DOWNINGTOWN >> There have not been many smiles around the Downingtown West football team in the first half of the season. That’s what happens when a usually dominant program gets off to a 1-4 start.
Things changed dramatically Friday night at Kottmeyer Stadium as the Whippets, led by a charged-up defense, knocked Bishop Shanahan from the unbeaten ranks with a convincing 34-7 Ches-Mont National Division victory that sent everyone — except those in Eagle green — home smiling.
Downingtown West (1-1 Ches-Mont, 2-4 overall) scored in every quarter, and after spotting the Eagles (2-1, 5-1) a 7-0 lead, roared back behind the 131 yard rushing performance of Michael Riddick and the return from injury of quarterback Kyle Geiser, to turn back the Eagles. A big hit from Wayne Anderson on receiver Brendan Dearing charged up the entire team and showed what kind of intensity the Whippets brought to the field Friday night.
“That hit was a tone setter,” Anderson said. “It got everybody in the huddle and on the sideline fired up. We played some real good teams and we know we are a good team even though we were hearing otherwise. But we do not care about outside people. we are playing for each other and we plan on going on a run now.”
Shanahan started things off with a seven-play, 80-yard drive to start the game. All seven plays were runs and Eagles quarterback Nick Skulski finished the drive by going straight up the middle for a 29-yard scamper and an early 7-0 advantage and it looked like the West defense would implode as they did last week in a 48-9 loss to Coatesville.
“Our defense was invisible on that first drive,” Downingtown West head coach Mike Milano said. “But coach (JC) Carroll made some adjustments and the kids really battled the rest of the way and shut them out. We have been through a lot of things so far this season and the kids have stayed together. Tonight, I was really proud of my kids and the effort they put out. It is nice to smile after a game.”
West came right back on the Eagles after the score by going on a nine-play drive of its own, with Kenny Costello going the final 16 yards around the right side to make it a 7-7 game after one quarter.
The Whippets then assumed complete control of the contest in the second quarter, outscoring Shanahan, 17-0, and going into the locker room with a 24-7 lead. Costello took a 22-yard pass from Geiser for a score and Massimo Bascardi kicked the first of his two field goals, this one from 42 yards, to make it a 17-7 game. After a Shanahan punt, Geiser threw a perfect 58-yard touchdown strike to Cole Zapf to make it a 24-7 game at halftime. Zapf also rushed for 90 yards and was in on numerous tackles on defense.
Things got no better for the Eagles in the third quarter as a case of the drops got to the Shanahan receivers. The Eagles dropped six Skulski throws and stopped any momentum they may have gained. The West defense held the Eagles to just 137 rushing yards and only 95 through the air, both season lows for Shanahan. The Whippet defense was hitting anything that moved and hitting hard.
Zapf darted to the left side for a 16-yard touchdown run late in the third period after Dearing fumbled a punt at the Shanahan 22-yard line. Zapf’s run came on a delay after the fumble and Bascardi kicked a 38-yard field goal to start the fourth quarter, and it was a resounding 34-7 victory that kept the Whippets’ league title and playoff hopes alive.
“We know we can play good football,” Riddick said. “We scored 28 points in about five or six minutes in our game with Perkiomen Valley. And tonight, after Wayne laid out that receiver, we just got all pumped up and took it to them. We are going to play good football the rest of the season.”
The loss, Shanahan’s first of the season, does not really hurt the Eagles 5A playoff hopes, as Shaanahan came into the game as the third seed in 5A. But Shanahan head coach Paul Meyers was annoyed at his team’s performance.
“We were out of sync all night,’ Meyers said. “But give them credit. They put us out of sync. And we dropped so many passes and fumbled the football and had six penalties and you are not going to win like that.”