WARRINGTON >> There would be a phone call, or a text, or a social-media hint, and every time there was, Colin Davis knew where to be, when, and why.
He was to be at the football field at Garnet Valley High.
He was to be there soon, in the heat of the summer, in the quiet of the offseason.
He was to be ready to prepare for what he did Friday night at Central Bucks South High, which was to catch two touchdown passes from Nick Juliano in the final 3 minutes, 40 seconds of a 21-14 Garnet Valley victory in the first round of the District 1 Class 6A playoffs.
The calls usually were from Juliano, although sometimes it would be Davis initiating the plan. Either way, the idea was to show up and work. And work some more.
“We repped it and repped it and repped it,” Davis said, after the Jags improved to 9-2. “Any pass play. We were just building the chemistry. It finally paid off tonight. We’re so happy.”
It was a relatively long time coming for the Garnet Valley passing game. By his own count, coach Mike Ricci had called just 45 pass plays all season. In fact, as the Jags advanced to a second-round game against Neshaminy, they attempted just 10 passes Friday.
But trailing 14-7 late in the game, Garnet Valley went to work. First, the Jags’ defense held deep in its territory, forcing C.B. South to attempt a field goal. That play broke down and Matt Parker recovered the fumble at the 32. On the ensuing Garnet Valley play, Jake Buttermore ran for 53 of his 180 yards, tilting all momentum.
When the Jags stalled at the Titans’ 15 with 3:49 left, Ricci did what he has for most of the season: Ordered a fourth-down play. That’s when Juliano found Davis down the left side in the back of the end zone. Buttermore’s placement kick made it 14-14.
By then, the Jags’ defense featuring Rob Monachello, Joe Thomas and Sam Rudolph, among others, had begun to control the game. So it did again, forcing a three-and-out, with Garnet Valley taking possession with 2:04 showing at its own 46.
On the first play, Dominic Bertone, who hadn’t had a carry in the game, churned 29 yards to place the Jags close to three-point range. The drive eventually reached the 12 with 15.5 seconds left.
“We thought about setting up for the field goal,” Ricci said. “But we saw the position that their corner was playing, and Colin is a great route runner. He made the big play before and we saw he had position on him. We thought we’d give it a shot. If we didn’t get it, we kick the field goal.”
Inspired by that aggressive play-calling, Juliano stepped back and hit Davis with a 12-yard TD pass in the back right corner of the end zone with 11.2 seconds left. Buttermore’s third PAT made it 21-14, C.B. South failed on its final mini-opportunity, and the Jags were in the second round.
“It’s crazy,” Juliano said. “Indescribable.”
If anything, the victory could be described as a night-long burst of confidence. For not only did Davis score once on fourth down and again when the Titans likely were expecting to run their field-goal defense onto the field, but Juliano’s six-yard, second-quarter touchdown run was on a fourth-and-two play. Buttermore even mixed-in a 19-yard gain with a second-quarter fake punt.
“When you play a great team like that, you have to stay poised,” Juliano said. “And you have to stay focused on execution and get things done the right way.”
The Jags were staggered early when C.B. South broke off a big return on the opening kickoff and quarterback Sam Thompson raced 20 yards for a touchdown. The Titans (8-3) also scored on their first possession of the second half, Thompson hitting Jack Gardy with a 31-yard TD pass that stretched the lead to 14-7.
“We gave up two big plays,” Ricci said. “This was a spectacular team that we played tonight. Their quarterback is excellent. He is a threat to run or throw. He has great receivers. And our defense played a spectacular game tonight, other than those two drives.
“And because the defense was playing so well, it gave us the opportunity to be a little more aggressive with our play-calling.”
And once that happened, Juliano was ready. Davis, too.
“As many times as we repped that,” Davis said, “I think it was meant to be tonight.”