DOWNINGTOWN >> Even though Downingtown West boasts some young talented players, it was a senior rushing attack that led the Whippets to a 40-14 decision over West Chester Henderson in a season finale homecoming win.
“We haven’t had back to back losing seasons since the school split,” Downingtown head coach Mike Milano said. “We left some apples in the barrel earlier in the season. But to win two in a row and get back to .500 was huge for us.”
Senior tailbacks TJ Simmons and Andrew Ciliberto wore down the Warriors’ defense, each scoring two touchdowns.
Simmons led off the game with a 24-yard run up the middle on Downingtown’s second drive. And after he broke through the line of scrimmage, Simmons had one thought on his mind.
“Just don’t get caught,” Simmons said. “Someone had a great block and I cut right off of it. After that I saw nothing but the end zone.”
Ciliberto would follow that drive with a five-yard touchdown on the next drive for the Whippets.
From there, it was smooth sailing for West as the defense held CJ Preston to 12 rushes for 47 yards and the Henderson offense to 30 rushes for 64 yards.
“It’s tough way to end the season how it was,” Preston said. “After this I’m going to move onto the next level. I don’t know what my plans are next. I’m still weighing my options and where I can go.”
The only positive for the Warriors was that quarterback Joe Saulino and Ian Tracy were locked in during the game.
Down 14 with 3:54 remaining in the second quarter, Henderson started with their ball on its own 20-yard line. With time winding down, the Warriors effectively moved the ball down with a mix of passing and rushing plays. They were also helped by a personal foul penalty, which allowed Saulino to throw a six-yard fade to Tracy to put the score at 14-7 going into halftime.
After the break, it was Ciliberto and Simmons again stepping up in their last game for the Whippets.
Coming out of halftime, Ciliberto scored on West’s first drive from the three-yard line. Within the first two minutes, West took back any momentum Henderson had going in to halftime.
And then after a short Henderson possession, West was back on its eight-yard line with 7:26 in the third.
Simmons took the ball up the middle and pushed his way ahead, dragging three Henderson defenders to make the score 33-7.
If Ciliberto’s touchdown stopped Henderson’s momentum, then Simmons put the nail in Henderson’s coffin.
“It’s hard to say goodbye,” Simmons said. “I spent a lot of time here and I’m glad we went out the way we did.”
Henderson’s Saulino threw for 80 yards and two touchdowns. Both were fades to Tracy in the back of the end zone.
Mitten had some high praise for his senior trio.
“Saulino, Tracy and Preston don’t have to be done playing football,” Mitten said. “I think they are going to be some diamonds in the rough at the next level.”
Downingtown Wets sophomore quarterback Will Howard kept the Whippets in line, completing nine passes on 13 attempts for 148 yards and one touchdown. The signal-caller scored a rushing touchdown from two yards out in the third quarter.
“We knew we needed to end on a high note,” Howard said. “Coach gave me an opportunity this season to start and I knew I had to go out there and play my heart out. But still room for improvement.”
Howard and the Whippets’ underclassmen, while pleased to go .500, are determined to show big improvements next season.
“The future is bright but I want to credit the senior class in flipping the attitude at the end of the season,” Milano said.