can’t happen again’,” said Ahmad. “Then I just knew I had to make a play without getting a penalty. It’s just amazing to win the game like we did tonight.”
While Sun Valley improves to 4-0, the Hornets fall to 1-3, losing three by a total of six points.
“But that is what makes a good team,” said Oxford coach Mike Means. “Good teams win the close ones, and we haven’t learned how to do that year. I think this is can be a good football team, but we have to learn how to win the close ones.”
The Hornets got off to a hot start, jumping out to a 14-0 lead midway through the second period, largely on the efforts of running back Tim Davis, who notched 135 yards on 18 carries in the first half, scoring both touchdowns.
Unfortunately for the Hornets, Davis left the game with an injury early in the second half, and finished with 137 yards on 20 carries. Even still, the Hornets held the advantage in total yards, 338-221
“It certainly doesn’t help when you lose your best running back,” said Means. “But we as coaches didn’t make the kinds of adjustments we needed to make to cover for that.”
Ahmad didn’t just come up big for the Vanguards on the defensive side, he was a big part of the offense as well, catching eight of quarterback Gabe Boccella’s nine completions, two for touchdowns.
“You just have to give it to the line,” said Boccella. “I had all the time I needed when I needed it. This is just an unbelievable win for us. It’s amazing for us to be 4-0. It’s never been that way before.”
It has been at least a decade since Sun Valley got off to a 4-0 start, and several coaches even said it might have been that long since they’ve even had a three-game winning streak, let alone four.
“Give Oxford credit, they kept pushing and pushing us, right up to the very end,” said Sun Valley coach Ray Gionta. “But this team showed a lot of grit coming back the way they did. And we got great efforts all around. Very much a total team effort.”