DOWNINGTOWN >> Brendan Dearing knew he had to make a play when his number was called for Bishop Shanahan.
Stuck in a deadlock with rival West Chester Henderson late in the third quarter, Shanahan faced a 4th-and-8 at the Warriors 31. With kicking a field goal nor punting as an option, why not attempt to get the ball in the hands of your top playmaker?
The Warriors had the same mindset and had the read once Nick Skulski’s pass headed Dearing’s way. Nick Mascetti was able to tip the deep pass, but somehow the ball landed in the hands of Dearing.
“I didn’t know Nick (Mascetti) was behind me, but when he tipped it my eyes saw the ball right away,” Dearing said. My hands were tunneled on it the whole time. I saw the ball and brought it in.”
Dearing’s 29-yard reception set up Andrew Smyth’s two-yard touchdown run on the next play that ended up being the deciding score in Bishop Shanahan’s 21-14 Che-Mont League National Divison victory over West Chester Henderson at Jack Mancini Field Friday night.
Dearing led all receivers with five catches for 76 yards on the night, but the 29-yard grab was the one that sent the Eagles (2-0, 5-0) undefeated through their first five games for the first time in school history. Head coach Paul Meyers intended for that 4th-and-8 play for his go-to player.
“He was open early on that play,” Meyers said. “But Nick laid it out a little too long that gave the safety a chance to come over. But that’s what Brendan does, he just makes plays. That’s why we started feeding him the second half.”
Held to just one catch for 19 yards in the first half, Dearing had four catches for 55 yards in the third quarter to get the Eagles the lead for good.
Henderson (0-2, 3-2) wasn’t going down easily. Trailing 14-7 at halftime, C.J. Preston got the Warriors back in the game with runs of 44 and 12 yards on back-to-back carries midway through the third quarter.
The drive resulted in a one-yard quarterback sneak from Joe Saulino to tie the game at 14-14 with 5:36 left in the third quarter, capping a 10 play, 72 yard drive…64 of which came from the legs of Preston, who finished with 23 carries for 101 yards and a touchdown.
Thanks to the Skulski-Dearing combination, the Eagles were able to respond on their ensuing drive and take the lead for good. Skulski found Dearing on a 3rd-and-4 at the Shanahan 49 for 19-yard gain to keep the scoring drive alive. Four plays later, Dearing made the catch of the night.
“We needed to come up with a big play,” Dearing said. “We had the game as long as our defense came out and executed. Once we scored, we knew we had to rely on our defense to come out on top.”
Henderson only gained 30 yards of offense the rest of the night. Steve Sweeney sealed the Warriors fate with in interception off Saulino at the Henderson 31-yard line with 2:16 left.
Henderson had just 193 yards in the loss, but only allowed 235 to Shanahan. The Warriors have lost two straight after a 3-0 start to the year, one year removed fro just having one win in 2015.
Shanahan is off to a 5-0 start for the first time in school history, but the Eagles are aware they can be better after finishing with eight penalties for 70 yards in the win.
“It’s nice, but we’re not satisfied,” Dearing said. “We know we could have played a lot better this week. We should have played a lot better. We had a lot of mental and physical mistakes, so we have to go back, watch film, and see what we did wrong.”
“We got to clean that up,” Meyers said. “We’re in the thick and the thin right now in the Ches-Mont. We got Downingtown West next week. They’re going to be ready. We got to do better than what we did here.”