KENNETT SQUARE – With a young squad and a new coaching staff, it’s a good thing that the Kennett football schedule is heavily frontloaded, with four of the first five contests at home. And for the second time this season, the Blue Demons took full advantage by outlasting visiting Twin Valley, 30-24, in front of the home fans.
“I’d like to thank (athletic director) Sean Harvey for that,” said first year head coach Josh Kaufman. “We are getting our bearings and we’ve gotten off on the right foot. Having two of the first three games at home is helpful.
“I always talk about defending the turf that we practice on, and so far we have been very comfortable here.”
In a rare Thursday evening clash – scheduled to not to interfere with this weekend’s Kennett Mushroom Festival – the Demons were outgained by nearly 100 yards, but managed to win the turnover battle and only committed one penalty. In short, Kennett didn’t beat itself.
“I think the take-away from our first three games is that we can play with anyone,” said slippery quarterback Jake Dilcher, who had 187 yards of total offense.
“In this game, (Twin Valley) gave us some breaks and we took advantage of them.”
Now 2-1 overall, Kennett heads into next week’s Ches-Mont American opener against archrival Unionville needing just one more win to match last season’s win total. Twin Valley falls to 0-2.
“(Twin Valley) has a lot of offensive schemes and when I watched the film, I was nervous,” Kaufman said. “Plus, it was a very short week for us, so we had to be ready and didn’t want to overlook them.”
The game’s key sequence came when the Blue Demons scored two second quarter touchdowns in a 15-second span to solidify a 12-point halftime lead. And even though the Raiders rolled up 419 yards of offense, they drove inside the Kennett 20 yard line on three occasions and failed to score a point.
“Those stops were so critical,” acknowledged senior defensive lineman Lonnie Hall.” And late in the game (Twin Valley) really stepped it up and fought every down.”
The Demons raced to a quick 8-0 lead when sophomore Garrett Cox rambled 68 yards on the game’s first play from scrimmage, and a successful two-point conversion followed. The Raiders got on the board with an early field goal, and then the Twin Valley defense staged a goal line stand, keeping Cox out of the end zone on four tries from the one late in the opening period.
Moments after Hall recovered a Raiders’ fumble, Dilcher found Drake McNamara for a 23-yard scoring pass to cap an 80-yard march. Kennett converted the two-point conversion once again, and then Buzzy Hertz recovered a bobbled kickoff deep in Twin Valley territory. On the next play, Cox found the end zone from nine yards out.
“It was big to get on top early and set the tone,” Dilcher said.
“Last week (in a 20-12 loss at Chichester) we threw too much on first down, so I talked with my Dad (Howard ),” Kaufman added. “He taught me everything I knew about football until I met coach (Al) Golden at Temple.
“He never coached but he’s a football fanatic. I consult him a lot. He doesn’t know what cover-four is, but he has a good eye for what’s going on, who to get the ball to on offense and who to keep it away from on defense.”
The Raiders scored a late second quarter touchdown on a David Sabulsky 29-yard run to pull within 22-10 at the break, but Kennett made it 30-10 early in the second half on a short run by sophomore runner Greg Brison.
The Raiders made it interesting with two fourth quarter scoring drives, and each featured a pair of fourth down conversions, including TD runs by Mason Bennett and Zach Gardner. It sliced the margin to seven with less than a minute on the clock, but Twin Valley’s onside kick actually went backwards, and the Demons ran out the clock.
“We moved the ball when we needed to. We went into clock-management mode in the second half, but I was happy with how we moved the ball,” Kaufman said.
“Not that I want to lose any games, but if there was any game to do it in it was Chichester because it’s out of conference and it’s early in the season and now we can address some of the mistakes and get better,” Kaufman explained.
“We had a great week of practice and it showed on the field.”
Dilcher was 10-for 19 for 127 yards and added 60 on the ground in 13 attempts. Cox finished with 94 yards rushing. Bennett led all runners with 146 on 26 carries.
“We still have two more home games in a row, so if we can get one or two more wins, we will go into the last half of the season with a winning record,” Dilcher said.
“We are changing things up and think we are going to have a good season,” Hall added. “We head into the Ches-Mont with a winning record.”