ASTON >> In a matter of seconds, Ryan Hubley’s night went from impressive to outstanding Friday.
The Great Valley senior had just outmuscled Sun Valley’s Ishy Ahmad on a corner fade for an interception in the end zone. On the Patriots’ next offensive snap, he lined up in the slot with a linebacker covering him and a single high safety inching toward the line.
One look in the backfield at quarterback Robert Geiss, and Hubley was off to the game-changing races.
His 80-yard touchdown, complementing a 76-yard hookup in the first half, formally salted away a 45-21 win for the Patriots in a battle for Ches-Mont American Division supremacy.
Hubley’s catch-and-run, a second time he beat the defense on a deep slant and juked the only member of the secondary capable of preventing his march to paydirt, triggered the running clock, building the lead to 45-7 five minutes into the second half. And while Sun Valley (4-1, 1-1) tacked on two consolation touchdowns in the fourth, the rout was well and truly sealed.
“I think it’s just Coach (Dan) Ellis’ game plan,” Hubley said. “He’s seeing the safety drop down and there’s a linebacker on me, and I just have to beat the linebacker. Robert’s seeing the same thing as me, and I’m beating the linebacker and Robert hits me right down on the seam.”
While the final score may not have dictated so, the little things helped Great Valley (4-1, 2-0) score the game’s first 35 points, and Hubley was often the provider.
The Patriots scored on all six first-half possessions. The first three were set up by Hubley punt returns of 19, 15 and 18 yards, trimming an already short field furnished by a stingy defense.
“Whenever you get the ball on the 40-yard line, it’s easier,” Hubley said. “You’re putting yourself in a good position to score every time. We were getting some good stops in their 20s and 30s, then they’d have to punt and we’d be returning it from the 50.”
— Matthew De George (@sportsdoctormd) September 23, 2016
Those stops weren’t trivial either. Through five possessions, the Vanguards had a grand total of 29 yards (nine on a promising run by Quentin West that resulted in a fumble forced by Mark DeRobertis and recovered by Mark Neri). By the time Sun Valley had earned its initial first down early, it had spotted the Patriots 28 points.
“They’re a very physical team, and we had the mentality that we were going to beat them off the line,” said defensive end Jack McDaid, who sacked Sun Valley quarterback Gabe Boccella twice. “If we win the line, we’re going to win the game. We had more physical practices than usual and we worked our tails off. They’re 4-0 and we needed to beat them.”
“They’re a pretty good football team, so I’m really happy with the way we came in,” Ellis said. “It’s not hard to get up for Sun Valley when they’re 4-0. They’re 4-0 for a reason.”
— Matthew De George (@sportsdoctormd) September 24, 2016
Once it had the ball, Great Valley was near flawless in its execution. Geiss found Dylan Tashjian for 30 yards on fourth-and-18 on the opening series for a score. Geiss scampered 10 yards for a score, followed by touchdown runs of 2 and 15 yards for DeRobertis.
Hubley’s 76-yard streak down the sideline with 5:45 left ushered in the blowout.
“It’s just great when it’s working,” Hubley said of his connection to Geiss, who went 15-for-20 to seven receivers for 272 yards. “It’s like nothing else. We’re just on the same page and we make stuff happen.”
Sun Valley, though, didn’t quit. It appeared to make progress when Mike Windsor ripped off a 47-yard kick return to finally break the shackles of poor field position wrought by Pat Sauer’s pinpoint pop-up kicks (another of those little details). But that drive stalled on downs at the 24 after an intentional grounding infraction, but it provided some hope.
“If we score then, make it 28-7, maybe we’re able to go on from there,” Sun Valley coach Ray Gionta said. “We didn’t get in, and that was a negative, and they came back down and scored again. It was a snowball effect.”
Charlie Wendling scored before halftime on a 10-yard run, though the 1:52 Sun Valley left on the clock was enough for Geiss to run the two-minute drill and position Sauer for a 32-yard field goal at the gun.
A hobbling Ahmad hauled in a 37-yard touchdown from Boccella in the fourth, and West, who carried 10 times for 112 yards, capped his day with a 39-yard scoring trot.
But there was no chance of Great Valley slipping up after the break and letting Sun Valley threaten for win No. 5.
“Our objective is always to score as much as we can,” Hubley said. “Coming out of half, we were treating it like it’s a 0-0 game. We didn’t want any upsets or anything.”