UPPER CHICHESTER >> Omar Smith saw the football and knew he had to do whatever he could to claim it.
Serge Filipskiy looked at the football and had to decide what he wanted to do.
Smith gained control of a pass in the end zone with five minutes to play in the fourth quarter, and Filipskiy recovered a fumble with 46 seconds left as Chichester claimed a 14-10 victory over Sun Valley Thursday morning at Anthony Apichella Memorial Field in the teams’ 49th Turkey Bowl game.
Smith’s catch will rank with some of the more memorable in the long history of the series. Chichester was at the Sun Valley 20-yard line after a bad snap pushed them back 12 yards and forced them into a 3rd-and-goal situation.
Quarterback Andrew Rodriguez heaved the ball to the end zone, where Smith and a Sun Valley defender took turns getting their hands on it. When the whistle blew, field judge Buddy Pruitt threw his arms into the air to signal a touchdown, and the Chichester sideline erupted as the Eagles fans in the stands went wild.
Megan Carroll’s second successful extra point gave Chi a four-point lead and forced the Vanguards into having to go for a touchdown on their final possession.
“I ran a fade, but I thought the ball was going to be intercepted,” Smith said. “I wanted to try to come down with it, and I just snagged it out of his hands. It was all about strength and just wanting it more.
“All week we’ve been working so hard to make this happen, and it feels real good that we won this game.”
Chichester head coach Ryan Smith, who helped Sun Valley to Turkey Bowl victories during his high school days as an All-Delco player, was all smiles as he and his team celebrated their first Thanksgiving Day win since 2013.
“We told him that in big games big players came up big, and he did,” the coach said of his receiver, whose scoring reception was his only catch of the game. “We knew by halftime that this game would go to whoever wanted it more.”
Chichester and Sun Valley had more than two weeks to prepare for the game after losing their games the first weekend of November.
“After we lost to Avon Grove we weren’t sure about what the kids had left,’ Ryan Smith said. “But you could see it at our dinner last night and when they came in here today. We knew they really wanted this game. There are people who wonder why we still play Thanksgiving games. This was what all that tradition is all about.”
Sun Valley was 65 yards from the end zone when it took over following Carroll’s kickoff.
Quarterback Gabe Boccella and back Quentin West (16 carries, 110 yards) got together for an 11-yard completion on fourth down, then four plays later Charlie Wendling ran for a first down to the Chi 39. Caliph Jones carried the ball to the 25, but on the next snap Boccella was hit, lost the ball and defensive end Filpskiy made the recovery for the home team.
“We’ve been pretty up at practice,” Filpskiy said. “When I saw that fumble, I thought about trying to catch it and trying to run with it. Then I decided I should just fall on it.”
The fumble that most Sun Valley fans felt would lead to a victory for their team came with nine minutes to play in the fourth quarter. Ishaad Maultsby had run 50 yards with a punt to put the ball inside the Valley 30. Rashaad Shaw, who had a short scoring run in the second quarter, lost the ball on a carry when he was stopped short of the goal line, and Tim Brooks recovered for the Vanguards.
Sun Valley had to punt from its end zone, and Chi got the game-winning drive started at the Vanguards’ 38. Rodriguez and Shaw had a 27-yard completion, then after a snap sailed over Rodriguez’s head back to the 20, the stage was set for Omar Smith’s big play.
Brendan Skwirut kicked a 30-yard field goal in the first half, and Wendling had a short TD run to conclude a 63-yard march on which West had a 37-yard run to put the ball inside the 5 to account for Sun Valley’s other points.
“The difference was that they made one more big play than we did,” Sun Valley head coach Ray Gionta said. “It was an exciting game, and both teams fought really hard. It just didn’t go our way.”