WEST CHESTER – For an outfit that doesn’t throw the football much, West Chester Henderson came up with a pair of critical touchdown passes from quarterback Joe Saulino to Nick Mascetti en route to a 35-13 Homecoming victory over visiting Avon Grove on Friday at J. Oscar Dicks Stadium.
The Warriors’ triumph put a halt to a three-game losing skid and secured Henderson’s first Ches-Mont National victory of the season. Now 1-3 (4-3 overall), The Warriors will host Downingtown West next week.
“We still made quite a few mistakes,” said Henderson head coach Steve Mitten. “I tell the kids that football teaches you a lot about yourself, but it’s always much better to learn those lessons while winning.”
Clinging to a one-point halftime lead, the Warriors shutout the Red Devils the rest of the way and took advantage of superior field position to push three more TDs across the goal line. Avon Grove falls to 0-3 in the division, and 3-4 overall.
“We competed well in the first half, but I don’t think we competed as hard in the second half,” Devils’ head coach Harry O’Neill said. “Once Henderson got up, my guys just aren’t good right now playing from behind.”
With C.J. Preston leading the way, Henderson rolled up a 251-155 edge running the football. And even though Saulino completed just three of his 10 pass attempts, the two to scoring strikes to Mascetti were difference makers. The first came in the final minute of the first half, and put the Warriors on top for good. The second came in the third quarter on fourth-and-long.
“We were fortunate to make a play at the end of the half, and we took advantage of a couple short fields in the second half, and that was the difference,” Mitten pointed out.
The score that made it 21-13 – a 34-yard catch and run by Mascetti – came on not long after a 12-yard Avon Grove punt.
The second of three short-field scores in the second half came after an interception by Henderson’s Noah Demi. A few plays later, Saulino scored on a 14-yard keeper. The third came courtesy of an Avon Grove fumble that was recovered by the Warriors’ Kyle McTernan. That led to a short scoring burst by Preston early in the fourth quarter.
“Field position was everything in this game,” Mascetti said.
“We are not good enough to overcome mistakes, and compete in this division,” added O’Neill. “We had a lot of snaps on the ground out of the shotgun, and then every single time they got the ball in the second half, it was good field position.”
Henderson’s speedy Kavond Jones scampered 53 yards on a reverse to open the scoring, and the Warriors held on, 7-6, even after the Devils’ Nate Jones later scored on a nine yard run, thanks to a blocked point after attempt.
In the second quarter, a failed fake punt by Henderson gave Avon Grove a short field, and moments later, Jones scored again on a run that covered 16 yards. But the Warriors put together an 11-play, 50-yard march to regain the lead, 14-13 at the half. The touchdown – an 11 yard pass from Saulino to Mascetti – came with just 6.8 seconds on the clock.
“We were fortunate to make some plays and come out with the win,” Mitten said. “Mascetti made a couple nice catches. He made a play at the end of the half and that was a great catch and run to make it 21-13.
“Having the short field was the difference in the game and being able to make a couple plays.”
Preston finished with 88 yards on 21 carries, and Saulino chipped in with 62 yards on the ground.
“Even if we didn’t put up a lot of points and got the win, that would be fine, but it felt good to score 35,” Mascetti said.
“This was Homecoming and a big division game, so it feels really good.”
Nate Jones wound up with 92 yards on 26 attempts for the Devils, and quarterback Joey Borcky chipped in with 163 yards of total offense. But the Henderson defense made Avon Grove earn every yard, and limited the Devils to a just 274 yards of total offense.
“Defense has been the strength of our team all season,” Mitten said.
“The Ches-Mont National is bruising every single week. Those were very good football teams we played the previous three weeks – Downingtown East, Bishop Shanahan and Coatesville. It was important for us to come back and get a win.
“Avon Grove is a good football team, and they were 3-3 heading in just like us.”