UPPER MERION >> Sun Valley’s dominant 33-0 win over Upper Merion didn’t always look like it was going to be that easy.
After the first quarter at Viking Stadium at Upper Merion Area High School Friday night, the schools were tied at zero. The teams traded turnovers — an Upper Merion fumble and interception and Sun Valley fumble — and the Vanguards had two fourth down attempts fail in the opening 12 minutes.
When the Vikings made mistakes in the second quarter, Sun Valley made them pay.
On a fourth down at their own 39-yard line, Upper Merion lined up to punt. The snap went over Tyjay Shepherd’s head and he corralled it but was tackled for a five-yard loss.
Two plays later, Sun Valley quarterback Anthony Ellis found receiver James Gines for a 23-yard touchdown.
On the ensuing possession, Upper Merion quarterback Zaire Savage fumbled after a six-yard run. The Vanguards recovered and Julz Kelly ran for a nine-yard touchdown four plays later.
“That hurts a lot,” Upper Merion coach Victor Brown said. “Giving away yards and giving away points. When you give people a short field, the more likely it is that they’re going to score. You can’t continue to put your defense in a position like that. It’s very difficult to be put in a position like that and stop them time after time after time.”
The Vikings next drive ended in a punt around midfield. They tried to fake it and Shepherd was tackled for a loss. Sun Valley responded with a nine-play drive that ended with a one-yard Charlie Wendling touchdown to make it 19-0 in the final minute of the first half.
“It’s great,” Sun Valley coach Greg Bernhardt said of the short fields. “Our defense played really well tonight. We were aggressive from the start and it paid off. We were still in a fog in the first quarter. We had a horrible game last week and it seemed like the first quarter we were missing our opportunities. We settled down and got it going.”
The trend continued halfway through the third quarter. Upper Merion’s Anthony Swenda was sacked on fourth down and on the very next play Kelly went 60 yards up the gut for a touchdown.Sun Valley’s final score was a five-yard run by Wendling on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Turnover problems continue
Upper Merion turned the ball over four times against Sun Valley, one week after a four-turnover performance in a loss against Martin Luther King.
“You can’t turn the ball over and expect to even have a chance if that’s what we’re going to do,” Brown. “Our kids are working hard. We look at this as we have an opportunity to play 10 one-week seasons. Tonight, we’re 0-1. That wasn’t our goal.
“We have to improve with ball security. We have to improve on making sure we’re not giving away points and giving away yards. That’s the bottom line.”
Kelly led the Vanguards in rushing and receiving. He ran the ball seven times for 93 yards and two touchdowns and caught five passes for 94 yards.
“Everything was just going good,” Kelly said. “The line was pushing — they were blocking, hitting their blocks. Everything was going good — it was open for me. I’m thankful.”
The team tried a new look on offense — lining Kelly up in the shotgun and letting him run the ball.
“I like getting the snap and being able to do what I do,” Kelly said. “Just go to the outside — I like it.”
“He’s huge,” Bernhardt said of the junior playmaker. “We were debating on when to insert that package. This was the first time we’ve used that. He’s a heck of a player. He’s just an all-around, really good, tough football player. We wanted to get the ball in his hands. You saw what he did when he got the opportunity.”
Sun Valley’s first three games were all against Pioneer Athletic Conference teams — opening night win against Pottstown, week two loss to Pope John Paul II and Friday’s win over Upper Merion.
Bernhardt said it wasn’t intentional, just the way the schedule played out, but he sees a benefit.
“The leagues are similar,” Bernhardt said, comparing the PAC to the Ches-Mont League. “They’re both quality leagues. We know they’re quality opponents.”
Upper Merion had its best drive of the game in the final five minutes. The 14-play drive entirely composed of runs started at their own 10-yard line and ended at Sun Valley’s one.
The final play of the game was a handoff to Tyreese Leach, who was stood up and driven back by the Vanguards front line. The visiting bench erupted in celebration.
“It was really important,” Kelly said. “We all wanted to come in and make sure they didn’t score. To see them stop them — it was awesome.”
Looking for an answer
Upper Merion will look for its first win next week when PAC play begins against Owen J. Roberts.“Right now we have to focus on daily improvement,” Brown said. “Daily improvement with getting better at those fundamentals. It’s not even looking at a big gameplan to put together, we have to take care of these smaller things so the larger things like the gameplan can be more effective. That’s really where we’re at with things.
“It’s fundamentals where we’re struggling to get on track. Carrying the football and ball security — that’s a fundamental. Tackling’s a fundamental. Blocking’s a fundamental. We are getting better at those things.”
Sun Valley 33, Upper Merion 0
Sun Valley (2-1 0-0) 0 19 7 7 — 33
Upper Merion (0-3, 0-0) 0 0 0 0 — 0
SV — Anthony Ellis 23 pass to James Gines (kick failed), 10:21.
SV — Julz Kelly 9 run (Joe Cairy kick), 7:25.
SV — Charlie Wendling 1 run (kick failed), 46.
SV — Julz Kelly 60 run (Joe Cairy kick), 5:02.
SV — Charlie Wendling 5 run (Joe Cairy kick), 11:53.
Sun Valley: Charlie Wendling 13-44, 2 TD; Caliph Joseph 8-37; Anthony Ellis 1-7; Julz Kelly 7-93, 2 TD.
Upper Merion: Tyrese Leach 13-51; Tyjay Shepherd 2-(-6); Anthony Swenda 8-(-7); David Brown 11-38; Zaire Savage 4-20; Taiyan Lobban 10-72.
Sun Valley: Anthony Ellis 9-19-1-1, 162.
Upper Merion: Anthony Swenda 2-3-0-1, 9; Zaire Savage 2-3-0-0, 18.
Sun Valley: Julz Kelly 5-94; James Gines 4-68, TD.
Upper Merion: Preston Hampton 2-14; Tyjay Shepherd 1-(-3); Marc Clayton 1-16.