EAST WHITELAND >> West Chester Henderson’s potent rushing attack continued to roll along smoothly Friday evening in a 17-10 win at Great Valley.
The Warriors ran the ball 10 straight times on a game-winning 93-yard touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter. The star of the drive was junior running back CJ Preston, who burst through the middle for a 25-yard touchdown with 2:41 left.
The hard-running, 5-foot-11, 195-pounder finished the night with 203 yards on 33 carries. Last week, in a 14-7 win against Downingtown West, Preston ran for 266 yards on 24 carries.
“Our offensive line is really clicking now,” said Preston. “We had good blocking up front, and [fellow running back] Nick Mascetti was helping out too, running hard. [Great Valley] was respecting Mascetti, because he was running for some good gains, too.”
Mascetti, a 6-foot, 180-pound senior, picked up 30 of the 93 rushing yards that the Warriors navigated in their winning touchdown drive.
“We found our running game last week,” said Henderson head coach Steve Mitten. “We were running more of a spread offense earlier in the year, and it’s a testament to our kids and their execution that we’ve been able to establish our running game.”
Mitten praised the entire Henderson offensive line — senior center Nick Wierman, senior left guard Brandon Lyon, senior right guard Ryan Brida, senior left tackle Tyrees Swift-Josey and senior right tackle Thaddeus Robuck. Mitten also lauded senior tight end Kyle McTiernan and senior wing back Ryan DiFabrizio.
Henderson stayed ground-based the whole night, only attempting one pass.
The Warriors’ victory Friday evening was their third consecutive win and boosted their record to 6-3.
“This win might get us a home game in districts,” noted Mitten.
Henderson built a 10-0 lead that held up until late in the second quarter. Bryce McElhiney’s 31-yard field goal broke the scoring ice at the beginning of the second quarter, then midway through the second period Henderson put together a 77-yard scoring drive that featuring eight straight running plays, with 58 yards coming on four consecutive runs up the middle by Preston. Henderson QB Joe Saulino capped the drive with a one-yard scoring plunge that made it 10-0 with 6:27 left before halftime.
But host Great Valley (5-4) fought back at the end of the first half. The Patriots’ Ryan Hubley made a nice punt return deep into Henderson territory, and two plays later, Great Valley quarterback Rob Geiss scored on an 11-yard scramble to make it 10-7 with 2:35 to play before halftime.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Great Valley came all the way back, getting a 40-yard field goal from senior kicker Pat Sauer to tie the score at 10-10 with 7:40 left. The Patriots were getting some solid running plays by Geiss and senior running back Mark DeRobertis, and the talented Geiss, working from the shotgun formation, was finding (and hitting) some open receivers for short gains throughout the game.
The Patriots have struggled a bit lately, losing three of their last four games. Coming into Friday’s contest, Great Valley had lost five of its linemen to injury for the season.
“Our kids don’t ever give up,” said Great Valley head coach Dan Ellis. “Our kids busted their tails tonight, but we’ve got to play well for four quarters. Our kids are disappointed and hurt [after the loss], but we’ve got to find a way to get over the wall.
“We played better defensively in the second half tonight – Henderson controlled the ball on us in the first half.”
Henderson responded to Sauer’s game-tieing field goal with its 93-yard touchdown drive that took five minutes off the clock. The 10-play drive consisted solely of a three-headed running attack of quarterback Joe Saulino (two carries, 16 yards), Mascetti (four carries, 30 yards) and Preston (four carries, 47 yards). The Warriors only reached third down on the drive once, and Preston’s 25-yard burst up the middle into the end zone capped it.
Geiss led a last-ditch drive from the Great Valley 34 yard line all the way down to the Henderson 13, but a fourth down pass into the end zone was intercepted by Mascetti to end the game. The Warriors made three interceptions Friday night, two by Mascetti.
“Great Valley is an excellent offensive team, very well-coached, and to hold them to 10 points is quite an accomplishment by our players,” said Mitten, who particularly lauded Ryan Brida (linebacker), Ryan DiFabrizio (strong safety) and Joe Saulino (defensive back).