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Cooper carries West Chester East to win over Sun Valley in finale

WEST GOSHEN >> It was a brisk fall night at West Chester East’s Harold Zimmerman Field, but the plummeting temperature didn’t faze Vikings star running Jared Cooper, who continued to turn up the heat on the Sun Valley Vanguards on what was East’s Senior Night.

“We wanted to end on something to remember, so we came out strong and played our hardest,” Cooper said. “We saw they didn’t want it as much as we did. We weren’t walking of this field as losers.”

Cooper finished the 35-20 Vikings victory with 198 rushing yards and three touchdowns, putting the Vanguards’ defense at his mercy with speedy bursts out of the backfield and meticulous attacks in the running lanes created by his offensive line.

East head coach Scott Stephen was more than content with Cooper’s performance, and had nothing but praise to offer after the rout.

“We started to click these last few weeks, and a lot of that has to do with Jared,” Stephen said. “Having Jared back allows us to do different things, put him in different positions and put other guys in different positions.”

Ryan Cassidy played an efficient and strategic game at quarterback, shying away from forced passes and actions in lieu of safe, yet productive plays. He ended the night going 11-17 for 109 yards.

It appeared as if Sun Valley was prepared to make it a game out of the gate after running back Julz Kelly reeled off a 54-yard touchdown scamper that made it a one-point game after a failed two-point conversion. But the fast pace of the Vanguard offense came to a screeching halt thanks to some stout Vikings defense.

East forced a host of turnovers via the air and ground, snuffing out and shutting down plays that had big-yardage potential.

Sun Valley head coach Greg Bernhardt had a simple explanation to offer.

“One series we’ll execute, and then the next series we’ll act like we never ran it before,” Bernhardt said. “We’re just too inconsistent series to series, and it hurts us.”

Kelly was the primary source of offense for the Vanguards, ending the loss with 112 yards and two touchdowns.

Sun Valley quarterback Anthony Ellis threw for 156 yards, and although he maintained a relatively consistent rhythm throughout the game, it wasn’t enough to evoke a scare in the Vikings, who pushed the lead the rest of the night in a game that was not as close as the 15-point margin made it seem.

For Cooper and the Vikings, they were happy to secure their second victory of the season on a special night for the senior class.

When asked to describe his first season as head coach, Stephen said, “It’s been crazy, but awesome. It’s been a great learning experience for me individually in leading young men. … Not only in football, but in life.”

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