Connect with us

Fall Sports

Fearless Garnet Valley erases four-score deficit to freeze out North Penn

CONCORD >> If revenge is a dish best served cold, it has rarely been colder, or felt better, than what played out at Morris DeFrank Stadium Friday night.

On a frigid evening in the District 1 6A quarterfinals, No. 3 Garnet Valley rallied from a 28-point second-half deficit to defeat No. 6 North Penn, the team that ended the Jaguars’ miracle run in the district final a year ago, 36-35.

The improbability hardly translates to prose.

“There’s nothing better,” said Ryan Gallagher, Garnet’s third-string quarterback, thrust into starting duty because of injuries to Ryan Hamby and Cole Palis.

Perhaps that’s how you describe it: In simple terms. It’s not like anyone who wasn’t there would believe it anyway. A sophomore quarterback, with help from seniors in the backfield and a formidable defense, orchestrated a four-touchdown comeback against the defending district champions, a Pennsylvania power.

Nothing better. Nothing better indeed, although it was the opposite of that, from the home perspective, to start the third quarter. On the first play of the second half, Matthew Lassik fumbled, the Jaguars’ fourth turnover, and the Knights turned it into seven more points. Justis Henley curled wide, collected a pass from Steve DePaul and took a shot from a Garnet Valley defender as he sprinted into the end zone.

“It’s getting out of hand,” a North Penn lineman pleaded to the official standing nearby.

And it was. The Knights led, 35-7. Henley had four touchdowns and an interception. The Jaguars had no answers. The fans, freezing in the stands, may have wished for a running clock.

Garnet Valley running back Danny Guy, seen in the first round win over Central Bucks West last week, scored three fourth-quarter touchdowns against North Penn Friday as the Jaguars overturned a 28-point deficit in a stunning, 36-35 win in the quarterfinals of the District 1 Class 6A tournament. (Digital First Media/Pete Bannan)

But then a funny thing happened. After everything went against Garnet Valley through two and a half quarters, the hosts caught a break. Behind the hard running of Lassik and Danny Guy, the Jags marched inside the North Penn five, their first threat of scoring since Lassik cut the deficit to 14-7 in the second quarter. On third-and-goal from the two, though, Gallagher fumbled the snap. Without any hesitation, he scooped the ball and crossed the goal line.

“He’s not afraid to make a play,” Garnet Valley coach Mike Ricci said of his sophomore signal-caller.

Then it was the defense’s turn to step up. On fourth-and-1 from the Knights’ 32 — after North Penn called timeout, seemingly to bring on the punting unit — the Jags stuffed Khan Jamal at the line of scrimmage. By the end of the third quarter, still down 21 points, Garnet Valley had life with goal to go.

All hell broke loose from there (or maybe it froze over?) The Jags turned it over on downs at the five. The Knights fumbled possession away. Guy scored an eight-yard rush. The Knights fumbled the ensuing kickoff. Guy plunged in from the one.

There was 6:26 left and suddenly, a one-touchdown game emerged from a blowout. North Penn hadn’t, and wouldn’t, cross the 50 again, Henley’s final touchdown representing the visitors’ last foray into enemy territory. The Knights made one more stand to thwart the inevitable — Gallagher needed six inches on fourth down and managed four on the next possession — but it was only temporary.

“I’m thinking we’re going to get the ball back and go down and score,” said Gallagher. He proved to be a prophet.

With 2:06 to play, Garnet and Gallagher got the ball back at their own 28. They went to work. Gallagher connected just twice on his first seven throws of the game, but saved a good one for the eighth: A screen opened for Kevin Doherty, who raced down the sideline for 45 yards. Lassik pushed the field two yards farther before Ricci called timeout. He dialed up a staple of the Jaguars offense: Wheel route.

“We try to use it in spots,” said Ricci. “That was a spot for it.”

With less than a minute to play, Guy ran left out of the backfield and curled as he neared the chalk. Gallagher threw slightly behind the running back, and it made all the difference. As the defender reached to knock the pass away, Guy snatched it out of the air, tip-toed inches away from the sideline, spun and found pay dirt, a 23-yard catch and score with 46 seconds to play.

“The game’s ours,” Guy said of the touchdown. That made it 35-34, and left Ricci with a decision that, unlike the final result, was never in doubt.

“Offense, get ready,” he told his players, recounted by Guy.

On the conversion, Gallagher faked a hand-off and ran option left. He looked briefly to Guy but didn’t make the pitch, instead diving across for the 36-35 lead.

“We felt like we had momentum at the end of the game,” said Ricci. “We felt like we had a play we could run down there. I’ve got to be honest. We thought he was going to pitch it to (Guy), and he kept it. It was unbelievable. Lot of poise and moxie for the young guy.”

Joshua Ciarrocchi ended North Penn’s hopes of a comeback with a sack as time expired, and the Knights’ (9-3) nightmare was complete.

Depending on what route you take, there are some 40 miles between Garnet Valley and North Penn. Anyone who has made the trip would tell you it’s longer. That’s how the players will feel Friday night and beyond. How did they let a 28-point advantage go, when their stars — Henley with eight catches, 162 yards receiving and four touchdowns (of 36, 49, 34, and nine yards respectively); KJ Cartwright with a score — played so well?

Give the Jaguars (11-1) credit. By virtue of their miracle and No. 7 Pennridge’s 25-0 upset of Perkiomen Valley, they’ll host another playoff game. Who could’ve seen that when the scoreboard at the famous Moe read 35-7 for the visitors?

“Next-play mentality,” said Guy, who finished with 144 total yards and three touchdowns. “Something goes wrong, you just get to the next play and give it your all.”

Comments

comments

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent News

More in Fall Sports