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Garnet Valley bends, but Ciarrocchi puts brakes on Ridley

RIDLEY TWP. >> When Garnet Valley defensive lineman Josh Ciarrocchi conferenced with his position coaches at halftime Friday, they went over the usual talking points. With an astute leader like Ciarrocchi, though, the emphasis gravitated toward higher-order details, inches here or there in his stance.

Armed with the knowledge, Ciarrocchi wasted no time enacting it, bursting through the line of scrimmage on the first play of the second half to rip the ball out of the unsure hands of Ridley quarterback Nick Layden and running back Kamal Richardson mid-handoff.

Garnet Valley fullback Matt Lassik, right, runs through the tackle of Ridley’s Joseph Spillman in the second half Friday of a 24-14 Garnet Valley win. (Digital First Media/Pete Bannan)

The three points soon added to the Jags’ cushion and put them well on the way to a 24-14 handling of Ridley, a pivotal Central League result backstopped by Garnet Valley’s sturdy defense.

Ciarrocchi’s strip, which he returned 15 yards to set up a Jason Rose 25-yard field goal and bump the lead to 17-0, was the biggest play made by the unit. He adjusted his stance moments before the snap to crowd the nose of the football, eluding the immediate block down of the tackle that had tripped him often in the first half, then slipped through the A-gap to disrupt the backfield party.

“I shot through, saw the mesh from the quarterback and just right place, right time,” he said. “I got the ball.”

More often than the big plays, though, Garnet Valley’s defensive hallmark was well-timed resistance. Ridley accounted for 286 yards of offense, including 205 on the ground, just shy of the 303 accumulated by Garnet. But when the Green Raiders threatened, the Jags’ defense often composed an answer.

“We just bend, don’t break. That’s our motto,” Ciarrocchi said. “This happened with Rustin, then Upper Darby and now Ridley. Teams have been able to move the ball on us, but we stay together.”

Garnet Valley (2-1, 2-0 Central) pitched a first-half shutout, turning Ridley over on downs at the 25, 13 and 40 to end the half. In the second, Garnet Valley surrendered points when the Ridley defense poached a turnover — James Becker hopping on a fumble by quarterback Cole Palis to set up a short field for Richardson’s six-yard touchdown.

But short of a quick Ridley march in the fourth to narrow the deficit back to two scores, the Jags forced two punts and generally conceded little. Ciarrocchi, Cade Brennan and Griffin Salus were constant fixtures in the backfield, while Danny Rose, Shane Van Horn and Zachary Shankle sealed the edges to prevent Ridley (1-2, 0-2 Central) from gaining ground outside the tackles.

“Garnet Valley’s got a good defense,” Ridley running back Ociele Miller said. “I can’t take that away from them. They came out, they played a hard game and they were able to stop us in the red zone.”

The Jaguars’ offense didn’t bend when it received its bad break, quarterback Ryan Hamby exiting in the second quarter with a shoulder injury while stretching for extra yards. In stepped Palis, who didn’t miss a beat.

“Just knowing that we have someone like Cole to be able to step up and perform at such a high level, it’s a great feeling for the whole team,” said running back Matt Lassik.

Lassik (22 carries, 107 yards, two touchdowns) and Danny Guy (17 for 77 and a touch) shouldered the load offensively, but Palis orchestrated the deployment of those weapons. Short of the fumble in the third quarter that allowed Richardson to get Ridley on the board, Palis didn’t err.

Garnet Valley defenders Zachary Shankle, 51, and Nick Westburg have Ridley’s Ociele Miller wrapped up in the second half. The Jaguars claimed a 24-14 win. (Digital First Media/Pete Bannan)

He even went to the air successfully, springing a sneak-attack seam route to tight end Jon Ricci for 48 yards, his only completion, to set up Lassik’s three-yard dive with 8:05 left that put the game away.

“It’s a great feeling. Jon works so hard at blocking every play for us backs,” Lassik said. “And then he gets a break down the field like that, it’s just a great feeling not just for him but for everyone.”

Ridley had another score left in it, a Nick Layden 13-yard scamper. Miller accounted for 120 all-purpose yards, while Layden rushed for 78 and threw for 81, though on just 7-for-16 accuracy. And with such a deep hole to climb out of, the Garnet Valley defense wouldn’t entertain any inkling of a comeback from the Green Raiders, who drop consecutive home games in-season for the first time in at least a decade and a half.

“Oneness, that’s what our team is all about,” Ciarrocchi said. “We all just stay together and play our keys like the coaches tell us to, and we’re successful because of that.”

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